(Left to right) Carlee and Abby (Kristin’s daughters), Kristin and Sarah Barni (Kristin’s host daughter) Monza, Italy in July 2013.

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

I heard about AFS as a teenager at East Peoria Community High School. I was friends with several of the students that came to our school as well as a couple of returnees. The idea of living in another country was very exciting to me so I applied for and went on a summer program to France. This experience gave me so much confidence and changed the way I looked at the world. Years later (I’m not saying how many!), I wanted to help provide the opportunity for this amazing experience to other students.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

Every family and every participant has his or her own story. I love meeting new people and learning about their personal stories as well as their culture(s).

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

For me, I just jump in where and when I’m needed. Sometimes I go days without needing to think about AFS, but then I might have some busy weeks where I’m contacting potential host families and schools, doing in-home interviews, and/or uploading forms to Global Link.

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

Never assume that you know what someone’s motivations are. There are so many factors that make people do what they do – personal history, emotions, religion, culture. The best way to find out why someone thinks or acts a certain way is to ask them.

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

Every time I see a participant whose placement I helped facilitate getting along with their host family and having a great AFS experience, it makes me feel proud that I helped make that happen. On a personal note, one of the students my own family hosted made me a present for Mother’s Day that just melted my heart. She made me a “Things I Love About You” jar. Every time I reach in and pull out a little slip of paper from that jar, it makes me feel great inside.

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

If you love to meet new people and believe that what AFS is doing is important, then you should try to get more involved. Everyone has unique gifts that they can bring to AFS and we welcome them all!

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

Even though I decided not to pursue a career in this field, I studied vocal performance in college and can sing songs from operas!