Volunteer Spotlight: Sue Steckel

Volunteer Spotlight: Sue Steckel

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

Six years ago, when we were planning for our first year as empty nesters, one of my dear friends who is also very persistent  and very involved in AFS, convinced my husband and I to host a student from Switzerland.  Through all the activities we were involved in that year, I saw that AFS is a great organization.  I thought it so important, I continued being involved by volunteering with our local chapter, even after our student returned home.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

As I learned more about AFS through the trainings, I learned that the  AFS mission is one of promoting peace and intercultural understanding among all peoples.  This same mission has been in my heart since I can remember.  My family will tell you that every year at the top of my Christmas list  is “Peace on Earth”.

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

I work with our chapter chair in recruiting  host families each year, conducting home interviews in our community and surrounding communities, promoting AFS at school orientations etc., chaperone our hosted students when they need rides to AFS events.  I have also served as a liaison and provided temporary or emergency hosting.  One of the most satisfying events is helping  our chair with planning our annual  community AFS weekend, where we find week-end host families for a dozen AFS students who are presently hosted  in neighboring communities.  We plan several activities that include the temporary host families, high school students and even the general community. This gives the community a chance to share in meeting the kids, and get excited about AFS.  The hosted students get to experience another high school and community briefly, and in many cases make additional long lasting relationships with the kids they meet that week-end.

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

I find I am much more attuned to world events now, and often will know a former hosted AFS student from an area in the news.  I can now get a personal look into the event by checking in with the student through Facebook messenger.

I am always surprised how I see more similarities than differences between people of different countries and cultures, teenagers are teenagers wherever they are from!

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

When we hosted our AFS son from Switzerland, I was amused that one of the first things he wanted to do was to go shopping at the Meijer.   Apparently, large supermarket super centers are not common in Europe. We also got a good laugh the first time we went to a Mexican restaurant and he ordered a margarita.  He was confused when he was asked for his I.D.  He thought he was ordering a pizza! (margherita)

Each year since I have started volunteering, my husband and I have hosted 2 area AFS students for our community AFS week-end.  It is so great to learn about their home life and culture and really entertaining for them to learn the meaning of different English idioms and  for them to share their own.

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

Just Do It!  There are tasks and jobs to choose from that will meet a multitude of skill sets and schedules. You get to know other great volunteers who are passionate about AFS and you will have many opportunities to meet students from other countries which makes the world feel smaller.

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

I grew up on a hog farm in rural Illinois near the Iowa border and never had any thought about traveling or meeting people outside the U.S.!