by Daniel Obst, President & CEO, AFS Intercultural Programs
Throughout the pandemic, the staff and volunteers of AFS have drawn inspiration from our brave founders, the AFS ambulance drivers. As we continue to live through an unprecedented crisis, we remember their determination to serve and their vision for AFS in the aftermath of the greatest crisis of their own time, World War II.
That is why we are dedicating this issue of the Janus to our founder, an inspiring AFSer, and an original global citizen, A. Piatt Andrew. We are deeply grateful to his descendants for creating the A. Piatt Andrew fund now, at a time when support for the AFS mission is more important than ever before.
In spite of all the challenges we have faced over the last year and a half, the AFS Network has managed to:
- maintain our intercultural exchange programs, which have been running for 70+ years, wherever it is safe and possible to do so,
- find innovative ways to meet young people where they are and teach them the value of empathy,
- bring global citizenship to schools, and
- tackle social inequalities through our local volunteers in 57 countries around the world.
We’ve also found ways to advance our mission beyond our exchange programs. Last month the global AFS community gathered to discuss what it would take to treat the whole world as family. AFS alumna and Chair of the AFS Board of Trustees Vishakha N. Desai met with three young global citizens whose lives were transformed by AFS. One thing we all agreed on is that once you open your eyes to the world, you cannot close them.
More than 5,000 young AFSers are getting ready to start their exchanges this year. Their desire to meet other cultures and build friendships across borders has not diminished during the time of isolation and pandemic.