Participant Support Department Updates and Resources

Participant Support Department Updates and Resources

Dear support volunteers, as Support gears up and welcomes our new wave of students on program we wanted to share some updates and new resources which we feel may provide great assistance in general preparedness and getting off to a strong supportive start for what will undoubtedly be a year filled with both expected and new support situations/circumstances.


Area Team Crisis Plans:

Support has been actively communicating with your team’s local volunteer leadership to ensure every team hosting has an Area Team Crisis Plan completed, submitted and reflected on their MyAFS Team page. Many thanks to all teams who have already submitted their team’s Crisis Plan. For more information on the Area Team Crisis Plan please visit the FAQ landing site on Help and Learning:


US Cultural and Hosting Realities Pre-Arrival Orientation for hosted students:

As was the case last cycle, AFS-USA Support, ICL, and Travel Staff have once again recorded a Pre-Arrival “USA Cultural and Hosting Realities” orientation session to be shared with all arriving 2021 Fall participants. This recording has already been sent to our hosting partners to distribute to our students to view now prior to arriving on program.

This orientation is designed to offer additional information, support, assurance, expectation management and guidance to students to help prepare them for the various realities they may experience in the upcoming year. We strived to ensure the session complimented all the efforts and resources being offered and developed by our local volunteer teams while also hopefully assisting to manage expectations for our arriving participants.

We invite and encourage volunteer teams to use this recording as a springboard to further unpack what your local team’s hosting and cultural realities are. Host a viewing party with your hosted participants and open further conversations and strategies for how to both set appropriate expectations but also help everyone achieve a meaningful and successful intercultural exchange experience.

The recording of this pre-arrival orientation webinar can be found here:


Support Microlearning Training Series:

Support Staff has also launched a new resource for all Support volunteers geared towards providing very concise, bite-size microlearning trainings which focus on a specific area/topic. These trainings do not exceed more than 5-10 minutes in length and are intended to provide the most pertinent information on a specific Support topics. These trainings are also complimented by additional resources/reading which can be found on MyAFS Help and Learning. We also encourage Support volunteer leaders to access and use these microlearning trainings for their own trainings when onboarding new support volunteers and/or providing refreshers to existing volunteers in your team.

Look out for more of these microlearning trainings to be posted in the coming weeks. You can find the Support microlearning training library here:


 National Support Workshop Recordings available on Sched:

Last week Support Staff held a 3-day National Support workshop event, we were extremely pleased with the level of participation and content which was presented. For anyone who was unable to attend the workshop or any of the specific sessions. Support Staff has ensured to record and embed all session recordings into the Sched Platform to be accessed and viewed at your leisure. We also encourage you to share these recordings with your team’s liaisons.

Look out for announcements shortly on where these recordings will be housed.


Covid19 Vaccine Process One-Pager:

As we prepare to welcome our new wave of participants, we understand that there have been many questions about Covid19 vaccination and concerns navigating these questions/conversations. AFS Staff have worked diligently to create the following step by step process document for volunteers and host families to be aware of, should the participant and their sending family determine they would like to pursue receiving the Covid19 vaccine while on program.

This Resource can be found as an attachment to the following Covid19 FAQ article on Help and Learning:

Additional information on this topic can be found in Host Family Handbook Addendum:


Liaison Linking and Assignments:

Support Staff would like to express our appreciation for all the excellent work volunteer leaders and Liaison Assignment Coordinators have done to ensure your teams are entering in liaison names once placements are made to the Liaison Assignment Widget. We are asking all teams to commit to try and hit the goal of having a 1:1 Liaison to Host family/student ratio. The earlier we can have all permanent liaisons assigned to their respective student/host family the stronger your local support will be. Please feel free to reach out to your support volunteer leaders and/or staff if you have any questions.


Support Staffing Updates:

As we look forward to welcoming our new students, Support Staff is also excited to be welcoming some new members to the team. Support will make announcements with regards to Support Staff assignments per regions when our new Support Staff have been onboarded, fully trained and ready to go “live”.

Until further notice the following Support Staff assignments remain in place:

Manager of Participant Support, Kendra McKechnie, will be the primary Support Staff contact for the Mountain and Plains, Western Lakes, and Southeast regions.

Senior Participant Support Specialist Amanda Brown, will be the primary Support Staff contact for the Eastern Lakes, Northeast, and West regions.

Director of Participant Support, Ian Loumos, will remain as a secondary Support Staff contact for all regions.

Please look out for further updates and understand that as new Support Staff join the team we will adjust the regional staffing assignments accordingly. We ask for your patience and collaboration in this process as we expect this to be taking place over the next coming weeks and months.


Again, thank you all so much for all your ongoing work, commitment and collaboration as we prepare to welcome our new wave of participants.

Much Appreciation!

Participant Support Team