The Greater Puget Sound AFS Team proudly serves Western Washington and supports numerous host families, exchange students, and volunteers living and working in the great Pacific Northwest. Our vision is to provide memorable experiences for everyone who participates in any capacity, large or small, for AFS.
Where are we located?
AFS-GPS represents a region extending from the islands of San Juan County to the Pacific coast and east to the Cascade Mountains. Our team covers the major urban centers of Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue as well as other prominent cities such as Bellingham, Olympia, and Everett. Due to the unique topography, the GPS team is divided into two groups – the North Sound and the South Sound. The South Sound Team services students and families located on parts of the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas, Tacoma, and the southern regions of the Puget Sound while the North Sound encompasses many of the other prominent areas of Western Washington.
South Sound Chapter
The South Sound Chapter was created to allow those who live in other parts of the GPS region a closer alternative to many orientations. Due to this being a chapter, it is supported by its own structure of volunteers who are still part of the GPS Team. Typically, the South Sound Chapter has roughly 10 students annually which creates a more inclusive experience for our exchange students.
South Sound manages students and host families from parts of the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas, Olympia, and areas encompassing the southern Puget Sound region.
The South Sound Chapter is managed by a smaller, more localized group of volunteers. While these volunteers are still part of the Greater Puget Sound Area Team, the operate relatively independent from the North Sound Chapter.
Nancy Henderson (South Sound Chapter Chair)
“I want to do something meaningful, but I don’t have a lot of time.”
No problem. Pitch in for a few hours to:
- Interview prospective students and host families
- Mentor an applicant
- Assist with a school presentation
- Accompany students on outings and orientations
- Post “Host a Family” flyers in your community – at coffee shops, schools, NextDoor, etc.
“I’d like to put my professional skills to use for AFS.”
We especially need people with experience in:
- Database management
- Marketing and PR
“I want to meet new friends.”
- Join us for a bite to eat at one of our fun and casual monthly gatherings – all are invited. Check our online calendar or Facebook page for information!
“I’m a good organizer.”
Be a team leader for:
- Interviewing students and families
- Volunteer development
- School relations
“I want to connect with a student.”
Provide friendship and support as a:
- Liaison, the key contact for the student and host family
- Temporary or emergency host family
- Aunt or uncle
- Mentor for students going abroad
“I’d like to help AFS and boost my resume at the same time.”
- We will help you design a project or an internship that will build your experience and showcase your talents.
As with any organization with such a large volunteer base, AFS is always looking for more volunteers in our local community. However, while we appreciate any and all help we can receive, some positions are more in need than others. This is a list of positions that are desperately needed in our committee:
Liaison assignments are also based on proximity to where students and host families live. The primary role of the liaison is to maintain regular contact with his/her assigned AFS student and host family, providing support and information and assisting in problem-solving if and when the need arises. Liaisons are not responsible for handling situations that are beyond the normal range of cultural adjustment. Rather, they are there to facilitate discussion between the student and the host family, identifying potential problems early when they can be solved easily and before they become deeper misunderstandings which are more difficult to resolve. Effective Liaisons are objective but caring. They make themselves available to the student and host family, and are good and supportive listeners.
Orientation Coordinators assist in planning, preparing, and executing orientations for exchange students. There are always three large orientations, although there are always more, with the big three being: Post-Arrival Orientation, Midstay Orientation, and Pre-Departure Orientation. These orientations are mandatory for all AFS exchange students due to State Department policy. Due to the nature of these orientations, AFS provides its volunteers and coordinators with packets outlining what should be discussed during these events. However, orientation coordinators also get to have a lot of fun with the exchange students by arranging fun activities to excursions that allow the students to explore a bit. Orientation Coordinator is a good volunteer position for those who like to be organized and do not mind a little bit of stress, but not an overwhelming amount of it. And there are always other volunteers to assist with activities, excursions, and orientation material.
Orientation Facilitators assist in performing the activities and discussions with exchange students during orientations. Essentially, these facilitators help the orientation coordinator in varying capacity and offers volunteers with a different view during these events. While not carrying the same duties and roles, the main job of a facilitator is to manage the exchange students and conduct the orientation as instructed by packets provided to the Orientation Team by AFS.
NSIL-Y and YES Abroad Scholarship Interviewer
Unlike interviews for other AFS programs which are managed on a rolling basis, the NSLI-Y and YES Abroad scholarship interviews are grouped together in-person and are conducted in one day. The volunteer interviewers will be given a set of questions to ask the interviewing students, and leave written feedback about their conversation with the student. Volunteers will conduct the interviews in pairs. Volunteer interviewers must be registered AFS volunteers, at least 19 years of age and complete an online training process.
We have a wonderful and skilled team of Support Coordinators here in Greater Puget Sound. But, we need more help! If you are an experienced liaison, and are interested in being further involved in supporting students and host families, consider joining our team of Support Coordinators.
As a Support Coordinator, you help to oversee AFS participant and family support within a region of GPS. In this role, you serve as a member of the Volunteer Leadership Team and work with the team to identify, coordinate, and empower volunteers locally to have the skills, training, and support they need to provide a quality intercultural learning experience to all AFS participants and families. You also act as the primary liaison between the National Participant Support Department and the Team for support cases as needed.
Sending Student Interviewer
The interviewer is often the first contact an applicant has with AFS at the local level. In this role, you have the opportunity to ensure that the applicant is informed and knowledgeable of AFS and its programs. In addition, you have the responsibility for assessing the viability of the applicant and determine that they meet the criteria required by the AFS program to which they are applying. Please don’t feel intimidated by this role! If the family has questions you do not know how to answer that is okay. Take note, let us know, and we will help you get the information to pass on to the family.
Sending Student Outreach
American students are applying to go abroad for 2018! We need volunteers interested in reaching out to 2018 applicants by phone to answer questions and encourage them in the application process. This is a great opportunity for returnees to share your experiences with students seriously considering study abroad with AFS.
Continue helping your AFS Family!
Returnees are a valuable asset to AFS-USA. As returnees, you hold knowledge and first-hand experience that relates to new exchange students beginning their year abroad here in Western Washington. Therefore, it is important for you to help in any capacity to ensure that these students are not isolated or faced with situations that other volunteers could not relate to.
Many returnees find themselves in school; whether that be high school or college. Our team understands that and thus presents many opportunities that help reflect the less flexible schedules many returnees may have. Returnees can be liaisons to current exchange students, involved in organizing social events throughout the year, or just volunteering at orientations and watching the exchange students.
In addition to helping exchange students, returnees have the opportunity to meet new friends, share lasting experiencing, build up their volunteer hours, and get to chill with the awesome students that come to the GPS Region.
Contact our Area Team
We would love to help in any way we can. That includes answering any of your questions. This is a list of people within our team that you may contact concerning a wide range of topics.
Team Development Specialist
South Sound Chapter Chair
Team Chair/Volunteer Coordinator
Hosting Coordinator/Support Coordinator
Hosting Coordinator/Sponsored Programs Cluster Coordinator
Host Student Event Planner
Community College Contact
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