AFS volunteer, Kathleen Broda

Meet Kathleen Broda. She first became aware of AFS in 7th grade from her English teacher whose son was studying on an AFS program in France. When asked about her experience volunteering with AFS, she said, “with all good volunteering…you get more than you give. To open your head and heart to another person is a priceless gift and opportunity.” This is her story.

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

My 7th grade English teacher’s son went to France with AFS and she had some wonderful stories to share.  My high school was also very active with AFS and there were always hosted students attending our school.  I was ready to sign up on the spot!

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

I am motivated by the potential for the students and the hard working, committed volunteers in our area team who do amazing work year after year.  Both groups make me want to stay engaged.

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

I have functioned mostly on the sending end, as well as  being a liaison.  As a liaison I stay connected throughout the year.  For sending it really starts in December with programs like the National Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program and the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program.

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

Sometimes in life there aren’t even six degrees of separation!  I have really been touched, while helping out at Sponsored Program orientations, by those families whose students are disabled.  Now that is a courageous and trusting leap for them.  We honor that trust by the support and care we provide throughout the year, both as individual volunteers and as an organization.

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

It does return to the degrees of separation…For example, when meeting my daughter – a year program returnee to Venezuela in NYC – we had the chance to connect with a fellow student from Thailand who also attended her school in Venezuela. Or going to Seattle for a Networking meeting and discovering a student I met in China would be there. I met her in 2006 when I was an AFS program leader in China.  She became much like a “niece” to me. Since then, I have come to know her extended family in China and wrote a reference letter for her when she was applying to a Master’s program at George Washington University in D.C. She now works with AFS China.

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

It holds with all good volunteering that you get more than you give.  But additionally, with AFS, there is the  understanding, the sharing and the inter-connectedness of life.  To open your head and heart to another is a priceless gift and opportunity.