Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy Wichmann

Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy Wichmann

Meet Kathy Wichmann, a volunteer with the Heartland Area Team in Kansas for the past ten years! Learn more about her AFS story here:

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?

My husband was asked to be the AFS Club sponsor at the high school where he works as a counselor after our family attended the welcome picnic for the AFS students and host families. After several years of attending AFS chapter meetings and hosting our first exchange student, my husband suggested that I should be the local AFS hosting coordinator. That was in 2009!

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

As a hosting coordinator, I feel that I serve a vital link in the many steps of the exchange process chain by matching students with host families. It’s also a satisfying way of giving back in hopes that exchange students will have as impactful experience that I had as a college exchange student to Mexico City (summer 1983) and Madrid (spring semester 1985). I lived with host families and found these experiences very powerful.

What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?

My volunteer time is typically split between reviewing student and host family applications on my laptop, and also doing in-home interviews with prospective host families. I really enjoy getting to know the host families.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?

I have learned to apply the AFS saying that “It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different” in multiple life situations to provide a different perspective. We also hosted nine AFS students from various countries and each hosting experience affected me in a different, positive way. We maintain contact with all and have visited four in their home countries with four returning to visit us, some multiple times. It’s very special and heart-warming to have small family branches spread throughout the world! It makes the world seem much smaller.

Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.

Another hosting volunteer and I accidentally went to the wrong house to do a host family interview! The man opened the door, he invited us to come in and it wasn’t until after we were inside talking to him and another family member that we realized we were at the wrong house. We joked that they almost got an exchange student placed with them!

The BEST volunteer experience was being an AFS flight chaperone for 29 fantastic NSYLI students to Beijing from NYC in July 2018. The picture I included is me on the Great Wall! A bucket list place!

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?

Do it!! Volunteering with AFS is worth the time and energy as you meet other fantastic volunteers and get to have amazing interactions with exchange students from every corner of the world. It’s such an incredible learning experience.

What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?

My uncle was the first governor of Alaska.