More than 150 leaders representing 55 AFS Network Organizations participated in the AFS Annual Network Meeting. For the second consecutive year, the meeting was conducted virtually due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Annual Network Meeting is a pivotal event in our calendar as it brings together the global AFS leadership: AFS Board Members, Partner Directors, and key staff to reflect on the last year and to establish direction and priorities for the year ahead. The meeting was chaired by the new Chair of the AFS International Board of Trustees, Amalie Ferdinand, and Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs. 

The safety of our participants continues to be our priority

2021 was an exciting year, filled with challenges and creativity. Despite the pandemic and the significant reduction in travel, the AFS Network continued to advance the AFS mission around the world. More than 5,000 high school students from 50+ countries are on or have completed their AFS exchange program in 2021. AFS programs run in countries where health and safety conditions allow and student visas are possible. Our Global Risk Management team is closely monitoring the continually changing situation on a daily basis, and they are in very close contact with our member organizations. In addition, AFS virtual educational offers are on track to reach another 5,000 high school and university students, as well as educators. 

Expanding and accelerating our mission in 2022

In the coming year, AFS is committed to expanding our programs even more, as well as strengthening our social impact and global competence development. Even more young people will be able to participate in AFS exchange programs, and they will benefit from an educational curriculum based on a proven educational methodology that we have developed over 75 years of intercultural learning and recently updated in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS). All AFS participants learn essential global skills they need to live, learn, and work to contribute to society and change the world. The organization also reaffirmed its strong commitment to expanding access to intercultural learning by providing more scholarship opportunities in the coming year.

In addition, AFS programs are now available in even more countries, with a focus on Asia. Asia is home to 60% of the world’s population and 2300 different languages—AFS is expanding its presence on the Asian continent for intercultural learning opportunities by working with Partners in Mongolia, Pakistan, South Korea and Sri Lanka (more info coming soon).

AFS is also expanding impact and access to global competence education by providing new learning opportunities. Virtual exchanges such as the Global You Adventurer and Global You Changemaker have a proven meaningful immediate impact on the development of global competence among high-school-aged youth around the world, according to this study by AFS Intercultural Programs. For next year, AFS will expand its digital education offers to reach more high school and university students, teachers and other educators.

AFS will also host the 27th session of the Youth Assembly in New York City, USA to enhance the participation of youth in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through discussions, skill-building workshops, networking, and ideation challenges, young attendees will gain relevant resources and opportunities to become the changemakers of tomorrow. 

Thank you to AFS Staff and Volunteers 

Daniel Obst, President & CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs expressed his appreciation to all AFS volunteers and staff: “You are the champions of this organization’s success and none of our achievements in the past year would have been possible without you. Thank you for your dedication, time and energy into making the AFS mission of intercultural understanding come to life.”