Meet Eric Mattlin of Chicago. A relative newcomer to AFS, Eric is an active member of the Greater Chicago team and is amazed how much of an impact AFS has had on his family’s life in such a short time.
How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved??
I first learned about AFS from the Principal at my son’s new high school who was looking for host families for the upcoming school year. When I was in high school I enjoyed making friends with the exchange students so I made a call to get more information. From my first contact with AFS, my questions were answered. Most importantly, I felt comfortable and was welcomed into the organization.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
The personal connections with other the volunteers, hosted students, sending students and returnees have really added so much to my life. It is beyond my wildest dreams. I know that I will be in contact with some of these people for the rest of my life.
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
Since I am involved with so many parts of AFS, there is really no typical shift. During a typical month I do all the things that all hosting parents do to keep our kids going. I am a liaison and meet with my student at least twice a month. I help organize the monthly meetings for the students who live in the city and monitor the area team Facebook group. When I am asked, I’m typically willing to help out with anything so I get to know more about AFS. On the official Greater Chicago organizational chart, I am listed as Co-chair of the Chicago City Group and as the “Party Planner.” Informally the volunteers joke and say that my real job is to monitor the Facebook page, as I seem to be on there a lot.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
One of the most important things AFS has given my son and me is access to an extended family all over the world. It has given my son, who is an only child, brothers and sisters. It has given me sons and daughters who have made me a better parent to my own son. It is difficult to put into words just how much impact it has made on our lives in such a short time.
Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
Last year was my first year hosting and I hosted a wonderful young man from Austria named Jonas. Since both he and my son were new to their school, they decided it would be funny to tell everyone they were actual brothers. Their back-story was that Jonas’ mother had left me and returned to Austria to raise him. They had most of their classmates convinced this was true for the first few months.
Last week I ran into a follow parent at school and she thought the story was true, except that she thought my son was the Austrian exchange student and that Jonas was my actual son. It took a while for me to stop laughing.
What is one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
I do actually have a full time job!