This past Saturday, 145 leaders from 57 AFS Network Organizations gathered virtually for the 2020 AFS Network Meeting.

The gathering celebrated the strength of our global AFS community in the face of unprecedented adversity, and our ceaseless dedication to our participants and the AFS mission.

Attendees were representatives of each AFS Network Organization, including Board Chairs, Partner Directors and key staff, as well as the 15 members of the AFS International Board of Trustees. We were excited to welcome the two newest members of the International Board: Regina Honu, a social entrepreneur from Ghana, and Helmut Schuster, a business consultant based in the UK.

The AFS Network collectively reaches more than 118,000 people each year. Through our Partners, we operate programs in 113 countries around the world, providing opportunities for around 12,000 young people supported by 50,000 volunteers and staff, along with more than 9,000 host families. Learn more about our impact in our 2019 annual report.

Looking back

Our Network Leaders took time to reflect on the last year of work, which included the unprecedented closure of all AFS programs worldwide and repatriation of 7,000 AFS participants. While it seemed impossible back in March, the Network celebrated that as of today almost 1,500 young people are currently on AFS programs in countries where health and safety conditions allow, and student visas are possible.

Looking forward

The values that will help the AFS Network succeed in the next few months are the values that our Network cherishes, and that thousands of young people have learned on our programs: flexibility, respect for differences, and capacity to navigate ambiguity. AFS Network Organizations shared that the pandemic has pushed our Network to be creative, leverage technology, and try new ways of doing things that ultimately benefits our participants and prepares us for the future.

While AFS, along with the whole world, must still navigate the devastating effects of the pandemic, attendees agreed that our mission—learning to live together—is more important than ever before. At our annual gathering, our diverse Network of Partners reaffirmed their commitment to that mission and their belief that our current global challenges are an opportunity to grow and be of service to society in new ways.