Au pairs recognized for their great work

Host families all across the U.S. recently submitted over 100 heartwarming essays, full of incredible stories outlining why their international au pair deserves to be awarded the title of Au Pair of the Year. The host families' essays listed examples of caring, commitment, bravery & grace under fire, community involvement and positive, lasting impressions on family members. It was heartwarming and touching to read and very difficult to pick a winner out of all of these submissions.

The first place winner of Au Pair in America's Au Pair of the Year contest is Mathilda Ljung, a 20 year old from Sweden. Here's what her host family said about her in their nomination letter:

"Mathilda is intelligent, kind, caring, thoughtful and calm under pressure. In short, she is an incredible Au Pair for our family, especially our 9-year-old twins, Sydney and Joshua....Mathilda knew that Sydney had Cerebral Palsy when she agreed to be our Au Pair. However, at that time we believed the day-to-day impact to Mathilda to be small as Sydney was thriving in a typical-kid environment. Between accepting our family's offer to be an Au Pair and starting with our family a lot changed. Sydney began an extremely restrictive diet, and also started to fall behind academically – it was a stressful situation and we had no idea how our new Au Pair would meet these new challenges. Mathilda has been a champion – she helps to manage Sydney's diet better than anyone in the family, and even comes up with fun low-carb recipes for Sydney like chocolate coconut balls and brownies! She has also been a tremendous resource academically, patiently working with Sydney to help her learn at a more realistic pace given some of her setbacks. Sydney also responds well to physical therapy and Mathilda has been an expert in 'lefty games,' encouraging Sydney to work more effectively with her left side. Essentially, Mathilda entered a situation that could have been stressful and challenging and instead she became a resource to keep our household manageable and fun at the same time."

First runner up is Brighit Lopez Vega, a 26 year old from Peru who lovingly teaches her host children lots of things, including her native Spanish language: 

"Brighit loves our children like they are her own. Even when she is off duty, she has been caught snuggling with our baby or playing with our eldest. She buys them things with her own money. I have asked Brighit to speak Spanish to our kids so that they can learn her language. When my baby (now 19 months) first started talking, he spoke more words in Spanish than English. My oldest boy just recently turned four and when someone asked him how old he was, he held up four fingers and counted, "uno, dos, tres, cuatro!" My older boy has delayed speech and he has blossomed under Brighit's care. She patiently helps him with his speech therapy homework and helps him articulate his words. Without being asked, Brighit created her own multi-sensory lessons to facilitate his learning."

Second runner up is Janine Rhecker, a 19 year old from Germany, who has had a notable impact on her host child:

"Before Janine's arrival I had shared that our children can be difficult, specifically our older son who tended to be an anxious and slightly hyperactive child. I am happy to report that on a recent visit to his doctor, the doctor said he sees major improvements. His teacher said his classroom behavior is now very focused. He is for the first time participating in team sports and working at grade level or above in all subjects. In short, he is a much happier and more confident child. The teacher mentioned, "He talks about Janine all the time. He really likes her." And when the kids do something that would upset 99% of 19 year olds (and most adults too), Janine doesn't get upset. She hugs them, tells them she loves them and helps to teach them the right way. There is no value you can put on that. Unconditional love!!! In short, Janine is mature, talented and capable beyond her years in all ways. We cannot imagine that there is a better au pair anywhere in America!"

All winners received round trip airline tickets to visit with their host families within 2 years of leaving the program. All nominees received a celebration award certificate and a copy of their host family’s essay. The full essays can be read here.