By Ting Chin.
No seriously, we totally do! And not just with Jordan’s random, prolonged hugs to strangers and Dan’s sporadic calls of encouragement to struggling climbers from the desk. Not just with treating our employees and members with respect and compassion and rising to the daily toil of folding many dozens of towels in hopes of creating a comfortable, clean space for people to bond and create community. Besides, how else should one go about creating world peace if not by simply doing what each of us can every day?
Ferran from Catalonia, Spain and Captain from Thailand: belay partners and BFFs
Climbers are a uniquely positioned breed of people; we are naturally imbued with the characteristics necessary for fostering world peace. No giggling please, hear me out! Do climbers not show strength of spirit and courage? Do climbers not put full faith in their partners and share all kinds of beta with everyone (even if unwanted)? Do climbers not embrace natural beauty, individualism, and low-impact (dirtbag!) lifestyles? Do climbers not dream bigger than most?
Sarah Bodary of American Field Services was thinking along the same lines: “AFS is a program that gets students, as well as their hosting and biological parents, outside their comfort zone; kind of like climbing.”
Sarah works for AFS and is a longtime friend of Touchstone. AFS is one of the oldest, most respected student exchange programs in the world. Literally, one of their goals is to foster world peace.
Ruben from U.S.A. (previously studied in France through AFS) and Tim from Germany.
“It is a challenge to leave home for six or ten months when you are in high school, and live in a country where you may not speak the language,” Sarah says. “There are always ups and downs, but it opens minds to new ways of thinking about ourselves and others. These experiences make for more resilient and accepting individuals. Ultimately, one of our goals is to foster world peace. Many of our volunteers have hosted multiple students and those relationships can last for the rest of their lives.”
70% of AFS year-program students achieve foreign language fluency. 39% or more AFS students say they feel increased comfort in diverse settings. Not an easy thing for most adults. But what can be more relevant these days?
Our wonderful belay staff, Claire, teaches the AFS students their safety checks.
As for the climbing day itself, everyone from AFS had fun challenging themselves and supporting each other. “We had a great time cheering each other on at every level of climbing,” said Ruben, an American participant who has studied in France through AFS. “It was a really fun adventure.”
Ruben’s mom, Michelle, is hosting Hans from Chile (not pictured) and is a volunteer with AFS. She agrees with their message: “AFS-USA works toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences.” Hans, Ruben, and Tim are currently going to school together at Berkeley High.
Aoi, from Hyogo near Osaka, Japan, is currently a student at Woodside High School. She likened climbing to her study abroad experiences, where her initial anxieties were overcome by the support of everyone at her exchange school. “I was scared on my first climb and didn’t get to the top, but when I learned to trust my belay partner I overcame my fear and really enjoyed climbing.”
Captain from Thailand, Aoi from Japan, Marlene from Germany, Alessandra from Switzerland, and Jo from Austria.
We climbers think many obstacles can be overcome when we learn to trust our partners, despite our differences. It sure is easy to forget that in the bigger scheme of things, most of our desires and fears are pretty much the same no matter where you’re from. Thanks AFS for visiting Mission Cliffs. We had a lovely time with your students, and sincerely hope we were able to contribute to some lasting friendships and positive impressions. Global-citizens of the future, we are counting on you: Climb on!