Rio Orticio knows first-hand what it is like to come to a different country to study. Because of his experiences as an international student, Rio is dedicated to ensuring that AFS hosted students in the Dallas team have the support and activities they need so that they will have good memories to take back to their countries. Community service is important to Rio and he offers students in the Dallas area opportunities to give back to the community.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

Seeing new students year in and year out from different countries and learning from them. AFS students teach me interesting lessons. I have read books about other cultures and have traveled abroad, but nothing compares to students telling me how it is done in their own country. Directly hearing from students is just such a learning moment.

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

As an event/activity coordinator in Dallas, we schedule fun events to make sure that our students are exposed to the local fun activities available in the Dallas Fort Worth area.

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

Each student has his or her own very unique story. It does not matter if several students come from China; their stories are different and interesting to hear. I have also learned that volunteers do not always have to be in a leading or teaching role—the best role that I have found is that of a facilitator. Let them talk, discuss and ask questions amongst themselves. Just be there to make sure that the group is safe, orderly and are having fun.

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

I keep in touch with our students by phone, email and social media. One afternoon, Yuki, a girl from Japan texted me to say that she was at the mall with her friends and said that she was “boring.” I texted her back and said, “I am glad that I am not with you.”  She meant to say that she was “bored!” Many times the language barriers makes talking to students a lot more fun. However, I always keep in mind that they might have broken English when they first arrive here, but they are trying hard to speak a second language!

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

I tell them that, “It is not a full time job and it is so easy! The reward is priceless compared to the investment.”

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

I run a self-funded missionary program to the Philippines every year to help the very poor in a village. At the AFS departure orientation I ask the students to not discard the excess clothing that they have accumulated and I collect the clothing to send to the Philippines. Last year we sent boxes to help with one of the deadliest typhoon that has hit the Philippines. We also sent some clothes to an orphanage in Ukraine.