IFOP seeks volunteers, donations|
Posted 4/11/2014 Updated 4/11/2014
by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook
42nd Air Base Wing
4/11/2014 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- By Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook
42nd Air Base Wing
Air University's International Officer School is looking for volunteers and donations for the International Family Orientation Program set for June 23-July 1.
Each year, IOS hosts military officers from more than 75 countries to participate in programs at Air War College, Air Command and Staff College and Squadron Officer School. The officers often bring their families along.
"When international students are offered slots in the schools, they have to go through IOS first for a five-week course," said 1st Lt. Amanda McGowin, chief of the IOS dependent and sponsorship program. "IOS teaches them the basics of how to live in America."
While the international officers coming to study at one of the schools must have a basic understanding of the English language, it is not a requirement for their families. In response, IOS created and has hosted this annual event for more than 25 years. The program helps international families acclimate to the American way of life while their spouses and parents attend classes at AU.
During the orientation, spouses discover what it is like being an American family from guest speakers who share information about school enrollment, security issues and safety. They also learn about base resources available to them during their time in America. IFOP volunteers try to help the families learn English and basic life skills for living in the country.
The goal of the program is to get the families of the international officers comfortable being here so they don't feel like they are complete outsiders, McGowin added.
"It's what America is about. We have a melting pot of cultures that built America, and it is important for us to have them feel like they belong; to realize that they are really not so different," McGowin said. "They may speak a different language, they may not be accustomed to the courtesies we have in the U.S., but we try to familiarize them with the language and our customs, and let them know that they are welcome here."
Last year, more than 50 volunteers helped the families of 85 international officers, their spouses and 141 children from more than 60 countries.
"I've made many good friends through the IFOP program," said Marie Updike, an IFOP volunteer. "I really appreciate the wonderful opportunity to broaden my perspective of military culture."
IFOP is not only run entirely by volunteers, but they also depend on donations to run a garage sale. At the garage sale, international families can purchase clothes, books and appliances while developing money-handling skills.
"We get great feedback from the international spouses. It's a way for them to build friendships with each other and the volunteers who run the program," McGowin said.
"They absolutely love it and find it very helpful that we would do this for them."
McGowin said it helps the international officers attending school here to know that their spouses and families are comfortable and are capable of coping with living in America.
"Our mission here in IOS is to build partnerships," McGowin said. "What better way to do it?"
To volunteer to help with the program, or to donate for the garage sale for the benefit of the international families, contact McGowin at 953-7613 or at Amanda.McGowin@us.af.mil. Donations can be dropped off at IOS, 120 S Mitchell St., building 904.
Volunteers will meet daily from 8 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday at Maxwell Elementary/Middle School.