A Family of 300
Spring 2018 | COMM 583
A Family of 300 is a multimedia story that explores how Gale and Eugene Christin got into hosting students from all over the world and why hosting students matters. For the past three decades, they have hosted almost 300 students and have made significant impact on the students as well as influence on their friends.
All videos and images in the story are shot and edited by me.
(The story was originally posted on Atavist.)
In the summer of 1989, Gale and Eugene Christin, and their daughters, Danyel, Brandy, and Erin, moved into their new house on South Puget Sound Avenue, one block east from the historic South Tacoma Way. Moving changed all of their lives and created an ever-expanding family for the Christins.
"It helps us have something to do... It makes me happy when I see the student[s] happy."
The arrival of their first student, Masami, opened the doors for the Christins. At the beginning, they hosted high school students who came here for a summer program and stayed with them for about four to six weeks. Their first one-year student came in 1993.
For the past three decades, the Christins have hosted students from all over the world. While the majority of them are from Japan, the Christins have also hosted students from Azerbaijan, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Pakistan, Taiwan, Tunisia, and many other countries.
Sometimes relationships between host families and students are aloof. Yet, for the Christins, they are committed to provide a sense of home for students (even though some of them may not appreciate it).
... Literally, sometimes I feel like these kids are born to us [as] if they were born in America.
Because the relationship is so tight-knit, many students who have stayed with the Christins feel like they are part of the family. When both Gale and Eugene turned 60 in 2017, some of their former Japanese kids came together and planned a surprise for them.
That was kind cool, like a Christin reunion.
The ever-expanding family made one of the Christins’ dream of having students become attached to each other come true. Most of the students have such a special connection with the Christins, and the experience of staying with a host family changed their lives, forever.
Students who live with the Christin love their time there. There is never a dull moment when living with this unique host family. They hang out together, go camping together, and most importantly, they spend time together, even if it is just sharing about their own stories.
Having a host family means that I got somebody who I can trust, so that was big.
The sheer joy that the Christins have had with so many students also helped influence their friends and families to do the same thing. Take Bruce and Marcee Widland, neighbors of and long-time friends with the Christins for example – they started hosting students in 1991. Because the Widlands do not have any kids of their own, seeing the Christins have so much fun with students prompted the idea of opening the doors for international kids to stay with them.
I think my biggest joy of [having the students is just to see them have so much fun, and their experience in a new country, they all have such a good time in America.
Having hosted so many students from different countries, the Christin family is like the epitome of this country. People with different racial and cultural backgrounds all come and stay together. The Christins make a point to be inclusive and understanding and they see hosting students as an opportunity to understand people more. There may be some language and cultural barriers, but as a family (nation), diversity is what makes this family (nation) so great.
By having these kids from different parts of the world, [it] helps us all learn about their culture and beliefs.