In his 1961 Inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what our country can do for you, ask what you can do for our country.”  I would like to take this sage motto and evolve it a step further. I say, “Ask not what our world can do for you, ask what you can do for our world!” As it’s said, THINK BIG! And sometimes that can be done through a simple, well thought out action such as hosting a foreign student in your home.

Did you know that the U.S. State Department started the foreign student exchange program in the early 60’s as a way to improve diplomacy between the United States and the rest of the globe we share? Students who have had the chance to live with an American family are far more likely to go to bat for our image abroad than those who have never traveled here. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet foreign exchange students at my high school and always thought it would be an amazing adventure to live abroad. Although I have have been blessed with traveling around the globe, I have never taken the opportunity to live outside our borders. What an opportunity to be able to bring that experience to your own household.   By hosting a foreign student, you will not only be helping our country, but also our world.

One of the first things I advise a potential host family to do is check the credentials of the exchange organization you are considering working with. I have found Aspect Foundation to be a top notch group that is deeply in the safety and support of the foreign high school students who bravely commit a year of their lives to living in America as well as being there for the families who graciously open their doors to these guests.

I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about this life enhancing opportunity at karen@karenloucks.com and invite you to visit our national website at www.aspectfoundation.org  Cheers!

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition for Safety

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When was the last time you were on a plane and heard the flight attendant say, “We know that most of you have heard the safety announcement a thousand time so we’ll save everyone time today and skip it. It you have someone sitting next to you who is a first timer flier, please feel free to give them the rundown.” NEVER! Why? Because it is through repetition that when an emergency occurs, we are more likely to remember what to do.
An Amber Alert was issued a couple weeks ago in the Denver area for 10 year old Jessica Ridgeway.  Friday, Govenor Hickenlooper stated, “This is an unthinkable end to an unthinkable crime in our community. It is with a profound sense of sorrow that we learned of Jessica Ridgeway’s death.”
As the search for Jessica ended, the start of Justice for Jessica begins. If we can help save one person- child or adult- from having to endure the torture that Jessica and her family have, then justice is being served. Like on airplanes, I’m using the repetition tool by bringing info you may have heard before, to prepare yourself for an emergency.  Please teach your children ways that they can keeps themselves out of dangerous situations and what to do if they are in them.
Although people with ill intend will always have the element of surprise, there are many ways one can increase their chances of staying safe. The following are rules that were collected from offenders in jail. Remember- like animals in the wild, they are looking for the EASIEST prey they can find. You must convince your potential attacker that you are not worth it!
  1. A ponytail may look cute, however, it is an easy thing for the perpetrator to grab. This applies to long hair too. Women with short hair are less likely to be targets. Tuck your hair under a hat or into your collar when in a situation that may be sketchy.
  2. The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors to cut clothing.
  3. Always be aware of your surroundings.If you are on your cell phone, you are probably distracted and not as aware of your surroundings. Stop talking and start paying attention. Take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble
  4. The number one place women are abducted from or attacked is the grocery store parking lot. Why? They are distracted. What woman hasn’t found herself looking for keys in that big black hole of a purse? Put your keys in your hand before leaving the store. If you have a panic button on your fob, be prepared to use it! It’s better to have a false alarm, then no alarm at all. Number two location is office parking lots/garages and number three is public restrooms. Be aware and be prepared.
  5. As soon as you get into your car, LOCK YOUR DOORS! Do not sit there balancing your checkbook or calling your friend to share your latest sale find. You are a sitting duck. Start your car and get out of the parking lot towards a place safe.
  6. People carrying umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands are much less likely to be attacked. Despite what we have been taught, keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon.
  7. If you feel that someone is following you, stop, look them in the face and ask them a question. It will catch them off guard, plus they will know that you have now had the chance to identify them.
  8. If they are coming toward you, put your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay Back. Most rapists say they will leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she was willing to fight back.  If you have pepper spray, keep it in a place you can easily access and (even if you don’t have it), yell “I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY!” Again, they are looking for an EASY target.
  9. If someone asks for your wallet or purse, don’t hand it to them. THROW IT away from you. This will give you a chance to get away. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!
  10. I personally recommend taking a martial arts class. Not only is it good exercise but it prepares you to be on guard at all times. It actually gives you a feeling of power versus feeling like a victim. Bonus for me was that I met my fabulous husband in the class.
The “I” in the Linus Effect is Invest in Others. Talking with your loved ones about safety is a good way to help them to be better prepared in an emergency situation. It is a way to help serve Justice for Jessica. And like the airline safety announcement, always “put on your mask first before helping others.” The Latin phrase Conduce per Exemplem (Lead by Example) is very appropriate when it comes to personal safety.
KAREN LOUCKS RINEDOLLAR is the founder and Denver coordinator of Project Linus. She speaks with groups about making a difference through The Linus Effect and customer service in the healthcare system.