Raising kids is not easy. One is a handful, two is an armful, and it keeps going and going from there. Zenon and Monique Horb already had three biological kids when they added three more by adopting a trio of siblings from Ukraine in 2008. Now, with an eight member family, the Horbs welcomed another member last July, Hee Joo Kim, an exchange student from Korea.
Zenon himself is a first-generation immigrant, as his parents came to the US from Ukraine. And, as a kid growing up in Chicago, many of his friends were other first-generation immigrants as well. He would speak and read in Ukrainian at home, English at school, and encountered people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures. To him however, multicultural does not feel like the right word to describe his life and family.
“I don’t look at it as multicultural, that was just normal for me,” Zenon explained. “I remember two of my best friends in high school, one was Filipino whose parents came from the Philippines, and the other was an Italian whose parents were immigrants. It was just natural and normal.”
Zenon and Monique met after they both finished college and settled in Valparaiso. Monique runs her own organizing company, Organizing Your Chaos, while Zenon is a project manager at Steiner homes. Raising six kids, three of which were added to the household virtually overnight, gave Monique the experience to be an expert organizer, but it is also a very personally fulfilling business for her.
“I laugh because a lot of times people ask me, ‘What made you want to start your own organizing business,’” said Monique. “And I respond, ‘Well, I have six kids!’ I’ve enjoyed building my business in the Region, and I’ve grown a lot myself in what it takes to manage a family, as well as a business, at the same time.”
As their kids grew up and started leaving for college, Monique and Zenon found themselves inexplicably missing the chaos that came with the territory of an eight person household. They stumbled on the idea of being a host family for an exchange student, and they dove headfirst into the opportunity.
“I joke a little bit but there’s some truth to it that after we had some of our kids go off to college, the house gets quieter but we started to miss some of the action,” laughed Zenon. “When we were down to just two kids at home, our girls brought the idea of hosting a student to Monique, and, to me, it was a no-brainer since we’re used to a full and busy house.”
Hee Joo Kim came to the States through the EF Student Exchange program in July and after orientation in New York, moved in with the Horb family. She is currently attending Valparaiso High School as a junior, and is happy to be a part of the Horb’s home.
“I love my host family, and I’m very thankful for them,” said Kim. “I know some other students have lots of problems with theirs, but mine treats me very nice. And my host family has six siblings!”
As an only child back in Korea, suddenly having six siblings is definitely a big adjustment on top of the already huge change in culture. Kim is adjusting quickly however, and loves what Valpo has to offer.
“It’s very peaceful,” she said. “When I was in Korea, my town had more high buildings, but here there are more houses so it’s pretty.”
And the happiness goes both ways, the Horbs love Hee Joo and are happy to have welcomed her into their home.
“We’ve really enjoyed it,” said Zenon. “As a matter of fact, the other night, we were looking into applications for next year. I’d would like to challenge other families in the community to look into this program. They’re always looking for host families, and we have such a great community and schools so why not venture out?”
The Horb family is big and blended, but they would not have it any other way.