Volunteer Spotlight – September 2014

September 22nd, 2014

300px-Kathleen_Broda

 

 

 

 

 

Kathleen Broda                                                                                                                                                                                               Pittsburgh, PA   Western Pennsylvania AFS Team                                                                                                                       Volunteer since 1999

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved? My 7th grade English teacher’s son was in France on AFS and she had stories to share.  My high school was also very active and there was always someone hosted, not sent as much.  I was ready to sign up on the spot.                                                                       What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?  I am motivated by the potential for the students and the hard working, committed area team that does amazing work year after year.  Both groups make me want to stay engaged.                                                                                                                                                                                                    What’s a typical volunteer ‘shift’ like for you?  I have functioned mostly on the sending end, and being a liaison.  As a liaison I stay connected throughout the year.  For sending it really starts being involved by December with NSLI and then CBYX.                                                                                                                                                                           What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with AFS?  Some times in life there aren’t even 6 degrees of separation!  I have really been touched by helping at sponsored program orientations by those families sending whose students are disabled.  Now that is a courageous and trusting leap for them.  We honor that trust by the support and care we provide throughout the year as individuals and as an organization.                                                                                                                                                           Please share the best thing or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS?  It does return to the degrees of separation; meeting my daughter, a year program returnee  Venezuela in NYC where she was working, and connecting with a fellow student who had been in her school in Venezuela–he was from Thailand.  Or going to Seattle for a Network meeting and finding that a Chinese student that I knew in China would be there.  I knew her as a niece of the school AFS summer students attended when I was a program leader in 2006.  I have come to know her extended family in China and wrote a reference letter to George Washington University in DC for her when she came over for her master’s.  She now works with AFS in China.                               What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS ? It holds with all good volunteering, that you get more than you give.  But with AFS, there is additionally the understanding, the sharing and the inter connectedness of life.  To open your head and heart to another is a priceless gift and opportunity.

 

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

April 18th, 2014
In June 2012, I was selected by AFS to chaperon a group of American students to Italy for their summer program.  Pictured are my husband, Len and I with the gladiators outside the Coliseum in Rome, Italy.

In June 2012, I was selected by AFS to chaperon a group of American students to Italy for their summer program. Pictured are my husband, Len and I with the gladiators outside the Coliseum in Rome, Italy.

Molly Hausladen Lopez – Greater West Metro – Plymouth, MN                                                                    Volunteer since 1997

 How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved? We had a very active AFS Club at Delano High School.  I joined our AFS Club as a freshman to meet hosted students and learn more about studying abroad.  I was greatly influenced by a student who decided to study abroad for a year in Indonesia.  I applied to study abroad with AFS to Germany following my high school sophomore year.

 What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?  AFS is truly a passion of mine.  I enjoy meeting people from so many different cultural backgrounds, in addition to working with other AFS volunteers and staff.

 What’s a typical volunteer ‘shift’ like for you?  I wear many different hats as an AFS volunteer, ranging from hosting, liaison, sending coordinator, orientations, being a National Certified Intercultural Communications Trainer, and most recently filling the Area Team Chair position.  AFS is a part of my daily life, as I connect with students, volunteers and staff.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with AFS? AFS has become a way of life for me.  Our family has grown over the past years with students we have welcomed into our family from all over the world.  My family has hosted students from Brazil, Finland, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.  I have made great friends through volunteering.  I have grown as an individual through the wonderful opportunities provided by AFS.

Please share the best thing or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS? I love connecting with people from all over the world.  It is amazing just how small the world is and how these people have become family to me.  I love being able to make dreams come true for teenagers from all over the world.

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?  Go for it!  You will not only be contributing to making the world a better place, but you will learn and grow so much as an individual.

What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?  My husband and I hosted our first AFS exchange student from Brazil after only being married one year.  We did not have children at the time either.  This was one of the first many wonderful experiences that have positively touched our lives through AFS.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

March 21st, 2014

Paula McElroy – Silverwood, Michigan – Michigan AFS Team

Volunteer since 2002

Left to Right:  Jenny (former AFS Daughter), Paula, Haya (Former AFS Daughter), husband, Tom, and daughter,  Katie at Disney World.

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved? My husband and myself learned about AFS after hosting with YFU for 2 years. The local YFU volunteer had moved to AFS and we moved with her as a hosting family. We volunteered at orientations that first year and hosted as well. So, at that point, we had hosted exchanged students for 3 years and had good experiences. We then went to Russia to adopt our daughter and so took 4 years off to focus on her adjustments. When our daughter, Katie, went into 4th grade, we felt it was the right time to continue hosting and volunteering with AFS. We have hosted and volunteered every year since.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year? I believe that the exchange program is important to our communities, our schools, and our nation. I firmly believe that I am expanding my own horizons when I learn about other cultures, but I am also giving my students and my local rural communities an opportunity to get to know the world around them better by having a personal experience with world cultures. I believe that getting to know and learning to love students from other cultures changes your worldview and makes you a better citizen of the United States and World. In turn, my work makes it possible for the exchange students to also change their worldview and become better citizens and in many cases future leaders in their own communities. So, not only do I have the opportunity to change my personal view of the world, but also I help to better my family, community, nation, and ultimately the world. It does not get any more important than that! I volunteer with AFS because I am convinced that AFS has the best quality exchange program out there. It has the best organizational structure and has the best support system for the students, host families, and host communities.

What’s a typical volunteer ‘shift’ like for you? Well, I don’t think I have a “shift” since I am a host mother too. My shift does not end. Because I am a liaison, sponsored programs coordinator, support coordinator, and local chapter coordinator for our newly formed chapter, I do whatever needs to be done when the time comes. I deal with support issues during the evening and weekends, my husband and myself design and host the orientations and conduct sponsored programs in between. I am also a liaison. I try to attend the Michigan Team meetings and am hosting the next one here in my local community. I would not be able to do all of this or keep up with this much responsibility without my husband who is also a host parent and very active volunteer. We really share the responsibilities of our local chapter.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with AFS? I have learned that our world is a much smaller place than I had originally thought. I have found that the love of a family is universal, and that teenagers are “teenagers” no matter where they come from. I have learned how much I am capable of as a host mother, and a volunteer and coordinator. I have developed lifelong relationships with my exchange daughters. I have also developed quality friendships with the host families, AFS volunteers, and my local TDS.

Please share the best thing or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS? I don’t think I can come up with one “best thing” since most of my experiences have been in the “best thing” category. I think probably the best thing about volunteering is seeing how the returning students grow and mature in their home communities. I love to have my exchange daughters come home for a visit and to see how they have matured and developed. I love staying in contact with our returnees and hearing how well they are doing and to worry and pray for them when they or their home countries are struggling.

The funniest thing that happened was last year when we took one of our chapter students with us to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving weekend. His name is Juri. My sister’s kids (3, 5 and 6 year old) was fascinated by this young person with bright red hair and a funny accent. They could not pronounce his name, so he told them that his name meant “George.” From that point on, and even today, almost a year after he went home he is called George

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
This is not something you volunteer for without being passionate about it. It involves long hours and weird times of the days and night and weekends. It is also going to pull every heartstring you have, and it can be emotionally tough and stressful. If you are not passionate about exchange programs and the kids and families we serve, it is probably not the thing to volunteer for. However, the pay-offs are huge and life changing. You will be changed through this experience, as will your family and community. If you are looking to exact positive change in your community and the greater global community, this is the type of volunteering you want to do.

What is one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you? I am a high school science and history teacher. My husband and myself have hosted 12 exchange students from: Hungry, Kazakhstan, Germany, Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Armenia, Denmark, and Gaza. We will be hosting a YES student from the Philippines next year and are already excited about this. My family has a hobby of reenacting a Scottish Regiment during the French and Indian War. Our exchange students participate with us during the year. Along with this, I have researched and written a history of Women who followed the British Army during the Colonial Wars. I have a Master of Arts Degree in Early American and Medieval History from Oakland University and a Master of Science in Applied Science Education from Michigan Technological University.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

February 18th, 2014

Bob Rushing, Capitol Area AFS Team Volunteer

Silver Spring, Maryland

Bob Rushing 2

 How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?  In 1963 my high school welcomed its first AFS exchange student, with whom I was friends.  Also around 1970 my parents hosted Bernd, a boy from Germany.  They enjoyed it a lot, so when my own kids were high school age, we hosted Gundula from Germany.  It was such a great experience for our whole family that I decided to do what I could to help others have the same type of experience.

 What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?  The exchange students, the host families, the AFS staff, and the volunteers are some of the nicest, most generous people I know, and it’s a pleasure to be around them.

What’s a typical volunteer ‘shift’ like for you?   Lots of variety.  But I spend more time trying to find host families than anything else.  Every few days I go down the list of possible families and make calls or send emails to tell about the joys of hosting, help select the right student, assist in the paperwork, etc.  I also enjoy being a liaison for a student each year and learning about their country.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with AFS?  I’ve met a lot of great people and have had the pleasure of watching a great many exchange students learn about the US and grow in maturity, independence, capability, and confidence.

Please share the best thing or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS?  The funniest conversation with an exchange student had to be one with Marta from Costa Rica in which she tried to convince my family and guests of the advantages of not having house addresses.  Yes, believe it or not she thought it was a good system, mainly because it forces people to ask directions so much, thereby causing them to meet new people and make new friends.  As we say in AFS, not better or worse – just different.

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS ? Just do it.  You won’t regret it.

What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?  I’m a birder and get excited by spotting black throated blue warblers, yellow breasted chats,etc..

 

Volunteer Spotlight

December 12th, 2013

LYNN WHETSTONE – Incline Village, Nevada – GOLD & SILVER AFS TEAM

Volunteer since 1999

LWhetstone

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?  I was a member of my high school’s AFS club (Grace Davis High in Modesto, California) and was the first student from my school to go abroad with AFS.  I went to Turkey on the summer program.  There was an AFS Returnees Club when I attended the University of California, Davis, and I continued to be involved there. (We even ran a weekend orientation on the campus for the AFS students hosted in Northern California!)

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?  I truly believe in the benefits of an intercultural experience abroad for teenagers (and the rest of us!).  I love the variety of volunteer experiences which are possible through AFS.  I’ve been an Area Team Chair, Regional Council Chair, and member of National Council, but have also been a hosting volunteer, liaison, sending volunteer, and run orientations, as well as serving on national workgroups and committees.

 What’s a typical volunteer ‘shift’ like for you? ?  Currently I’m a Sending Coordinator focusing on getting out the word about AFS (and NSLI-Y, which I’m really committed to because of my experience in Turkey).  I coordinate/do interviews for both programs.  I’m also really interested in intercultural education and was a member of the workgroups which developed the handbooks for families hosting German and Turkish students.  In recent years I’ve done lots of intercultural presentations in high schools.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with AFS?  I’ve learned the most from my experiences on the two workgroups.  I don’t think the concept of intercultural education even existed when I went to Turkey with AFS or to Germany in college, so I’ve been able to much better understand my experiences there.  And, of course, being on the workgroups has made a big difference in my ability to understand the experiences of hosted students from those countries as well as sending students going to those countries.

Please share the best thing or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS?  While working on the host family handbook for Turkish students I finally learned what I could have done to avoid getting fat while in Turkey on AFS (wonderful hospitality is part of the Turkish culture).  The workgroup used my experience to put together a skit for a conference.

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS ?  It’s a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of high school students and their families and to work with wonderful volunteers.  It’s so much fun to see what’s happening in the lives of the AFS students that I served as a liaison for and to meet up with them again on their or my travels.

What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?  Some people already know this, but I am an AFS “boat person”–I traveled most of the way to my AFS summer program by boat.  (We were supposed to come home by boat, but the boat burned and we had to fly home.)

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

November 14th, 2013

PHILIP CLAR – Carmichael, California – SILVER & GOLD TEAM

Volunteer since 2009

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved? Returnee from Italy Semester Pgm. in 1959. Looking for activities after retirement, saw ad for an AFS meeting in local newspaper, and pleasantly surprised to learn that AFS still existed ! Was a bus chaperone in 1964, so took a mere 45-year hiatus from AFS involvement.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year? To learn from the students about the diverse world around us and to see the familiar fresh through their eyes. Also to facilitate the students’ deeper appreciation of the stability of our societal institutions, and of the American capacity to combine individualism with cooperation.

 What’s a typical volunteer ‘shift’ like for you? All day events assisting at orientations or conducting SP supplementary educational outings. Or an occasional few hours in sending interviews as a Sending Coordinator.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with AFS? I’ve been struck with how the wide-spread usage of English and of technologically-facilitated communication is creating a greater sense of “world citizenship,” epitomized by AFS students.

Please share the best thing or funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS? Very gratified that my highlighting the unique talents of some of our Sending students in the interview write-ups has allowed some to obtain large scholarships.

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS ?       You’ll be awed by the talents, maturity, and friendship of these young people and inspired to help them along.

What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you? Working with the students allows me to re-experience my own AFS venture even though its been over 50 years ago now,