A Message from the Support & Learning Advisory Group (SAG)

A Message from the Support & Learning Advisory Group (SAG)

AFS-USA established the National Council, Advisory Groups, and Committees to create a space where AFS volunteers and staff can work together to address organizational needs and/or challenges from a national perspective. These national volunteer groups are forums where AFS staff and volunteers representing different areas of expertise, knowledge, skills, and talents can review different areas of the organization and develop recommendations for how we can improve the processes, tools, and/or resources needed to effectively deliver and support our AFS programs, volunteers, communities, and participants. The article below introduces one of the groups!

The Support & Learning Advisory Group (SAG) would like volunteers to become more familiar about participant support.  This first article will talk about Support’s role, training, support tools and goals.  Later this month, we will follow-up with a second article that will focus on mental health and self-care. 

Why the name change?  Participant Support is now known and referred to as Support & Learning.  We realized the Support Department not only worked on resolving conflict, but also promoted learning in the strategies used to resolve the challenges experienced by Participants, Host Families, Sending Families and Volunteers.

What is Support’s role?  The mandate of the Support and Learning team moves the organization towards meeting the goal of providing a supportive, safe, experiential learning program for all students hosted in the USA or sent from the USA through AFS. This outcome is achieved by orienting, mentoring, guiding, and counseling:

  • Participants
  • Host Families
  • Sending Families
  • Volunteers

What key initiatives do you want to highlight? The Support & Learning Advisory Group (SAG) is designed to be an instrument of change for support in AFS-USA. Support is where we see real-time program delivery of the AFS mission come to life. Learning through crises and being outside of one’s comfort zone in tandem with adequate support resources is where the Support world excels and the AFS mission thrives. All AFS-USA Volunteers should feel free to approach the group with suggestions and ideas.  

The SAG has been productive and has recently created

With everything being globalized, we found it really important to have participant information readily accessible on-line; hence, the Support and Learning Advisory Group helped in contributing content intended to assist Host Families (and their Liaisons) directly. These online resources include literature on student medical care & insurance, what to do in emergencies, and intercultural learning among other items. The new Help and Learning page for Host families is slated to launch this July. Here is the MyAFS News Post: https://myafsnews.afsusa.org/announcing-new-tools-and-resources-for-afs-host-families/

We continue to expand upon our Microlearning Library where volunteers can access bite-sized informational trainings on various support tools, elements, dynamics and strategies. Additionally, we have piloted a couple of new proactive support initiatives over the past cycle to assist in providing volunteers with timely resources and opportunities for peer-to-peer sharing of best practices. These two initiatives have been jointly designed and/or facilitated by Support and Learning Staff and the Support and Learning Advisory Group. 

Support Sessions Webinars were designed for Support Volunteer leaders in mind. These webinars are intended to provide a space for Support Volunteer leaders to share their collective expertise on various topics, i.e. de-escalating challenging host family/student dynamics, offering support to students who are more introverted, managing appropriate technology use in the current time we live in etc. This dualistic approach of employing more visible proactive support initiatives is intended to provide learning for our volunteers when they find themselves navigating the various reactive components of support during the program cycle. 

While this Advisory Group will always welcome new members, summer is a great time to get involved for the coming program year.  Liaisons are required to be registered and to complete their on-line training before a student arrives.  Of particular interest are registered Volunteers with a varied background in support, diversity training, and mental health, which are the most sought after skill sets needed. If interested, please complete the following form using this link: (Support Advisory Group Inquiry Form)

For more information, please visit the Support & Learning Advisory Group in the Help & Learning page at (https://myafshelp.afsusa.org/hc/en-us/articles/115007891328-Support-Advisory-Group)