Christine and students from the Baltimore Area Team and cluster 2013-14 at the Newseum. Clara (Portugal), Alina (FLEX-Russia), Christine McGarvey, Giancarlo (Brazil), Gita (YES-Indonesia), Carolin (Germany), Jonas (Germany)

Meet Christine McGarvey of the Baltimore Team. She has been a host mom, a liaison, a hosting coordinator and a group leader at orientations. Being a part of AFS has made the world a smaller and friendlier place.  She now has friends scattered around the world who have made her life richer. For Christine, each year with AFS has been filled with so many beautiful moments…making chocolate truffles together, seeing her exchange student perform in a musical for the first time, running her first 5k with her host child, taking photographs together at the beach. Here is Christine’s AFS story.

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?

I learned about AFS when we got to know an exchange student from Thailand who our friends from church were hosting. Dan is a terrific young man and meeting him made us feel more comfortable about hosting an exchange student. We decided that we wanted to host an exchange student too. After reading Karoline’s letter, my husband, younger son, and I decided that she was the kind of person that we would love to get to know. Hosting Karoline was a great experience.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

I enjoy getting to know amazing exchange students and learning about other areas of the world. I enjoy talking with them and seeing the U.S. through their eyes for the first time. I have a lot of fun organizing small groups of exchange students to go to concerts and do community service projects. It is great to see them grow over the course of their exchange year and to hear what they have learned.

What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?

I do not have a typical shift. I am normally busiest from April through June because I volunteer as the hosting coordinator for our team. I work on publicity to attract host families, choose exchange students to promote in our area, talk with potential host families about their questions, help families to pick students and conduct host family interviews. I also volunteer as a discussion leader for our orientations. I volunteer with the Sponsored Programs cluster coordinators and organize activities. Over the last two years, I organized two weekend service projects at a church camp for Sponsored Programs exchange students (plus a few others that my family could fit in our cars). I also organized small groups of whoever can fit into my minivan to go to free concerts, visit museums, run in the Color Run and other activities. I have been a host mom for two years and a liaison for one year.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?

On a personal level, I got to know and love two daughters and one nephew who are now part of my family. I have friends that are now scattered around the world. They make my life richer. I have become friends with other volunteers. I love how supporting exchange makes the world a smaller and friendlier place. I have learned so much about other areas of the world. I also learned a lot about my assumptions, the way I look at things and how I communicate. I am more open to other ways of doing things and other ways of communicating.

Please share the best thing or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS?

It is really hard to pick the best thing when each year is filled with so many beautiful moments – eating chocolate truffles while watching Les Miserables, seeing your exchange student perform for the first time in a musical, having fun goofing around and taking photographs at the beach, running your first 5k with your student, having philosophical discussions, watching the lights come on in New York City from the top of Rockefeller Center and seeing the excitement when your student sees the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?

Volunteering with AFS is a great way to get to know some wonderful kids, to learn about new areas of the world and to see the U.S. in new and interesting ways.

What is the one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?

AFS volunteers and staff do not know that in my first job after graduating from college, I was in a group picture on the front page of the New York Times. I was a Congressional staffer for a series of high profile hearings and the New York Times wanted a group photo of the people who worked on assembling those stacks and stacks of binders.