Wilton couple continue peace work


WILTON — David Olson and Paula Widmer continue their “peace work” from their home in Wilton. 

The couple mentor young students from foreign lands who are now in the United States. They also find host families for exchange students through Youth Exchange and Study (YES), a program of the U.S. State Department.

Earlier this year, they opened their home to two sisters from Afghanistan who fled their homeland to avoid arranged marriages. They met the women through their own former exchange student.

The sisters lived with Olson and Widmer for four months while waiting to be granted asylum so they could continue their studies.

The young women did receive asylum in April, Widmer said.

The sisters were unavailable for comment over the holidays.

“We both like young people and have served as mentors for years,” Olson said previously of their efforts. “We’re creating bridges for peace.”

They found a host family for a boy from Yemen this year. He’s attending Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. “We’re always looking for more host families,” he added.

The students come primarily from Muslim countries, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa.

“These students are chosen very carefully,” he said.

Their parents have to pay so they are usually from higher socio-economic families,  but they are also smart, self-motivated, mature and potential leaders.

There are hundreds of applicants but only a few are chosen, he said.

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