Volunteer fire unit teaches foreign-nationals about fire safety
- Written by Robert Kleeman
– Au pairs study safety as part of mandated meetings, course work – The Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department hosted approximately 20 visitors from Thailand, India, Austria, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Sweden Saturday. The 30-year-old fire unit offered a fire safety session to a group of au pairs, who come from other countries to work for a family that requests their services, at its main administrative station at the Woodland Hills Drive and Atascocita Road intersection. The department hosted participants from Cultural Care Au Pair, which serves parts of Houston and the Humble and Kingwood areas, the last three years. Debra Burgower, a childcare coordinator with the area group, said families who need affordable childcare can request an au pair at http://d-burgower.local.culturalcare.com/. Staff members then match a candidate with the family and connect them to see if there is mutual interest. Families can get as detailed as they want in their applications, describing the personality type they would prefer, hobbies and interests. The family then sponsor’s that au pair’s visa, pays their tuition and part of their airline ticket. “Finding daycare can be expensive,” Burgower said. “An au pair is a bargain and they come live with you for a year. You pay them the same amount, about $176 a week, regardless of how many kids you have. If you’ve got four or five kids, it’s a steal.” The au pairs fly to New York for a three-day stint to start their journey and then head to Texas where they can stay for a second year if they choose. “You pay a fixed rate,” Burgower said, “and in exchange, they get to learn about and experience a new culture. It’s wonderful.” The au pairs arrive with international driver’s licenses and a chief goal: improve their grasp of the English language. The fire training satisfies a State Department mandate that requires them to attend monthly meetings with their mentor. Two of those meetings must involve fire safety, bicycle safety or swimming safety. The department also requires that au pairs take two, three-credit classes. The volunteer unit also offers a swimming safety session in the summer. “The firefighters let the girls try their fire outfits on, so that’s always fun,” Burgower said. “I think they’re just phenomenal.” Photo: A group of au pairs, or people who come from other countries to act as nannies/childcare providers for area families who request them, smiles at a previous Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department fire safety training session. The fire unit offers two sessions each year to help the au pairs satisfy State Department meeting attendance requirements.