How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?
I had a friend from Australia with AFS who was attending our school on an AFS program. I got involved in our AFS club in school and by the end of my senior year I was ready to go to Austria for a year!
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
I truly believe in the mission of AFS. I had the best year of my life in Austria. To this day, my AFS friends are still my family. Thank goodness for social media and the internet, we are still a part of each others’ lives. I just want each student that comes to my town to have all the opportunities to forge that same bond.
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
I am the Austin area team chair, hosting/sending coordinator and liaison to three students. Some days are a little slow, some days it feels like a full time job. I am available 24/7 and 365 days a year to any students/volunteers or host families that needs me. There is no typical “shift” for me.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
Not only am I still learning new things about different cultures every year, but my faith in the youth of the world is constantly growing. With all the negativity we see in the media these days, volunteering with these students assures me that peace is a possibility, even if it is just one student at a time. When kids are immersed in a new culture, they must learn to communicate and work out their differences with the understanding of another perspective. It’s so rewarding to see that light go on. The world still has hope.
Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
The best part about being an AFS volunteer is my birthday! Every year, I am so blessed to receive cards, letters and messages from all over the world from our AFSers! I didn’t host them, but I am so touched that they continue to share their lives with me after they return home.
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
It’s not JUST about hosting and driving teenagers around. There are so many ways we can utilize ANY talent you may have. There will be wonderful opportunities to explore new cultures, experience new flavors and make a difference in the life of a great kid. It will make you happy, it may make you cry, you may definitely get frustrated from time to time. Honestly, it’s the toughest volunteer gig out there but one of the most rewarding of them all. I never regret a day.
What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
I’m a closet Larper!