Volunteer Spotlight On: Jan Perkins

Volunteer Spotlight On: Jan Perkins

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

In 1984, hosted students arrived and flew home from New York City. Each spring, bus stops were planned as the students traveled back to New York City. A friend was helping a group of ladies to find homes in Morrilton for the students on a bus coming from TX. We had 2 teenage daughters so Mollie called to see if we would house a girl from Australia. In 1986 our oldest daughter went to Australia with AFS. While she was gone–of course we were asked to host. Our first student from Norway arrived that summer.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

Contact with the students. Learning about their cultures and no one else wants my job 🙂
The first 5 students we hosted, we picked, but once AFS went to the Area Team concept in 1996, we hosted students not placed in late summer. At a meeting about the Area Team structure, in 1996, I offered to be Hosting Coordinator and my husband, Jerry, offered to be Area Team Chair and we picked two of the last 3 students in the South-Central Region. THAT ONE MEETING CHANGED OUR FAMILY LIFE FOREVER. We have hosted 35 students from 23 different countries. This includes the 4 we have rescued from other situations. Once while we were on vacation Jorge even called begging us to take a last student–which I called and got school acceptance–and we took him!!

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

Ten+ months looking for host families and finding students that might work best with each family. Taking students to community organizations to make presentations, putting the students in the local fall parade, taking a day in May to do their PowerPoint presentations to the 8th graders at the Junior High School, writing articles for the local newspaper trying to recruit families, putting posters and bios at the library and community center, sending bios to families, churches and teachers to post, email former host families for new family suggestions, visiting schools, and making phone calls.

Have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?

It has broadened our concept about the world. We have learned customs and cultures that others might never hear about. All teenagers are basically the same world-wide. We have traveled to Europe 3 times, Canada once and SE Asia twice. We have our personal tour guides and sometimes even free room and board. I still need to get to South America. Our son was 9 when we started hosting and he got a job because he had lived with exchange students and was comfortable working with other cultures.

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

I placed one of the last girls from Ecuador here in Morrilton. I offered my sons to pick her up for school because the host mom knew her girls would never get the student to the public school on time. They attended the private Catholic School. That girl is now my daughter-in-law!

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

Do what you can find time to do. Do things with the students–like helping at orientations, be a liaison, plan an activity with just the few students in your area, take one or two students to an elementary school to talk in a class or two, take them shopping with you, invite them to your house for an evening, help them with their homework, ask questions that they will need to practice their English–not with just yes or no as an answer, etc. Being with the students is the most fun and informative.

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

I have only lived in Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota, and Arkansas but have been in 48 of the 50 states–including Alaska and Hawaii.