I am very happy to nominate Giselle Rodriguez as the au pair of the year. Giselle has provided almost. two years of care for our 15-year-old son Mikey. This culminates quite a dedication to the program in our home, and Giselle deserves this award because she recognized that fact.
You see, Giselle is the last of 16 au pairs. We started in the au pair program in 2003 and will end in 2020.
Back in 2003, I was a journalist and my husband Mike traveled a lot for work. I needed help I could depend on. I finally decided to take the plunge and enter into the program.
We have had an incredible experience with our au pairs from Panama and Colombia. Of the 16, 14 made it through the program with us and each one became a member of an international O’Grady family. As we prepare to exit the program, Giselle secretly contacted 13 of our au pairs and asked them to record a video message to us for Christmas.
We gathered around the TV in our Christmas pajamas as Giselle surprised us with the video filled with heartfelt messages that brought tears to our eyes. Our international daughters – now engineers, a lawyer, financial expert, marketing experts, a realtor, moms, a master’s degree students, and one is just an exam away from being a doctor, among others, sent their messages from Australia, London, Italy, Panama, Columbia, and the U.S.
Giselle videotaped us as we watched in amazement and then invited us to send back our thoughts about the experience. I think it was most interesting to hear from our 15-year-old who only knew life growing up in a home that had an au pair.
For me, the most special part was that the video reconfirmed what I wanted out of the program – to open my home to young people who would forever be in our hearts and lives and to empower each au pair for success in their next big adventure. We did one other thing I wasn’t expecting though, we connected a group of young women into their own Latina family. As we looked for the next au pairs, we asked former au pairs to meet with them, drive with them, and talk with them to see if the O’Grady family would be a good match for them. This bonded all of them and each of us even more, well after they moved on to their great big next.
We are so happy that Giselle, who will finish up her second year with us in May, thought so highly of us to help orchestrate this project. We now have a beautiful plaque with photos of the girls that she put together and a great video that Laly, an engineer in Colombia, prepared for us. Each of the nuclear O’Grady family members have also documented why this experience has been so important to us.
It is so sad to say goodbye, that I may reconsider just one more year, because our home and hearts will be very empty without another international family member. If that happens, it will be because Giselle made us articulate why this program is so important to our family, and why it can be so empowering for the young people who take part in it.
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“After years of stress and frustration, and many different nannies, we decided to look for an au pair. When Veronika arrived on January 2, 2016 our lives were forever changed. We had no idea that a real life Mary Poppins had just arrived!”
“I can honestly say that bringing her to live with us as our au pair has been the best decision we could possibly have made. She has afforded us so many priceless “intangibles” during her time here that I can’t begin to quantify her contributions to our family.”