The perks of being a Local Coordinator

By: Marina Hevia-Aza, Short Term Programs Intern

 

Local Coordinators facilitate host family and student relationships, organize volunteer and other activities, and ensure that exchange programs run smoothly within the host community. Local coordinators are of great help to host families and students, but LC’s also benefit from these experiences.  

What better way of learning about the benefits of being an LC than from some of our rock-star Local Coordinators themselves?  

Here are the top three perks of being a local coordinator:

1.Forming bonds between people from different cultural backgrounds

When asking some of our local coordinators about their favorite part about being an LC, May Meerbrey says “My favorite part of being a LC is to connect local families together with our students and creating a new “big family” for all.” LC Ross Carnes says that his favorite part “without a doubt is meeting the students for the first time at the airport and see their nervous and anxious expectations disappear when they finally meet their host families. Everyone is so happy and excited.”

Photo credit May Meerbrey

2. Local coordinator conferences

Local Coordinators also get to attend LC conferences, where they can network and interact with each other, visit new places and meet people who share the same interests as them. May, for instance, says she enjoys the conferences because she gets to “enjoy a beautiful location and make new LC friends who have the same drive and passion as me.” Ross says “I have been so fortunate to go to places like Rome, Athens, Santorini, Buenos Aires, Munich, Budapest and Cancun.  The conferences are always in fabulous places and the itinerary is outstanding.  I worked for 30 years with a large financial services company and we had terrific meetings and conferences at some amazing places.  None of them any better than the places I have gone with GH.  And, I get to take my wife with me.  I always enjoy meeting other Greenheart members and discussing problems and solutions we all face.  I have always come back with something new to try.

Photo credit Ross Carnes

3. A sense of accomplishment 

Our local coordinators describe this job as very rewarding, emphasizing on how fulfilling the connections they make with the families and the students are. They say that it is very rewarding to see how these exchange experiences have impacted and changed their lives for the better. May says that she recommends being an LC “because it is a great way to serve as a ‘diplomat’ and be the bridge to connect US with rest of the world.” Ross says “being an LC has given me the extra income to do things I might not have been able to do in retirement. 

Photo credit May Meerbrey

Thinking about becoming a local coordinator? Here is some advice from LCs May and Ross: 

Host family recruitment tips

Recruiting host families can be intimidating. Having to reach out to so many people can be overwhelming, however, Greenheart provides LC’s with any materials necessary, and May and Ross have provided us with some tips for recruiting host families. May says “my #1 tip is to when someone is responding to a Facebook group posting with a like, or question. I reach out with the mindset never to be pushy and share personal hosting rewarding experiences.” And Ross says “there is not one way to recruit. I seem to have the best luck simply contacting everyone I know or would like to know.  I will sometimes look at student profiles as an example and see that a student is in their choir.  So, I go to the local high school webpages and find out who the choir director is or who the choir parent is and reach out to them.  It is best if you can find someone you know who knows them so you can get a personal introduction. The last thing, don’t forget your host families and don’t be afraid to ask them for their help.  I had one family last year who hosted with me 5 years ago and she sent me 5 referrals. 3 AYP (Academic Year Program) and two summer IHP (Independent Homestay Program) students.” 

Advice for first time local coordinators  

Finally, if you think that being a local coordinator for Greenheart would be a perfect job for you, here are some words of advice for first time LCs: 

“My advice is to share what you are doing as an exciting news in your life to anyone you talk to or see, have conversation without feeling it is a task, instead it is a great conversation starter to get to know others.” -May Meerbrey 

“Ask questions.  Try new things.  Find the leaders in your community and schools.  Learn what is going on in your community. You will get a lot of rejections and excuses why people can’t host.  Even when they say no, ask for referrals.  Be brave.  The worst thing they can say is no!  Keep trying.  Have fun!  Work to qualify for the conferences and take the best vacations of your life.” -Ross Carnes 

Photo credit Ross Carnes