How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?
My daughter’s dance teacher is a long time AFS volunteer and host family so I was aware of the program. When my daughter was finishing 8th grade, we were approached to host and hosted the only exchange student at our local high school that year. That was in 2005 and when we decided to host in 2007, I wanted to be more informed and connected to the program, so I registered to volunteer. I helped to recruit two other host families so we wouldn’t be the only host family again.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
Seeing the excitement and anticipation of the students at Arrivals, seeing the pictures of the AFSers with their families and friends, hearing from the host parents how enriching the experience has been for their families, seeing the lifelong connections that are made when the students come back to visit. I was able to visit this spring with a Thai AFSer who came here in 2008. It was wonderful to see her again and to know that she still has a bond to her host family. I look forward to seeing my German AFS daughter from 2007 again soon as she is working at Disney in Florida. I know that AFS connections will only continue to exist when there are volunteers keeping the program going so I want to continue making those connections possible.
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
I wear lots of hats with AFS. During the school year that may mean I am meeting with the local high school guidance counselor checking in on the students academics, talking to an AFSer at Dunkin Donuts about their weekend waterskiing with their host family or talking to people about AFS at a local fair. My most challenging job and probably the most fun as well is coordinating the Post-Arrival and Pre-Return Orientation camps at a nearby summer camp for the students in September and May. It is uplifting to see the kids connect and support each other as well as to hear about their experiences, whether exciting new things they have done or challenges they have overcome and learned from.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
I have learned so much about myself and have experienced tremendous personal growth through my experiences with AFS, both the positive and the challenging ones. I feel I have developed better listening skills and coping strategies for life.
Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.
The first enrichment activity trip I did as Cluster Coordinator was to Acadia National Park with three YES students from Pakistan, India and West Bank. We had perfect weather and it was wonderful to share the natural beauty and history of our state with the students who really appreciated the experience.
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
There are so many ways to be involved – whether you have a little time to give or a lot. If you are genuinely interested in young people and/or other countries and cultures, you should give it a try!
What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
I love vintage clothes and keep an antique dressform in my living room dressed in old fashioned dresses. Even though she is just a torso really, I named her Hazel and she still scares my husband sometimes.