AFS volunteers, alumni and staff leverage their intercultural skills and strategic partnerships to help the world learn to live together.
AFS global citizens of all ages achieve impact in many ways—from facilitating interfaith dialogues to serving society within the professions they choose. Here’s how AFSers around the world are advancing our mission to foster intercultural understanding to help build a more just and peaceful world.
VOLUNTEERS + SPONSORS = IMPACT
In 2017, AFS volunteers and staff tapped the resources of allies and sponsors to organize hundreds of social impact initiatives. Many projects were designed to broaden the perspectives of young people, and help diverse communities achieve common goals.
Looking to find better ways for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and local communities to connect, AFS Belgium Flanders teamed up with schools and the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil). Students learned about the challenges of displaced people in Europe before they were asked to help integrate young refugees into their new hometowns through an established “buddy system.”
Improving the educational experience of young children was a productive joint project of Round Table India and AFS India. The volunteers conducted hygiene, English and technology lessons, repaired three schools, and donated school supplies.
Two AFS organizations celebrated International Youth Day 2017 with outreach activities to build bridges across cultures. AFS South Africa volunteers from the Gauteng Region engaged in intercultural and interfaith dialogue with youth activists from Palestine (ages 11-14) to learn about each other’s struggles in obtaining equal access to education.
AFS Philippines used art activities to promote sustainable peace in the Mindanao Island, which is burdened with regional conflicts. Donations were collected for displaced people in the region at the “Youth Building Peace” event, which was organized with the Rotary Club of Davao, ASEAN Young Leaders Association Davao, and the National Youth Commission Philippines.
AFS ALUMNI + PROFESSIONAL SKILLS = IMPACT
AFS alumni are making an impact across industries, in the private and public sectors and at the forefront of important international issues and social causes. For some, helping others is their life’s work. For many, volunteerism and social action are central to their personal values.
Austrian researcher and economist Gudrun Biffl (Austria to USA, 1966), was awarded the Gabriele Possanner Appreciation Award 2017 in recognition for her scientific lifetime achievement in the field of economics and gender studies.
Social entrepreneur Vandré Luis Meneses Brilhante (Brazil to USA, 1987) founded the Centro Integrado de Estudo e Programas de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (Integrated Center for Sustainable Development Studies and Programs), which partners with public and private institutions throughout Brazil. Over the past 20 years, the Center has delivered more than 400 social impact projects serving 500,000+ Brazilians.
Tech innovator Regina Agyare Honu (Ghana to Norway, 2000), Ghanaian changemaker and founder of Soronko Academy and Tech for Girls, was named as one of the BBC 100 Women for empowering women and girls with technology skills.
Student activist Monique Jafta (South Africa to USA, 2013) led a dynamic discussion on gender equality at the University of the Free State. The session was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program and the Human Rights Office of the University.
Mayor Justin Lester (New Zealand to Germany, 1966) of Wellington, capital of New Zealand, is a major advocate for arts and culture, and affordable housing.
United States Senator Jeff Merkley (USA to Ghana, 1973) led a bipartisan resolution that passed in December 2017, which states: “International education and exchange programs further United States national security and foreign policy priorities, enhance United States economic competitiveness, and promote mutual understanding and cooperation among nations, and for other purposes.”
Environmentalist Oscar Oviedo (Dominican Republic to Germany, 1993) created Vida Azul, a nonprofit that cleans the Dominican Republic’s coasts, and educates people about preserving the environment and recycling. Vida Azul’s annual event organizes hundreds of volunteers to clean more than 140 coasts and rivers.
United Nations Ambassador Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay to USA, 1964) has served his country as a distinguished career diplomat for 30 years. He is currently the Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations, and was President of the UN Security Council in 2017.