Jennifer Reisdorf of Koblenz, Germany
At just 24 years old, Jennifer (Jenny) Reisdorf of Koblenz, Germany, has already interned at a kindergarten, worked as a teacher, run her own Girl Scout troop, managed a children’s camp at a zoo, lived in Australia for a year as an au pair, and volunteered with kids in a homeless shelter in Namibia. Today, she is living and working with a host family in the U.S. as part of the U.S. Department of State’s J1 au pair program.
Jenny arrived in the U.S. in February 2017 and went to live with a family in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Jenny’s host family lives on a military base. Her host father is a career Army officer who is currently deployed overseas, which means Jenny is the second “parent” in the household – helping her host mom, Mara, care for the family’s two children: 12-year-old Sally Ann and 14-year old JP, who has special needs.
Jenny first learned about the J1 au pair program online. She was initially interested in traveling to Canada, but since she had already been an au pair once before, in Australia, she didn’t want to do the usual au pair program.
“What was most interesting to me was to live with a child with special needs,” she explained. “If you work with children with special needs in a shelter or in a kindergarten, you only work certain hours. But with the au pair program, you have 24 hours of exposure in their home environment. It is their real life and how they usually react.”
Jenny has a degree in early childhood education and has always loved working with kids.
“I’m a single child and was always in Girl Scouts and other programs,” she said. “When I was 15 years old I decided I wanted to work with kids. They can give you so much more than working in an office.”
Jenny’s days start early: she usually wakes JP up at 5:30 a.m. in order to help him get up, take his medicine, go to the bathroom, and get ready for school. JP has autism, a cleft palate, and a chromosomal deletion that is unique to him. He functions at a three-year-old level and is still in diapers. Once Jenny has helped JP to get ready, she prepares the kids lunches and then waits with JP for his bus to take him to school. Her days are mostly free, until JP gets back from s