Throughout the year, volunteers welcome visitors for an evening of dinner and conversation, an event which we call “Culinary Diplomacy”, “Dinner Hosting”, or “Home Hospitality” if dinner takes place at your home instead of a restaurant.
Our visitors are participating in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a professional Department of State-sponsored program that prizes above all the exchange of ideas with American citizens. Home Hospitality provides visitors with this opportunity while sharing a casual meal and conversation with hosts in an American home.
While the participants are here for professional purposes, this is a way to extend their visit beyond offices and meeting and allow them to engage with Americans on a personal level. Home Hospitality is a vital part of our international visitors’ programs, as it forges connections and lifelong friendships among people around the world.
To be eligible, you must live in the Philadelphia metro area (30-minute max commute from Center City).
How do I become a volunteer? Why do I need to Apply?
If you have seen an advertisement for dinner hosts, please complete our Hosting Survey to share your interest. The survey is our chance to get to know you better so we can pair you with groups of international visitors. Specifically, we ask for your contact information, professional experience, volunteer experience, educational background, language skills, international travel, and overall interests.
If you would like to sign up for future volunteer opportunities, please complete our VOLUNTEER APPLICATION.
What is the time commitment for being a Home Hospitality volunteer?
We estimate each Dinner Hospitality is a 4 to 8-hour commitment if you consider all the communicating, planning, shopping, learning about your visitors, transportation, the meal, and clean up. We offer 12-25 opportunities to dinner hosts each year. Whenever possible, we try to give you 1-2 weeks advance notice. We especially appreciate your willingness to accommodate visitors on short notice or during holiday periods, but we understand that this may not always be possible. The size of the groups varies from 1 to 4 depending upon the visitors’ language abilities and your capacity to host.
What if I do not speak my International Visitor’s primary language?
We do our best to match hosts and guests based on language, interests, and fields of expertise. If an International Visitor’s language ability requires it, then an interpreter will be assigned to accompany the visitors.
How do you assign international visitors to hosts? If I submit a survey response, am I guaranteed a match?
It typically takes 1-3 business days to sort through all the Host Survey responses. Current Citizen Diplomacy members receive the first placement and then we accommodate all other volunteer requests on a first-come, first-serve basis. We average 12-25 hosting opportunities per year.
What kind of a meal should I serve?
This should be a casual experience and the meal served does not need to be elaborate. Dietary restrictions, smoking, and pet concerns will be clearly stated in advance. One week to four days before the dinner you will receive a confirmation from our Progam team. Should you not receive a call the day before the hospitality, you may wish to contact Anna Schneider, Director of IVLP and Professional Exchanges directly at 267-546-7335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When will I get confirmation of my international guests and any dietary restrictions?
We will confirm all the details with you at least 4 days before the planned dinner. We will try to make it sooner if we can, but sometimes we do not get dietary restrictions until our international guests arrive in America.
How long should the meal be?
The appropriate length of time for Dinner/Home Hospitality is completely at your discretion, but you should plan for about two hours. Depending on how the conversation goes, it could take longer or shorter. You should always feel comfortable setting a limit and politely giving notice when it’s time to wrap things up.
Can I invite my friends or take my guests on a walk about town?
Absolutely! Our International leaders want to meet Americans while they are here – both as friends and as professional contacts. They are traveling for 3 weeks in hotels and dinner with you, your kids, your pets, and your friends are a welcome break. Want to grab cocktails at your favorite restaurant? Stroll around City Hall or simply your garden? and then have dinner – that sounds wonderful too. It is up to you to design your evening.
What about transportation?
Since many of the international visitors have recently arrived in the U.S. and may not yet feel comfortable using our public transportation, we would greatly appreciate it if you could meet the visitors at their hotel and return them at the end of the evening. Our preference for hosts to pick up and drop off guests personally at their hotel accommodations. We can accommodate regional rail or public transportation costs, if necessary. Hosts can also elect to arrange and pay for a taxi, Lyft or uber and our Program Officer will work with you directly to coordinate with the visitors. Unfortunately, we are unable to cover the costs of taxi, Lyft or uber transportation.
What happens afterward?
We encourage you to follow up with Citizen Diplomacy Program Staff by phone or email. Speak freely about your experience and give us any thoughts and suggestions that would enhance future Home Hospitalities. If you know of anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer, please forward this webpage! If you have given permission in your Host Survey to share your contact information, then your international guests will be able to contact you in the future. You should ask your international guests for their contact info to follow up in the future.
“The home hospitality program has allowed my family to meet people from around the world and share not only American culture but also learn about our guests’ respective home cultures.” ~ Home Host