Meet Ann Sweet of Williamsville, New York. Her energy for AFS is limitless. She has hosted 16 AFS students, been a Support and Event Coordinator and sits on the Volunteer Recognition Committee. “AFS has opened doors and opportunities that I could never have dreamed of. Through AFS I now have an international family.
How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved??
I first became involved with AFS when my son’s high school English teacher, an AFS returnee and local AFS club advisor, approached us about hosting. Our family said “yes,” and since that time we have hosted 16 AFSes and have also become integral memebers of the Western New York area team.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
For me it has to be the kids and what they give back to me. I love being a Support volunteer and helping kids through what can sometimes be a very difficult transition. It is always amazing to see the personal growth that each of these students experiences from the beginning of their year to the end.
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
As my family and friends can tell you, typical or normal does not apply when it comes to AFS. I help out with whatever needs to be done in our team from host family interviews to giving refuge to students in transition. I have two main jobs if you will, Support Coordinator and my favorite, which keeps me the busiest, Event Coordinator. Every month I plan an event for the kids which varies: an area team picnic, a baseball game, a huge Halloween party, a bowling party, snow tubing or a Zoo Snooze. I also plan for three area team trips that include Washington DC, New York City and Disneyworld. The news of my Disney trip has spread regionally and the group also includes students from DC, Finger Lakes and Ohio teams. The biggest group I ever took was 64 participants. Nationally, I am a member of the Volunteer Recognition Committee and for the past three years I have been the point person for the Flight and Belo Chaperone selections.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
AFS has broadened my horizons in ways I would never have imagined and has had the biggest impact on my family thus far. It has opened doors and opportunities that I could never have dreamed of prior to becoming involved. Through AFS I now have an international family and many awesome places that I intend to visit in the years to come.
Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
The funniest thing that has happened to me (I can say that now) took place on one of our trips to Washington, DC. I always provide a thank you gift for the host families while we are there along with (delete extra space) thank you notes signed by the kids. A couple of years ago in my haste, I realized after giving out all of the gifts and cards, that the “thank you” notes were in actuality sympathy notes that I had bought by mistake. The families got a good laugh out of it but I was initially mortified.
The best thing for me about volunteering has been that many of my area team members have become some of my closest friends, for which I will be forever grateful.
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
I tell as many people as I can that the rewards are many and that volunteering with AFS has probably been the best decision that I have made, so far.
What is one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
By day I am a full-time dental hygienist.