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Au Pair’s Helping Hands Assist Host Family during Hurricane Harvey

Posted on Wednesday, September 25th, 2019 at 6:10 pm.

By Katrina Vanderhulst, Executive Vice President, Au Pair International

Martin receiving Au Pair of the Year Award at Annual Work Experience
Travel Market and International Au Pair Association Conference (WETM-IAC)

Each year, the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) gives an Au Pair of the Year Award. The 2018 recipient, Martin Toth, is a bright and energetic young man from Hungary who lived with a family in Houston, Texas. Soon after joining his host family, the unthinkable occurred. Martin and his host family were forced to deal with the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Martin’s host family, the Bernoskys, nominated him for the Au Pair of the Year award because of his service to them, their children, and even their neighbors, during this very difficult time. For this, and many other reasons, Martin was chosen as the Au Pair of the Year.

Below is Martin’s account of his au pair experience and his reaction to being honored with this astounding award.

I am so grateful to have been honored by the International Au Pair Association among such wonderful nominees. I owe a big thank you to my agency Au Pair International. They have been helping along the way and truly are my guiding light. I have to be honest. It hasn’t always been as easy as receiving this amazing reward. But I believe every setback that I have faced in this almost two years has made me who I am today. I could tell stories about difficulties of this job such as:

  • Getting accepted as male au pair
  • Helping out a single mom who went through a divorce in my first year
  • Living with a family who is vegetarian and adjusting my diet from eating chicken with chicken to well.. something else…
  • Or I could talk about taking care of three children and ending up with five for a while. The list goes on and on, but I am sure every au pair has stories like this.

Martin helps to repair host family’s basement, which flooded during Hurricane Harvey

 Instead, I just like to share a short story, that many au pairs wouldn’t have the chance to tell. In the summer of 2017, after spending about a month with my new host family Hurricane Harvey hit our city, Houston which turned our life upside down. I’ll be honest, coming from the small country  of Hungary I have never had to face anything like that. I still remember the day when we all sat in the bathroom tub waiting for the hurricane to pass our street. Fortunately, the hurricane didn’t hit the house, but my host family’s home still got flooded and they lost most of their belongings.

After the flood, a lot of work needed to be done around the house. I still don’t know how, but my host parents didn’t fall apart after losing most of their belongings. Seeing how brave they acted under those circumstances I knew that I had to step it up and help the kids through this time. The process of cleaning up after the flood was not easy, but we worked hard, stayed united. My host parents and I tried to make sure we made this whole experience as fun as possible for the kids, but they all knew how devastating this whole thing was.

Listen to Martin’s Au Pair of the Year Award Acceptance Speech

They showed great strength by staying positive and helping as much as they could. And I guess the moral of the story is when you sign up to be an au pair there is no limit to what can happen and it is all about standing your ground. I am thankful to my host family for setting a great example of how to be great people and showing me how to give hope to others when you seemingly lost a lot yourself. I am especially thankful for my host mum who inspires me every day and making it possible for me to receive the International Au Pair of the Year award.

Martin Toth embodies what it means to be an au pair in the U.S. and participate fully in the cultural exchange program. Congratulations to Martin on his award and service to his host family.

Categories: Participants, Program Spotlight

About Nicole Elkon

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

Nicole Elkon

Nicole Elkon joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange in September 2021. Until June 2021, Ms. Elkon was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Human Rights First, an independent advocacy organization focused on human rights and the rule of law. Prior to her position as COO, Ms. Elkon was a Senior Advisor at Results for America (RFA), a non-profit organization focused on advancing data-driven, evidence based public policy at all levels of government. She also served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of ECA and was Director of the Office of Public Private Partnerships at ECA working to leverage strategic partnerships to enhance Administration foreign policy priorities.

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