How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?
My daughter was a semi finalist for a CBYX scholarship. When that didn’t happen, she was encouraged by the AFS volunteers at Camas High School to apply for AFS. Of course, we had to host that year, in order to fill the empty bed.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
The students- Seeing the growth of these young men and women is amazing. How they grow in their language skills, their cultural adaptation and their personal worldviews is such an inspiration.
My family- The impact on my kids, and now grandkids. They have chosen to host, volunteer and support our current student. They have gone on to create their own intercultural families.
The friends- Of course, the deep and lasting friendships made with volunteers, staff, host families and students. Fifteen of our own hosted students, countless students as an Event Family for arrivals, numerous support and temporary placements keep the guest room from getting dusty.
Personal satisfaction- I love to nurture and care for people. I get to fulfill my desire to learn about other cultures on a deeper scale then just traveling would do. I get to give out Mama Jean hugs!
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
It depends on the hat I wear that day. At this point I have the opportunity to be very involved, so being the team chair and support coordinator, I often put in a 40 hour week. Don’t panic! I have been known, in the past, to disappear for a year or two. Since we host an average of 60 students, my team is kept very busy. I have discovered I have a talent for recruiting host families, so that has been fun the last two years.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
Having hosted and having been a liaison for many YES and FLEX students, I have seen the courage these students have in overcoming economic, cultural and personal differences and it is awe inspiring. Following up with them in later years, seeing how they have succeeded truly makes the occasional tears and stress worthwhile.
Please share the best or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
The moment when the school counselor turns to the student, holds out his keyboard and asks, “Do you have a keyboard like this?” in a very slow and clear voice. Of course the student had perfect English and had already, as the son of an IBM employee, written his own programs. He went on to complete a pilot senior project building his own computer. It was my first introduction to the cultural bias we all hold. It also started my list of funny things people say to exchange students.
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
You never realize how much impact you have, even over little things. Meeting with the student you are liaison for every month, providing the food at orientation, taking the time to give a hug and ask why a student is down, mentoring another volunteer, helping a host family keep a student, rather then move them. It all counts, big or small. We can’t do it alone! Volunteers, staff, families and students need to be united to further our mission.
What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
I learned to ride a motorcycle about 6 years ago and had a gigantic Suzuki Boulevard. My hubby only had a Harley Sportster!