Although this event was called “AFS Returnee Day,” more than 700 AFSers representing the entire AFS Global Community turned out to enjoy a day of reconnecting, conversations and sharing. AFS Returnees, spouses, partners, AFS Volunteers, Host Families, Sending Families, Staff, supporters and friends took part in the fun activities and formal discussions.

Highlights of the informal activities included: 

  • Photos by the AFS Ambulance 255, which is an original 1916 Model T Ford with a newly constructed body. AFS Ambulance 255 Project Director and model T restorer George King, reconstructed the vehicle and is currently touring France honoring the legacy of the WWI AFS Volunteer Ambulance Drivers,
  • Informal talks about the AFS Foundation by Marianne Meyers (Check Spelling) and AFS Archives by Nicole Milano.
  • A delightful French Regional Buffet Lunch prepared by the AFS Vivre Sans Frontière
  • The Harlem Hellfighters Jazz Concert
  • A special feature of the day was the Harlem Hellfighters, a tribute band honoring the brave African American WWI Volunteer 369th Regiment that was awarded the high French honor of the Croix de Guerre. Many of the 369th Regiment soldiers were among the musicians credited for bringing jazz to Paris.
  • The Hellfighters started playing in the AFS Centennial Café, rounding up their audience in what’s called “the second line”—a New Orleans, USA jazz tradition where music lovers follow a band, often twirling a parasol or waving a handkerchief in the air.
  • Music professor and aianist Cecil Lytle produced the concert. Also joining the performance was AFS INT’s Vice President Urs-Ranier von Arx playing the banjo.
  • The concert was accompanied by a presentation about the Hellfighters by AFS USA Board Chair Betty McManus (USA to NED).

The AFS Returnee Day Program

The formal program for AFS Returnee Day included presentations, discussions and break out sessions which covered ways Returnees can reconnect or stay connected to AFS and what’s in store for the second century of AFS.

AFS Centennial Celebrations Chair and Returnee Bill Meserve (USA to GRE) and AFS Vivre Sans Frontière Board Chair and Returnee Saman Hosseini (GER to FRA) welcomed the Returnee Day participants and provided an overview of the day.

AFS INT Organization Development duo Dominik Scherrer and Lucas Welter discussed the importance of staying connected to AFS and charged the group to continue the conversation by joining a breakout group and then reporting back. The four breakout topics by AFS Returnees, Board Chairs and Staff were:

Creating Vital AFS Returnee Organizations

  • Facilitator: Richard Spencer (AFS AUS)
  • Panelists: Maximilien Marxer (Le Cercle), Mandy Barber (AFS USA), Noriko Fujisawa (AFS JPN)

The AFS World Café: Connecting Our Global Community

  • Facilitators: Magnus Andreas Solvberg-Aase (AFS INT) and Sheryl Hilliard Tucker(AFS INT)

The AFS Effect: How Our AFS Experiences Changed Our Lives 

  • Facilitators: Former INT Trustee Robin Miller and Frank Guerra (AFS PHI)

Non-Traditional Programs: A Way Forward for AFS?

  • Facilitator: Former AFS INT Trustee Patrick Worms
  • Panelists: Bert Vercamer (Sentio), Plinio Benavides (AFS PAN) and Tara Hofmann (AFS USA)

The afternoon session focused on The Future of AFS and began with remarks by Christian Kurtén (FIN to USA), AFS International Board of Trustees Chair, and Vincenzo Morlini (ITA to USA), AFS President and CEO.

Both AFS leaders discussed their takeaways from the AFS 2014 World Congress meeting, which was held earlier in the week.

Entrepreneur Kenan Sahin (TUR to USA) then made an interesting keynote address on the Technology, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of AFS

The afternoon session ended with a Discussion on the future of AFS led by an AFS all-star panel:

  • Brian Atwood, AFS INT Board of Trustees
  • Sharifa Fayez,  AFS EGY
  • Rahiema “Bonnie” Guerra, AAI
  • Juan Medici, AFS ARG
  • Christian Werle, AFS INT Board of Trustees

Ending the Day with Culture, Laughter, Treats and a Wine Tasting

AFS Returnee Day guests were given the choice to end the day with a French wine tasting led by wine expert Claude Fossat or a “Celebration of Culture.”

The “Celebration of Culture.” included a traditional Indonesian dance performance by the Saman Dance troupe. (Saman is the dance of a thousand hands.) Also on tap was the Bicultural Comedian Sebastion Marx who took a fun look at French Culture. Following the performances was an afternoon tea with a macarons and eclairs tasting.

AFS International and AFS Vivre Sans Frontière would like to thank everyone who made the first international AFS Returnee Day such an outstanding and enjoyable event.