It can be difficult for people to consider opening their homes to strangers, especially when the stranger is from another country. However, not everyone fears the unknown; some willingly invite people from other countries into their homes out of the kindness of their hearts. Brenda Goodall is one of those people.
Since 2007, Goodall has opened her Des Moines home to Youth Exchange and Study (YES) students almost every year IRIS has helped place program participants. Hosting first in Fort Madison before moving to Des Moines, she has given the opportunity to spend a year in Iowa to ten students over the last ten years.
Goodall’s first experience as a host mother came as she welcomed Sarah from Nigeria. Sarah stayed with Goodall through the 2007-2008 academic school year. Sarah’s experience with Goodall was a great one, and thus Goodall’s journey as a host mother began.
“Living with Brenda throughout my exchange year was a worthwhile experience that has remained indelible in my heart since I returned to Nigeria,” Sarah said. “I wouldn’t have wished for a better home than hers.”
Sarah recalled all the ways Goodall was a great host mother, and how her motherly instincts always knew exactly when to intervene into Sarah’s life.
“Of course there were days when I got a little homesick,” Sarah said. “But before I realized it, Brenda got me out of that mood. She had her own special way of doing that.”
The following year, Goodall became a host mother to Rachel, a young woman from Tanzania. Rachel’s experience was much like Sarah’s: unforgettable.
“Living with Brenda was a great experience for me as it helped me grow as a teenager,” Rachel said. “She was helpful, encouraging, supportive, and most importantly, loving and caring.”
Rachel also recalled how she and Goodall would watch movies together, be it at home or in the theater. She said her host mother supported both her short term and long term goals, something they talked about often.
“We would spend half of the social interactions just planning the possibilities of me getting a college education in the United States, which actually happened,” Rachel said. “She truly pushed me beyond my expectations.”
Anu and Azyza volunteering at Goodall’s church. Although the girls followed different religions from their host mother, they always felt welcome at the church.
Rachel found some of her best friends through Goodall’s work in the church as a pastor. She said her host mother always invited her to attend church services. The host mom/daughter duo complimented each other, and both taught the other something new. Rachel appreciated Goodall’s eagerness to learn more about her home country of Tanzania and her efforts to connect with Rachel’s family.
“She made an effort to speak to my family whenever I called back home and she definitely picked up some Swahili to help her interact with them,” Rachel said. “It’s the little things in life that make the world go round.”
As the year went on, Rachel realized just how blessed she was to be a part of Goodall’s family. She thanks Goodall for taking part in her accomplishments and helping her grow.
“I am forever grateful and I thank God for giving me Brenda as a host parent because I don’t know how things would’ve turned out if I wasn’t hosted by her,” Rachel said.
Many other students have also been welcomed with open arms into Goodall’s home.
Sarah, Nigeria (2007-2008)
Rachel, Tanzania (2008-2009)
Iptisam, Tanzania (2009-2010)
Aziza, Tanzania (2013-14)
Anupama, India (2013-14)
Ayishatu Adam, Ghana (2014-15)
Sobia, Pakistan (2015-16)
Ubaidah, Nigeria (2015-16)
Yusriza, Indonesia (2016-17)
Ruth, Ghana (2017-18)
All of them return to their home countries with a better sense of who they are and what they are capable of. Goodall supports every student she hosts, as she knows and sees the potential in each of them.
Goodall is currently hosting again this year and Ruth, Goodall’s host student from Ghana, has only positive things to say about her host mom.
“Living with my mom is an amazing adventure for me,” Ruth said. “She’s loving, caring and very honest. She treats me like family and we have fun together.”
Ruth and her host mom have gone on a number of family trips since they met. The two visited the Iowa State Fair, Reiman Gardens, and Blank Park Zoo. While in the United States, Ruth has had no issue so far with feeling distant from family and close relationships, something she said Goodall has blessed her with.
“I know she’s a good mom because even though I’m far from home, I still feel close to home,” Ruth said.
Goodall’s caring nature and open heart are apparent to everyone she meets, and Ruth noticed this from the beginning.
“Not everyone is willing to open their home to total strangers, more so from different countries,” Ruth said. “She’s doing an amazing job.”
Thank you Brenda for being an amazing influence in all your host students’ lives, past and present! We have no doubt you will continue to be an influence for future students as well.