Teacher honoured for service to AFS

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Oamaru teacher Ken McCallum has been associated with intercultural exchange programme AFS for most of his life, and has been recognised for that feat.
At the organisation’s 70th anniversary conference in Auckland recently, Mr McCallum, a senior master at Waitaki Boys’ High School, was made an AFS life member.
AFS, one of the world’s largest not-for-profit volunteer-based organisations, provides intercultural learning and volunteer opportunities for pupils, young adults, teachers and families through international exchange.
While AFS has been in New Zealand since the 1940s, its roots go deeper. The foundations lie in the American Field Service, a volunteer ambulance corps formed in World War 1 and active during World War 2.
It was the ambulance drivers’ belief that personal interaction and friendships between people built international peace and understanding. That belief formed the basis of the organisation’s student exchange programme, which began in 1947.
Mr McCallum said it was a privilege to be recognised for his association with the organisation, which stretched back several decades.
“I’m a bit honoured, of course, because at any one time, there is probably no more than 30 or 40 life members in New Zealand.
“It was a special honour being presented it in front of the international president of AFS.”
He recalled his first contact with the group when he was a teenager.
“Back in those days, as a form 4 student, I had applied for AFS [to go to the United States] in Southland and my parents couldn’t afford the fee, but they said we could host. AFS decided my mum’s health wasn’t good enough and I always felt cheated.
“When I was teaching at Papanui High School in Christchurch in 1980, we were asked if we would host a student, so we hosted our first student in 1981, then 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1992.”
When Mr McCallum arrived in Oamaru, he continued his association with the organisation, and in 2006, he was asked to be president of AFS’s Waitaki chapter.
He also spent two years on the national board and, as president of the Waitaki chapter, was always interested in introducing new programmes.
Last year, a project was launched which involved international pupils being hosted at school hostels. Four international pupils spent the school year at Waitaki Boys’ High School, and another is there this year.
He said the project had been a huge success.
In more recent times, Mr McCallum has used a replica field ambulance to promote the work done by AFS.
The ambulance, constructed using a 1917 Model-T Ford chassis, was built by Oamaru man Tom Stevens in the 1990s. It has toured the world and was refurbished about five years ago, and is one of two working models in the world.
He hoped to use the ambulance for a national tour of regional towns next year.