In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we’re highlighting Sue Fershing, a longtime AFS volunteer and host parent. Here’s what she had to say about her experience with AFS-USA over the years:

“My husband and I hosted our first AFSer on a ‘bus stop’ visit in 1984. We continued to host short bus stop students until 1987 when we were asked to host a year program student that needed to change her family. That student is now 55 years-old, and I am still in touch with her. I have watched her grow up, get married, have children and send her children on [AFS programs]! When my husband passed away a few years ago, she came here from Germany for the memorial service. In total we hosted seven AFSers, and we consider all of them our ‘girls.’

It only takes a few days to know that hosting is a rewarding experience and a few weeks to know that a year isn’t such a long time to welcome an international teenager into your family. I became the [New Jersey] Area Team Chair in 2001 and have watched hundreds of international teens step out of their comfort zone and grow into mature young men and women during their AFS year. They always say ‘AFS is not a year in a life; it is life in a year,’ and I definitely know that to be true. I have learned a lot about the culture of countries I could not even locate on a map before volunteering with AFS. Being the [team] Support Coordinator allows me to mediate issues when they arise, and I find myself realizing that most of the troubles that the students encounter are either ‘teenage’ issues or ‘cultural’ issues and can be settled by just listening to them and giving them simple advice to help them navigate the American culture.

To me, the AFS Effect is a very real feeling that can only happen when a teenager believes in stepping out of their comfort zone and lets the AFS process work for them. Volunteering for AFS is very rewarding for me and helps to keep me young! Thanks for letting me express my feelings about volunteering for AFS. It has made me into the woman I am today, and I am very proud of her!”

Interested in volunteering with AFS-USA? Learn more here!