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Exchange Student ‘Starved’ in Egypt

Elijah Zarwan, from Egypt, discusses a wire story about a 17-year-old American exchange student who was allegedly ‘starved’ after being paired with a Christian Coptic family, which fasts for 200 days a year.

17 comments

  • Carrie Schulz

    I am the state coordinator for an organization other than AFS, and I can assure everyone that our state cares for our exchange students very carefully. I have reps who are constantly in contact with the foreign students in their care, as I am. I know what the students are doing, and if they are sick, sad, and how they are doing in school. If anything untoward happens, I counsel, investigate, and if necessary, move the student as fast as possible. I am known for my speed in reacting to the problems of my students, and the students and their parents are kept abreast of what is happening. Their sons and daughters are in contact with the parents, and there are no surprises. If a student loses weight drastically, he or she is repatriated. Last year, I had to repatriate a girl from China even before school started, when she had all the signs of anorexia. If a student gains a lot of weight, we encourage exercises and a healthy diet. If there is maltreatment of the student by a host family, the student is moved. We know all our host families and have references for them before a student is sent there, and if a family presents any red flags, we do not let them host. I do feel that we do a superior job with our students, and we are told this repeatedly by them and their parents. I do not want people to think that all organizations are run without concern for students. I speak of students who come to the USA on an exchange. For those who go abroad, they are at the mercy of their host family and the representative of that country’s partner organization. It is up to the student and their parents to notify the organization of any mistreatment. If the student says nothing, no one can help them. But, I feel that it is the rep’s responsibility to see what is happening, and step in if the student does not want to take the necessary steps for their health and welfare.

  • Heidi

    It is so good to hear such caring people giving clear examples of the positive experiences and support the exchange students receive. A video on the news last night may have shown the young thin student with an exchange family member. That person didn’t look thin at all which makes me wonder about the health of the situation. If the representative in the country failed to protect the student, then there must be further recourse for the student. The student must have been in touch with his family some how. I know that it is not encouraged to communicate a lot with your own family when abroad, but that is within reason.
    I am sorry for the impact this may have on exchanges. It is so important to keep communicating and learning about each other

  • Edited by Global Voices at the request of commenter.

    Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Tyler R. Hill Against Ambassadors Group, docleaf, et al., Officially Settled

    MOUND, Minn., Aug. 6 /PRNewswire/ — Allen and Sheryl Hill of Mound, Minn., today announced the official settlement of their civil action for wrongful death of their 16-year-old son, Tyler Hill; invasion of privacy; and fraud against Ambassadors Group Inc., People to People International, docleaf Ltd. and other individuals. The Hills signed the release on July 30. The terms of the settlement are confidential. Tyler died on a People to People Student Ambassador Trip to Japan on June 29, 2007. Since Tyler’s death, the Hill’s have been on a passionate mission to protect other traveling youth and have sought accountability, justice, restitution and reform.

  • BAMBI

    TO TYLER’S MOTHER, YOU ARE IN MY PRAYERS. IT IS SO SAD WHEN A CHILD DIES, BUT TO DIE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, WHERE IGNORANCE WAS THE CAUSE IS SO HARD TO COMPREHEND.
    I HAVE MY 9TH EXCHNAGE STUDENT, WE TREAT THEM AS IF THEY WERE OUR OWN. I COULD NEVER LET A CHILD GO SICK FOR THAT LOG. WHEN THERE IS BLOOD BEING VOMITTED UP, MOST PARENTS WOULD KNOW THERE WAS A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
    I HAVE HAD MINOR ILLNESSES, WITH MY GIRLS, I DID NOT HESITATE TO GET THEM MEDICAL ATTENTION.
    WE TAKE THESE CHILDREN IN TO TEACH THEM OUR CULTURE AND TREAT AS OUR OWN. IF OTHER COUNTRIES ARE STARVING OR LETTING OUR CHILDREN DIE, MAYBE WE SHOULD SEND OUR KIDS TO CERTAIN COUNTRIES AND FORGET ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD.
    THE ORGONIZATIONS ARE NOT KEEPING THESE KIDS SAFE. I LET MY GIRLS CALL HOME, BECAUSE IF I HAD A CHILD GOING OVERSEAS I WOULD NOT WANT TO WAIT FOR A MONTH OR TWO TO HEAR FROM HIM OR HER. I LET MY GIRLS CALL MORE THAN THE ORGONIZATION SAYS, BUT I AM A PARENT AND I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT THEY HAVE TO BE AS WORRIED AS I WOULD BE.
    I HAVE HEARD OF STUDENTS BEING RAPED AND TREATED AS HOSTAGES. I HAVE HEARD FROM OTHER STUDENTS, FROM OTHER COUNTRIES ABOUT THIS. I DO HOPE THOSE ARE RUMORS, BUT IF NOT I HOPE THE PERPETRATORS HAD BEEN PROSICUTED TO THE FULLIEST.
    WE NEED TO LEARN FROM EACH OTHER AND SOME OF THE PEOPLE OUT THERE SEEM TO THINK THIS IS ALL FABRICATED…WAKE UP PEOPLE. THERE ARE EVIL PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD.
    I DO HOPE STUDENTS, IN OUR COUNTRY ARE BEING TREATED WELL AND HOPE THE PROGRAMS GO ON FOR EVER. I ALSO HOPE PARENTS AND STUDENTS CAN CONTINUE THE WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES FAMILIES AND STUDENTS SHOULD HAVE.
    GOD BLESS THE FAMILIES OF ANY OF THESE STUDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN HARMED.

  • Heidi

    To Sheryl, That is the saddest student exchange story I have heard. I mourn for you and with you for the loss of your child whom you can never forget. Thank you for sharing that.
    Heidi

  • Noosa

    I doubt that this boy is telling the truth. I am Egyptian and was raised in the Coptic Church. I fast on a regular basis. During that time, I do not eat any animal products. I have never starved during this time. In my opinion, fasting is a very personal thing. I would never force it on anyone. In fact, I go out of my way to accomodate my guest who are not fasting. Most people who were raised in my culture are the same way. Even if this was true, he could have walked into any restaurant and gotten a good harty meal for $2US, the US dollar is very strong in Egypt. The truth is, givien his age and the American media, he is anorexic and does not want to be put in a hospital. Therefore he needs to lie and have someone to blame.

  • Ashley

    I went to school with this boy and he was starved. Not scared to eat but starved. He went as a kinda chunky kid and after being released from the hospital, was skin and bones.

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