We’re turning the spotlight on a valued member of the Columbia Council for Internationals who exemplifies the mission of CCFI. Don Caughman, a 29-year member of CCFI, shares a few words about his significant involvement with CCFI and what CCFI has meant to him over the years.
“As I look back over all the years I’ve been involved with CCFI, it is pretty difficult to boil it down into a paragraph.
During my 29 years of involvement with CCFI, I’ve been privileged to meet literally hundreds of students from all over the world. It has broadened my horizons tremendously and encouraged me to look at the relationship of the U.S.A. and the rest of the world in a much more positive and open way. At the same time, it has allowed me to show them just a little bit of what America is about, and most of the students have gone away with a positive attitude about us here because of their exposure to CCFI members and activities.
I first got involved with CCFI in the fall of 1988 as a ‘host family’ for the Host Family Program (later to be called Community Friend Program). Not really sure who introduced me to CCFI, but the first student I met was from Germany. The next year, I volunteered to drive for the Arrival Assistance Program, and it wasn’t long before I was on the board and chairing the Arrival/Hospitality Committee, which I’ve done many times over the years. I’ve also served as a Board President and a volunteer with the Palmetto Council for International Visitors (PCIV) program. I’d say, conservatively, over the years I’ve interacted to varying degrees with 100 or so business persons, educators, professionals and government officials from around the world.
There are many, many fond memories of my CCFI involvement. A few that stand out are the time I was at the airport at 4 a.m., waiting for a French student whose plane was five hours late. He was astounded that someone was there waiting for him. I just told him that at CCFI, “This is what we do!”
In 2008, I set up a visit for a member of the Hungarian Parliament who wanted to observe Election Day activities in the U.S. It was the day of the Democratic Presidential Primary, and we were able to visit a number of places during the day to observe the workings of democracy. We ended the day by standing in line for an hour to get into the Convention center for Barack Obama’s victory speech. We were able to maneuver ourselves close to the stage. What a memorable experience that was for both of us.
Many of the students I’ve gotten to know through CCFI have stayed in touch over the years, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting them and their families in their home countries. In the 1992-93 school year, I was a community host for a student from Finland who was here working on his Masters in Business. His wife was with him, and as it turned out, their first child was born in March, 1993, at the Lexington Medical Center. They gave her the middle name of “Carolina!” We were able to arrange a baptism for her at my home church in Columbia, Good Shepherd Lutheran, on Easter Sunday. We’ve maintained a great friendship over the years, and I was able to be in Finland for their son’s baptism in 1996 and confirmation in 2011. Such wonderful experiences would not have been possible but for the opportunities presented for all of us through the varied programs of CCFI.”
Thank you, Don, for all you have done and continue to do for CCFI!