Monday, March 26th, 2012

Smart Au Pairs have received news from the IAPA conference in Budapest that our wonderful au pair Birte has been voted winner of the IAPA Worldwide Au Pair of the Year Award. IAPA is the International Au Pair Association and is the leading global trade association for organisations active in all aspects of au pair and cultural exchange programs.

Birte from Germany was au pair in the Bess family in Australia and helped the family with the care for their two young children and newborn twins when they lived in Lambton, near Newcastle. The Bess family, originally from the USA, knew they needed an extra pair of hand to help with the children after the twins were born. As expats; they knew they could not really rely on nearby friends and relatives!

Birte Kluseman

Below is part of the heartwarming letter we received from the Bess family to nominate Birte for the award:

“She is so instantly warm, friendly, and full of creativity. And now, after having lived with us for 7 months, she is family and we love her dearly. We will forever have her in our lives. In fact, she is flying to the US to visit us this Christmas and spend 2 weeks with us, and the kids are counting the days! I can't even begin to detail everything she did for our family. She was always doing projects with the kids - from making life-sized drawings of them to colouring/painting. Her personality is so special...she‘s always smiling or laughing or re-telling something funny she heard. You simply cannot be depressed around her. She became so much a part of our family that the older kids would not go to bed at night without seeing her. They still to this day, over 4 months later, ask for her almost every night.

Birte also helped me so much around the house. I never had to ask her to do anything. In fact, I had to ask her to STOP doing so much and take some time for herself! To which she would always reply "We are family, and this is just what family does for each other… And then, when the kids would go to sleep and my husband was working late (again!), Birte and I would chat about life and love and our experiences...and we would laugh and sometimes cry...and watch our favorite shows together. She is like an older daughter and a sister and a best friend, all rolled into one!”

Once nominated as a finalist for the IAPA Worldwide Au Pair of the Year Award, Birte then wrote her own essay which resulted in her winning the award!

"How can I describe so many unforgettable moments I experienced while I was an Au Pair in Australia. I love to think about all the incredible adventures and funny little situations. When I look back I always remember the warm welcoming feeling when I saw my host family for the first time. It was Keira’s 3rd birthday party (I quickly had a huge butterfly drawn on my face) and as soon as I saw Sean, Sara and the kids it felt so comfortable being around them. I never had a second thought that this would not work out. The more time we spent together (family outings, playing games, talking, special girls outings…) the more I got to know them and the more I got attached to them. I loved getting up in the morning, go upstairs and see the kids running at me asking if we could make German waffles for breakfast or if we could just play together. I will always remember Kyler asking me: ‘Are you happy, B?’ – And I answered him ‘Yes, I am’. (Because it was the truth) I was happy about everything – it was like being home! His kind and enthusiastic personality always cheered me up. Keira and I had our very own girl’s connection.

After the twins were born Keira would hold my hand and tell everyone that the two of us were also twins J . In the beginning, I wasn't sure how disciplining the kids would work coming from someone new, but it was very natural. Kyler and Keira seemed comforted that I held them to the boundaries they were used to. Sean and Sara helped me with that a lot. We worked like a team: They accepted me from the first day, responded to me and respected my opinions and techniques with the kids. I could always ask them how they would usually react in a certain situation. Kyler, Keira and I loved to play, to draw, to paint, to sing, to dress up and to do “silly things” together but they also respected me when I had to correct their behavior. At night when the kids were all asleep Sara, Sean and I were sitting on the couch talking (about everything), laughing, doing quizzes and eating cookies. Having Sara as my best friend, someone I could always (!) talk to, and being part of this family helped me in so many situations – I never felt alone in a country where I hardly knew anyone. When I first learned that Sara was pregnant with twins I didn’t really know what to expect. But now, looking back, I can say it was an amazing experience to be around for Aidan and Isaac’s arrival and first months. It was a huge change in the beginning and I am still impressed with how great Sara and Sean handled the whole situation. (When I visited them for Christmas again the twins had grown so much – unbelievable that I have known them from their first day on.)

During my time in Australia, I took a few days off and flew up to Darwin. I drove down to Alice Springs with a group of backpackers– to see the real Outback. I really enjoyed my trip. While I was gone the older kids counted the days until I came back (and so did I). Every night they called me before they went to bed to say “Gute Nacht” (I tried to teach them some German J ). When it was time to leave Australia in August it was really hard to say good-bye (lots of crying J ) but I visited them for Christmas and I got introduced to many more members of this great family (My German family is very small but now I am also part of a big American family) And I am even more excited to see them this summer again. I miss them every single day! I am honored that Smart Au Pair chose me to be “the Australian Au Pair of 2011” (although many Au Pairs are just that!!) but at the same time I know that nothing would have been the same if I hadn’t gotten connected with the loving, kind and caring Bess family . Thank you Smart Au Pairs and magoo_international (partner agency)! This whole experience was beyond wonderful!"

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Smart Au Pairs

Smart Au Pairs run au pair agencies in both the UK and Australia. Our MD and founder, a well-travelled business mum, Nicole, speaks four languages and has, prior to managing the au pair agencies, spent 15 years travelling the world with her job in the travel industry.

Nicole, who moved to England in 1993 from her native Holland, has always been passionate about encouraging young people to broaden their horizons and to improve their language skills. In 2009 she moved to Australia for another ‘cultural adventure’.

With two children and husband with an equally demanding career, childcare has always been vital to help balance the demands of juggling family and work. A family au pair was ideal as it gave the children early exposure to cultural exchange.

Her own au pair hosting experiences combined with her career in travel marketing and passion for languages inspired her to set up Smart Au Pairs. The benefits of affordable and flexible live-in childcare continue to motivate her to recommend more families all over Australia to embrace the au pair experience.

The team at our Au Pair Agency is split between our offices in the UK and Australia. Both teams ‘well travelled’ with some of us ex-pats and linguists. We all we appreciate the advantages of a gap year abroad.

We want you to benefit from our expertise and passion for cultural exchange and the au pair experience. Your satisfaction with our service and with the au pair program is our priority and our daily ambition

Nicole Kofkin
P: 02 9487 7792


au pair, winner, childcare, nanny



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