Abbey Rice Submitted photo.

Abbey Rice lives in a four-story Victorian house built in 1901 in Rumford not too far from the center of town with her husband, Curtis, and their five children. She and Curtis enjoy decorating their home with wall hangings of their grandparents and other family members as well with old maps, antiques and memorabilia of historical wares from their family history.

“We wanted to live in Rumford because we could buy an old house for very cheap and it’s the sort of town where you could get involved and actually make a difference,” Rice said.

Before she had her family, Rice traveled extensively; now she brings the world to her home by hosting exchange students from all over the world.

Besides caring for her busy household, Rice is a director on the RSU 10 school board and recently started working with an exchange student organization for which she finds families willing to host exchange students while they are here.

Name: Abbey Rice

Age: 44

Job: Local coordinator for Greenheart Exchange

You did lots of traveling before you had your five children. What were a few of the highlights of your travels? In 1990 at the age of 15 I spent the summer at a Soviet Young Pioneers summer camp for kids as part of a camper exchange program. It was the first time I had traveled outside of the country and my eyes were wide open. I’ve visited over 20 countries since then. Probably my favorite way to travel is with just a backpack and a Eurail Pass. Visiting museums, eating pastries on park benches, meeting new people — you can’t beat it.

What is this couch surfing program you’ve been involved with and why did you and your family participate in it? It’s kind of like Airbnb, except it’s all volunteer. . . . It’s a website that connects travelers. . . . We hosted people from all around the world at our home in Rumford. German engineers, a guy from Scotland, two cousins from the Netherlands who were on a hiking tour of New England, a guy who was biking from Quebec City to somewhere down south, a church group from New Jersey, and lots of others. It was a great way to introduce our kids to the world right in our own home. You can learn a whole lot just by talking around the kitchen table.

Why does your family host exchange students in your home and why did you recently take on the position of local coordinator for Greenheart Exchange? We love hosting exchange students! It’s a great way to bring the world to our community here in Rumford and for our kids to have a better understanding of the diversity that we don’t always see. I really want to help connect families here in western Maine with kids from all around the globe. It just seemed like such a natural fit for me.

Do you think it’s important that people travel the world, and do you hope that your children will be world travelers? Often people fear or are just uncomfortable with what they don’t know. Traveling is an amazing education — but when we can’t travel, we just invite the world to come hang out with us in Rumford. But yes, we have expectations that our kids will get out and see the museums and natural wonders, eat the foods, hear the languages and meet the people they won’t see if they don’t get on a plane or train.

Why do you and your family choose to live in Rumford, and why is it important to you to be a director on the RSU 10 school board? Curtis and I both love history and old homes and wanted to live in a town small enough that we could get involved and make a difference. Rumford fit the bill — and many historic houses were so beautiful and very affordable! We’ve lived here for 17 years and we’re big fans. Being on the school board feels like a way to contribute to the community and help ensure all our kids continue to receive a quality education here in Rumford.

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