Meet Carol McCaulley of California’s Silver and Gold Team. In her countless years as an AFS volunteer, she has served in nearly every volunteer role imaginable. When asked what she would say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS, Carol responded, “It’s very rewarding getting to learn more about the world from young people who live all around the world and knowing that you are making an impact…” Bottom line—people who volunteer for AFS are fun to be around.” This is Carol’s AFS story.
How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?
In 1964, my high school, Taft High, in Taft, California, began hosting AFS students. I was intrigued with the concept that a teenager from another country would come to my little town for a year to learn about us while we learned about them and their country.
During my second year teaching at a small high school in Arbuckle, California, a group of students and parents established an AFS chapter and I volunteered to be the advisor. Our club raised the money each year, primarily through a community Friendship Bond drive, to pay the fee to be able to host an AFS exchange student.
About five years later, I got married and moved to a larger town, where I found an active AFS chapter that had been in existence since 1953. For the next ten years I helped out where I could, but with a new job and two young children, my major role was to promote AFS, especially sending programs, at my high school and to help out with sending interviews. Gradually, I became more involved in sending and hosting orientations, and feeling more comfortable doing hosting interviews and recruitment. In the mid-1990s when AFS went to the area team model, I was asked to be part of the Transitional Regional Council of the Southwest Region. Over the last 15 years I’ve been the Silver & Gold Hosting Coordinator, Area Chair and served as a liaison for many students.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
I like the volunteer aspect of AFS and respect that people involved with AFS are there because they see it as a worthwhile use of their time and resources. That attitude adds to the camaraderie of our team and the events and orientations that we have. Bottom line– people who volunteer for AFS are fun to be around!
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
I don’t have a typical “shift.” I do what needs to be done that I can fit into my schedule. Now that I’m retired, I can devote more time to AFS. Besides hosting calls, interviews and paperwork, I now do more high school presentations emphasizing sending.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
As I stated before, I have been personally affected by all of the students, each to a different degree. In 1973, the community I lived in was hosting a boy from South Vietnam. Because of the political situation in that country, AFS assisted the student to connect with a family member who was a U.S. resident, so that the student could seek asylum here in the U.S.
In 1993 or 1994, our area team hosted a cluster of the first FLEX- then called the Bradley Initiative- students. I remember one of the activities included a tour of a new Wal-Mart store in our community, including “behind the scenes” offices, lounge area, storage/warehouse area. They were all flabbergasted with the amount of items and how everything worked to keep it going.
Another girl from Czechoslovakia in the mid-1990s thought it was interesting how U.S. History and Economics teachers taught about communism compared to what she had learned.
In 2001-2002, I was liaison for a boy from Denmark. He was interested in history and was in my U.S. History class. He offered first-hand experiences of a country that had been invaded by another foreign power. Upon his return to Denmark, he began volunteering for AFS-Denmark, attended university and is now a lawyer. Several years ago he wrote me a great “Thank You” email for being his liaison and for encouraging him to volunteer when he returned. He was about to become the President/Chair of the volunteers of AFS-Denmark!
In the late 1990s, a boy from my school went on a summer program to Chile. He had been taking Spanish in high school and credits his AFS experience for increasing his fluency in the language. After graduating from Stanford, going to medical school and completing his internship or residency, he was ready to apply for a “real” doctor’s job when a massive earthquake struck Chile, severely damaging the town where he had been hosted. He came home to Yuba City and launched a campaign to get donations of supplies and money to take with him to Chile so that he could use his medical skills to help the residents of the town.
In all of these years as a volunteer with AFS and a high school teacher, it has been interesting to learn more about world geography and the perspective of other countries and cultures from people who really live there! I always tried to have the exchange students make presentations in my classes, especially in the spring when they were more comfortable with English and had been here long enough to make comparisons. I’ve also been interested all these years in learning about the educational systems of various countries and how different most of them are from the U.S. As the saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, to constructively educate young people! AFS gives students additional confidence that they didn’t know they had and ideas for potential careers that they hadn’t thought of.
Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
The best things are pretty much mentioned above. Funniest thing: an Australian girl asked her male biology lab partner to hand her a rubber, meaning eraser! They were both embarrassed after the explanation was made!
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
It’s very rewarding getting to learn more about the world from young people who live all around the world. Know that you are making an impact on hosted students, Americans abroad, their host families and the people in the schools and communities with whom they come in contact. Like I said above, it’s fun working with other volunteers to make the mission of AFS come to fruition.