This International Volunteer Day, we say “Thank you” to all AFS volunteers who, with their efforts, commitment and dedication, make a positive contribution to society. Thank you for continuing to champion the AFS mission of intercultural understanding even in challenging times like these. Thank you for investing so much of your time and enthusiasm in continuously supporting AFS students, host families, sending families, schools, and local communities. You are an inspiration to us all! 

The work of AFS is driven by the voluntary commitment of so many people. Worldwide, more than 50,000 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are part of a movement of global citizens helping people and communities learn to live together. “There is hunger for interconnection! There are hundreds and thousands of us ready to change the world!” said Vishakha N. Desai, Chair of the AFS International Board of Trustees at the AFS Global Ideathon for Volunteers. 

This year in particular, AFS volunteers, alumni, and staff have come together and went above and beyond the call of duty to serve and safeguard a shared mission in this unprecedented situation. Together we have been working day and night to reunite thousands of AFS participants with their families in their home countries. AFS volunteers have successfully launched countless successful activities to support our program beneficiaries and beyond, like

  • the #MondayMagic initiative in AFS India that gave people a chance to share and learn new skills online, 
  • the face masks made by AFS South Africa volunteers to support essential workers, 
  • the intercultural learning  online workshops for students led by AFS Poland’s volunteers, 
  • the multiple volunteer gatherings organized by volunteers throughout Latin America, 
  • the handwritten notes AFS-USA volunteers made to thank host families for their support during the pandemic, 
  • and even the launch of the very first volunteer-organized AFS Global Ideathon with more than 500 participants. 

Voluntary engagement strengthens the sense of community and awakens team spirit. 

  • 80% of AFS volunteers feel their work makes an impact on their community 
  • 86% of AFS volunteers learned and practiced skills that are relevant to them
  • 86% of AFS volunteers developed new friends and relationships across the organization 

At AFS, we are built on volunteerism. AFS was created as a volunteer ambulance drivers corps in 1915 and then reactivated shortly after the start of World War II to serve alongside the Allied soldiers in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. In World War II, 2,000 AFS ambulance drivers had carried more than 700,000 wounded. Having witnessed the tragedies of war, these brave volunteers transformed AFS into what it is today: a global organization that builds intercultural understanding among people from diverse backgrounds in order to create a more just and peaceful world.

Since then, more than 500,000 young people from around the world have had the opportunities to participate in AFS exchanges that helped transform not only their lives, but also those of millions in their host and home communities around the world. 

Arrival of the first 17 AFS volunteers at the Gare de Lyon, Paris, April 4, 1940. Photographer unknown.

Our world urgently needs more active global citizens, if we want to solve the world’s challenges and if we want to advance as societies. And that’s why volunteering matters. Volunteers will be central to helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteers help mobilize communities and constituencies. They help make these daunting goals more relevant to local communities. And, more importantly, volunteers can help change mindsets by raising awareness and inspiring others.  So, thank you to all the AFS volunteers for being active global citizens and for working to create peace in the world. 

Do you want to get involved, have a positive impact on your community, get to know like-minded people, and just have fun? Become an AFS Volunteer and join your local AFS organization.