For those of you who don't know me, I have been an active American Field Service (AFS) volunteer in Mass Bay for many years and my family has hosted AFS high school exchange students twice.
Most recently we hosted a 17-year-old boy, Samuele from Moncelice, Italy. Three years ago we hosted Naomi from Vienna, Austria for six months. In both cases, the students became a part of our family and we built mutually caring and giving relationships. My kids learned to become accepting of different cultural values and as parents we learned to expand our family walls beyond our Dover home.
I'm writing today because AFS in Metro West needs your help. This time of year AFS must find families for the students who are coming to our area in August. The goal for Metro West is 10 placements and currently only 5 kids have been placed.
Hosting has been an extremely rewarding and most enriching experience for my family. It has given us a chance to reflect on the values and things that made our family dynamic work and then be able to share cultural values and norms with our visiting student.
In return we have a family member and a large extended family to visit in Italy as well as Austria. The experience of hosting has made our family grow closer, while developing a relationship of a lifetime that will only continue to grow and span across continents.
After our college aged daughter returned from a semester abroad last month she shared that compared to her peers, she got much more out of the exchange program she participated in Barcelona because she understood the perspective of being both an exchange and a host.
Yesterday we had to bring our Italian son, Samuele, to Logan Airport as his 11-month stay just ended. For most AFS students the program technically was over on June 26 but we were fortunate to have Samuele extend his stay over the July 4 celebrations.
Having the extra 10 days gave our family and Samuele extra special bonding time after the craziness of the school year. It was very sad to say goodbye yesterday as he has become a part of our family and we can feel the void although it is with good memories and experiences that we have sent him back to Italy and his natural family. We will hope to visit them next summer.
I am writing this blog to invite you to consider the opportunity to become a host family this coming year. My friends have always commented that we were brave and it must be a lot of work to host a high school age student. My answer is that it is not work . . . we have a give and take relationship that teaches and expands our horizons. I am happy to answer any questions in hopes that you will consider hosting. I think hosting is a wonderful way to expose your family to a different culture and allow for lifetime relations.
Life is short and the things that bring the most valuable memories are the times you can share with your family and friends. AFS provides you the chance to create these special times with a bit of variety from the day to day norms while building a new lifetime relationship. Hosting was one of the best decisions our family has made.
Please consider looking at the AFS students who need placement this year. Below is an excerpt from an email letter explaining more about AFS. Please feel free to contact Kathy Goode in our area coordination for more details.
Be Patriotic -- Open Your Door to the World!
Something extraordinary happens when you share your home and family with a high school student from another country.
That’s why 11,000 families worldwide host students through AFS every year. You can help build bridges of intercultural understanding and enrich your life in many ways by sharing your home and daily life with an AFS high school exchange student.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, educational exchanges, long recognized as one of the best ways to build positive impressions of the United States among the youth of another country, have become one of the U.S. Department of State’s most important "Public Diplomacy" efforts. Hosting a student is a service to your country.
Families of all kinds are needed to host high school students from around the world. For more than 65 years AFS Volunteers have supported families and students during their exchange stay. Host families provide a bed, meals, and the same guidance they would provide for their own child. Sharing daily life with a teenager from another country and culture is a rich and rewarding experience and is a wonderful way for you and your family to contribute to peace in the world.
The deadline for placement is July 27 and Kathy will be able to forward bios of the potential students.
Thank you so much for being a part of AFS here in Mass Bay. I look forward to speaking with you and working with you going forward.