Matthew Fisher – FFIS Steering Committee Chair & Treasurer

Matthew Fisher Family

Matthew Fisher is the current Chair and Treasurer of the FFIS Steering Committee. He and his wife Kassy hosted their first FFIS student in 2009 and Matthew joined the Steering Committee the following year.  Their now eight-year-old daughter Margot took her first steps as a one-year-old in Beppu, Japan.

“Hosting international students from the UO is a wonderful and convenient way to stay connected to the international community, while also sharing a bit about our larger “American” culture and the unique nature of our local community, says Matthew. “It’s an amazing feeling to make those meaningful connections with those who, at times, come from radically different social and cultural backgrounds.”

Matthew is originally from Tampa Bay, Florida and has been a Lane County resident since 2006. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida in Philosophy and International Studies.  He followed that up with graduate studies in Planning and Public Policy at the University of Oregon.  Matthew is currently a stay-at-home father after working in the Springfield Public Schools Transportation Department.

Why did you become an FFIS Volunteer? Kassy and I had both done quite a bit of international traveling before we met. Actually, one of the things that I found attractive and intriguing about Kassy was the amount of traveling she did overseas and how much exposure she had to foreign communities and cultures.  I guess you could say that it’s really important to me that we find a way to connect to the larger international community and gain some perspective outside the comforts of our own way-of-life.

What do you enjoy most about being an FFIS Volunteer? It’s an amazing feeling to make those meaningful connections with those who, at times, come from radically different social and cultural backgrounds.

Why did you join the Steering Committee?  We had hosted a female UO student and learned quite a bit about FFIS at that time, including the steering committee and ways to get more involved in the “nuts and bolts” aspects of the organization. Having recently finished a degree that touched on nonprofit management, I was interested in what FFIS was doing and trying to accomplish.  FFIS was a good fit for my passions and skill set.

What are some of your favorite memories of international students that you’ve met? Most of my favorite memories center around the sharing of food, drinks, and having conversations about commonalities and differences in our respective cultures, traditions, political and social environments, etc. You learn so much about yourself and your own culture when you explore someone else’s with them.

What memorable experiences did you have as a result from volunteering with FFIS? There are many, but the most memorable are the Fall Picnics that we hold each year. It’s quite remarkable to see all the moving pieces required to get a social event of that size off the ground and merge together to create a safe, engaging, and fun experience for all involved. We literally have individuals from all corners of the planet coming together, celebrating the wonders of diversity, and dissolving the barriers that keep many in the international landscape unnecessarily divided. Again, it’s the theme of making meaningful connection that’s most memorable.

Anything else that you would like to share about your FFIS experiences? I’d like to shed light on the wonderful group of individuals in our steering committee that I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. This organization has been making connections between the larger Eugene area and the international student community at the UO since the 60’s. Having been involved as long as I have, I’ve seen firsthand what it takes to keep the FFIS engine chugging along. The commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm exhibited by each of our committee members lies at the heart of FFIS and really makes it all possible.

June Brooks – FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator

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June Brooks serves as our FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator. She is originally from Ossining, New York, but has lived in Lane County for the past 37+ years.  She joined the Steering Committee in 2009 after retiring from a career of teaching special education in Cottage Grove for 23 years.

June is married with two grown sons, one granddaughter, a stepson, a stepdaughter and two step granddaughters. She earned a Bachelors degree from Cornell University in Child Development and a Masters degree in special education from the University of Oregon.

Why did you become an FFIS volunteer? In the 1980’s we had a friend who was a volunteer. We met some of her students and we were intrigued by the idea of hosting students from around the world. Our children were young and we thought that it would be a good experience for them to be exposed to people from different cultures.  We could never have guessed how much these international friendships would come to mean to all of us.

I love spending time with the students. I love learning about their country, hearing about their experiences, and gaining a different perspective on world events. I also like showing them around our beautiful state of Oregon and being here in case they need a surrogate parent or just a sympathetic ear.

I joined the Steering Committee because I had recently retired.  I had the time to take on more responsibilities and saw an invitation to come to a meeting on an email from Becky Megerssa.  (Little did I know what that first meeting would grow into!).

What are some of your favorite memories of international students that you’ve met? I can hardly begin since I have been doing this for 28 years! We had a student from Germany shortly after the Berlin Wall came down. It was interesting to learn from him what that meant to his country. We have learned that while not Christian, kids from Japan grow up celebrating Christmas in exactly the same way we do.

We had a girl from France who loved Downton Abbey as much as I did and we bonded over that every Sunday evening. We backpacked down the Grand Canyon with one of our Norwegian students and one of our English students.  We have taken more students than I can recall to marvel over the clear blue water of Crater Lake. Last summer, we flew to NYC to meet with a recent student from Brazil who was visiting the city with her fiancé.

When my children were growing up, our students were their big brothers and big sisters. They joined our family for dinners, for weekend trips, for birthday parties, really whatever we were doing. Now, of course, my sons are much older than the current students are, but the memories remain for all of us.

What motivates you to be an FFIS Volunteer and Steering Committee member? What motivates me to stay involved with FFIS is getting to know even more of our wonderful international students. I like to look back to the reason that the organization was founded in 1950, shortly after the end of WWII.  The aim was for one person to reach a hand of friendship to one other person, across cultural and national boundaries, thereby fostering world peace. I know that it is simplistic, but that concept has always resonated with me.  We can only do what we can do!

Anything else that you would like to share about your FFIS experiences? This kind of blends with the above. But one benefit we have received from our involvement with the students is the life-long friendships that we have developed with so many of them.  We see them marry, become parents, be successful in their careers, gain advanced degrees, and sometimes, when we are VERY lucky, we get to visit them in their home countries (something that we have done many times and we continue to do) or have them return to Eugene and stay with us for a visit. This July, my very first student from Norway, Anders, 1990-1994, will spend a week with us along with his wife and two children. We can’t wait to see them and show his family where he earned his degree.

 

 

FFIS Fundraiser at Fisherman’s Market

May 9, 2018

Fisherman’s Market will donate 20% of all sales to FFIS on Wednesday, May 9th. This includes all products including eat in, take out, seafood orders, alcohol, etc. It is an all-day fundraiser.

Print the flyer below or mention “FFIS” when you order food/purchase product and FFIS gets 20%.

print FFIS fundraiser flyer

2nd Wednesday of Every Month

Fisherman’s Market will donate 20% of all sales to FFIS on the 2nd Wednesday of every month.

 

Fisherman’s Market

830 West 7th St. Eugene, OR 97402

http://eugenefishmarket.com

 

Cindee Robertson – FFIS Volunteer and Steering Committee Member

Ye Chao, Conversation Friend from China, and Cindee Robertson

Most volunteers with the Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) have experienced life overseas and enjoy interacting with people from other countries.  That’s certainly the case with Cindee Robertson.  She spent ten years as a teacher in Nepal, Romania, and Tunisia before returning to Eugene to retire in 2014.  Working with international students is near and dear to her heart.

Cindee graduated from the University of Oregon with an MS in Special Education and did doctorate work at Washington State University.  She was a regular education teacher, special education teacher, and Special Education Director in Washington and Oregon before working overseas.

FFIS’ programs provided Cindee with the opportunity to meet and befriend international students far from home.  Not only did she volunteer to be a Conversation Friend, she also joined the Steering Committee.  Her insights, commitment and contributions to the organization have been invaluable.

“Helping international students is so rewarding and makes me feel as though we are truly a global community when we volunteer with FFIS,” said Cindee.  “Having lived abroad, I know how difficult it is to be away from family and the challenges of acculturation.”

Becoming “family” to someone from a different country and culture is seemingly part of her DNA.  She helped a 16-year-old girl from Nepal come to America.  Three years later she helped the girl’s mother and younger sister come.  Those two girls are now American citizens and college graduates.  They consider Cindee to be their second Mom and a family member.

FFIS can always use more volunteers like Cindee to open their hearts and homes to international students far from home.  The loving relationships formed last well beyond when the students return to their country.  Volunteers end up with many “sons” and “daughters” living throughout the world.

“Please consider doing a little or volunteer to do even more, says Cindee.  “It is a wonderful, forever experience.”

Welcome Picnic

Each September, FFIS hosts a picnic welcoming new international students to the UO and our community. University and community leaders often attend to give our visitors a warm welcome.

 

Share Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday that FFIS volunteers share with international students by hosting them for Thanksgiving dinner. Students appreciate the hospitality, good food, and opportunity to make new friends.