Hi again. It’s Val Rideout, Managing Director of Wiltshire Host Families Ltd.
As you know, 2016 was a momentous year for me - but 2019 looks set to eclipse even that!
Tony and I became Grandparents (at long last) – not just once, but twice over. Our beautiful Evie and Louie are keeping us all busy and are truly delightful.
Tony turned 60 in May and we are both looking forward to our forthcoming diving holiday in the Maldives to celebrate. What a holiday of a lifetime that will be!
WHF has also had an amazing year to date with 68 groups visiting our 3 current centres in Trowbridge, Westbury and Warminster.
The feedback from group leaders has been exceptional with comments such as: “The best I’ve ever visited in 25 years”, “We can’t thank you enough” and “Our students were crying on the last day as they didn’t want to leave!”
Once again, 99% rated our families as “Excellent” – with the other 1% stating they were “Very good”.
Coordinators received equally good feedback and were described as “Excellent”, “Well organized”, “Friendly” and “Went above and beyond our expectations”.
In fact, feedback has been so good and our host base so strong, that both schools and agents alike have been asking us to expand next year. Well – what else could we do in the circumstances?
So here we are in August - when normally the team have a well-deserved rest ready for the Autumn season ahead – but not this year!
We’ve already secured lots of bookings for our new and current centres and are now busy recruiting new hosts to accommodate them.
There are new faces on the team too, with Roxy and Mel joining us as Administrators for the new centres, and Michelle and Sue as Coordinators.
There’s been sadness and worry too this year, as our lovely Coordinator Lorraine Meaburn was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but moments of poor joy when we heard she was on the road to recovery.
Judith Laird and Jo Cass have stepped up as Area Managers and, with my help, have been busy training the new staff to ensure we maintain the same great standards as our other centres.
Now we are all set to go and welcome lots more lovely hosts into the WHF family.
So, life is hectic and fun - and I have a feeling that 2020 is all set to be yet another winner!!
Whilst staying with our local hosts this week, the French school group from Carcassonne led by Mrs Catherine Rogalle, visited Newport in Wales as part of their programme of daily sightseeing visits. What started as a lovely day turned to horror for the group as 2 students, Marc Amaral and Pauline Le Metayer, were later mugged and lost all their spending money, a sum of £280.
The group returned late, shocked and exhausted to the Meeting Point but the families all showed huge concern and made sure the students were able to talk about the incident and reassured them that it wasn’t a common occurrence. Everyone was very shocked this could happen and dissappointed the “English Experience” that we strive to give our students was marred in this way.
One of our host families, Reverend Andy Yorke (retired) and his wife Rachel, were so dismayed by what had occurred that they contacted Reverend Alan Coutts of St Thomas’ Church and Reverend Dr Rob Thomas of St James’ Church in Trowbridge – to ask if their churches would be happy to contribute. Between them they pledged to raise the full £280!
The money was presented by Andy to the group leaders yesterday, who were overwhelmed with their generosity.
We would like to thank everyone for their support and kindness – in particular to Andy & Rachel Yorke and St Thomas’ & St James’ churches. A heart-warming story and an indicator of the true heart of Wiltshire.
I'm Val Rideout, Managing Director and founder of Wiltshire Host Families Ltd.
It's been a momentous year for me - moving from Sole trader to Limited Company, expanding the business - and getting married too. Definitely a very busy time.
Thanks to everyone for all their support, I couldn't have done it without you!
Here, at Wiltshire Host Families, we are like a big family, with one goal in mind - to ensure that the students and teachers that visit us go back with fantastic memories of their "English Experience" in Wiltshire. To ensure this happens we have well trained and experienced Administrators and Coordinators - and checklists and spreadsheets for everything!! It is our aim to give the families and leaders all the support they need, with a minimum of fuss, so that everyone has a good time.
So how do we judge that?
Firstly, from all the smiling faces, tears on departure and thanks from teachers and support staff who have appreciated our great organisation and our lovely caring families.
Secondly, from the Feedback Forms completed by the Group leaders, and from the Agents we work with.
Here's a snippet of the statistics & feedback for you to have a look at:
Well - what a year so far!!! To date we have hosted 73 coaches, including many returning groups and familiar faces, with another 6 groups booked in for the Autumn.
Thankfully we haven't been too badly affected by the dreadful terrorist attacks around the world, with only 4 of our groups cancelling due to a fall in numbers or Government intervention.
99% of the group leaders rated our families as "Excellent" - with the other 1% stating they were "Very good".
The Coordinators were described as "Excellent", "So well organised", "Friendly" and "Couldn't help us enough!".
98% of the Leaders stated that they wished to return to us again sometime in the future.
This year we expanded and are now working with 13 Agents from the UK and abroad. Our guests have come from France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Czech Republic, China and Japan. All of the Agents have expressed their wish to expand their partnership with us even further, with cries of "Please, please, recruit more families and take more groups Val. Our schools love your families and we love working with you!"
Personally, I couldn't have asked for a better year - and next year is already looking as good, if not better, with many bookings from February to October already confirmed.
For many families, the hosting money has become an integral part of their income - particularly in times of low pay rises and rising inflation. I've heard of stories of great holidays, new kitchens and even extensions - all funded by hosting students tax free.
So how can we improve on this year? Well, more of the same is the answer!
We want to recruit lots more families, take lots more coaches and give everyone lots more opportunities to host - and lots more money in their pockets.
How could you help?
If you are a current host, please tell everyone about hosting and remember we offer a £20 referral fee for all new hosts you send our way.
If you are thinking about hosting, then just get in touch with the Centre Coordinator who deals with the recruitment for your area. They will answer all your questions, lead you through the whole process and provide you with a full information pack when they visit your home. Don't forget you can do as little or as much hosting as fits your lifestyle and commitments - making it very flexible indeed!
We know you will be feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive about hosting - that's completely natural - but we've all been through that ourselves and know how you feel. Just give them a call, they won't bite, I promise! Please leave a message with your name and number if they don't answer - and they will get back to you as soon as possible.
Once again, thanks to everyone for making this such a successful year - and here's to more of the same!!