Using intercultural skills to change the world

In these times of great turmoil and conflict, AFS and our allies worldwide have ramped up our mission-driven commitment to foster intercultural understanding to create a more just and peaceful world. We accomplish this critical work through thousands of active global citizens empowered by AFS study abroad programs, intercultural education events and community outreach initiatives. The #AFSeffect is building momentum.

We invite you to meet some of our global citizens (AFS volunteers, alumni, students, host families, and staff) throughout this annual report. We believe you will be inspired by the ways their intercultural skills are changing the world—whether they’re mentoring refugee students in Europe, teaching underserved young children in Egypt, fundraising for charities in the Dominican Republic, or raising awareness around environmental issues in China. Our workshops such as Efeito+ also prepared Brazillian teens to tackle UN Sustainable Development Goals-related projects in their communities.

In 2016, more than 12,000 Generation Z students and Millennial young adults from 60+ countries participated in programs such as our flagship AFS High School Program (now entering its 70th year), as well as innovative short school-based and young adult opportunities. AFS exchanges include unique structured intercultural learning journeys or Global Competence Certificate programs—and are supported by more than 50,000 AFS volunteers worldwide.

AFS is immensely grateful for the generosity and advocacy of our donors, who make our work possible. In 2015, we received more than $16.5 million in funding and scholarships from individuals, governments, foundations and corporations such as BP (US), the Speedwell Foundation (US), Intesa Sanpaolo bank (Italy), Kreuzberger Kinderstiftung (Germany), and HSBC (Hong Kong).

Building on an exciting 2016, the AFS Board of Trustees, 60 AFS Network Organizations and the entire AFS global community—one million strong—look forward to launching a new AFS strategy in 2017. Our goal: Reposition AFS for the 21st century. Join us as we broaden our reach and deepen our impact around the world.

Vishakha Desai, Ph.D. (AFS ’67) Chair, Board of Trustees
Daniel Obst President and CEO

Developing active global citizens

AFS initiatives prepare young people to take action in their communities and the world

After seven decades of providing immersive intercultural experiences for students, families, schools and local communities, the flagship AFS High School Study Abroad program continues to help students discover worlds beyond their home town. Built on a foundation of enriching secondary school education with extensive cultural exploration, these programs now include a facilitated Student Intercultural Learning Journey curriculum developed by AFS and other international experts to help students become global citizens.

Expanding reach to diverse and underserved communities

AFS volunteers and scholarships ensure more people benefit from AFS’s work

AFS China’s innovative environmental protection program Hand in Hand, Protect Blue Sky introduced more than 5,000 young people to the benefits of sustainability. Through a series of low-carbon, green activities, which included micro-video production, art exhibitions and hiking, participants were inspired to embrace a more environment-friendly lifestyle. This initiative was organized with the support of the Alcoa Foundation and in partnership with schools in different provinces. Teachers reported that the greatest benefit of this activity was raising awareness and mobilizing people to take action on environmental protection, a topic not discussed enough in the country’s formal education system.

Study abroad in China

Advancing the global study abroad movement

AFS research, learning tools and connecting with global leaders support our advocacy work

AFS’ first expansive international research study found that cultural exploration is the prime reason Generation Z wants to study abroad with 57% of Latin American, 58% Southeast Asian, 72% North American, and 75% of European respondents motivated to go abroad for cultural objectives. The only country displaying a response sample clearly geared toward academic and career advancement as main motivators to undertake a high school program abroad is Ecuador. While three more countries (China, Philippines, and Thailand) display a preference for scholastic motivators, the attitudes of respondents there do not deviate largely from the more culturally motivated outcomes in the majority of the countries. English-speaking destinations dominate in popularity. The Mapping Generation Z poll of 5,000 teenagers (aged 13-18) in nearly 30 countries also reported that affordability remains a significant hurdle to studying abroad. The data has revealed that Generation Z is acutely aware of global security concerns.

Meet AFS alumni empowered by the #AFSeffect

“Exchanges help an ordinary person step out of their comfort bubble by meeting people with different cultures, values, and beliefs, and learning to understand them anyway. [It’s] a chance to realize that, in general, people are not better and they’re not worse. They’re just different. And that’s okay.” Theresa Boyd (AFS ’16)


Investing in young global citizens

Jenny Messner

Motivated by the desire to empower young people with intercultural understanding, respect for differences and foreign language skills, Jenny (AFS ’70) and her husband, Michael Messner, established the Speedwell Foundation Study Abroad Scholarship Program. The Foundation also supports inner-city education, college scholarships, and the restoration and expansion of urban parks and green spaces.

“My exchange to Brazil in 1970 so profoundly changed my life that when I was able to give back, I knew exactly what I would do. Together with my husband Michael, we founded the Speedwell Foundation AFS Scholarship Program […] The program we created with AFS is one of the best returns on investment that we have experienced.”

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Making ethical choices to support great design

Jason Grullón

Social entrepreneur Jason Grullón (AFS ’08) co-founded the ethical fashion company, Virtù, which promotes fair prices and empowers the people and communities (in the Dominican Republic and around the world) that produce his quality clothes. The CEO credits his AFS experiences with his motivation to help others.

“My AFS experience is so ingrained in the way I approach both personal and business decisions that I consider it one of the main drivers of my ventures.”


Leveraging business skills for public service

Diego Piacentini

After spending 16 years helping build Amazon into a groundbreaking global empire, Diego Piacentini (AFS ’77) made a major mid-career pivot to put his international business experience to work for his home country. Today the former vice president of Amazon’s international consumer business provides pro bono services to the Italian government. While on leave from Amazon, the new Government Commissioner for the Digital Agenda is leading Italy’s digital transformation by simplifying the relationship between the public administration, citizens and business. Like technology, Diego claims that his “[study abroad] experience was a real game changer.”

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Fostering intercultural dialogue to help those in need

Susana Malcorra

“The fundamental richness of human beings is in understanding the other,” says Susana Malcorra (AFS ’71), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina. An engineer by training, these words have served the former Head of the Executive Office at the United Nations well in her impressive career in public service. Throughout her career, the Argentine alumna has advocated for intercultural dialogue as a tool for resolving global challenges such as the current refugee crisis and fostering peace in the world. Having served as Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Susana also knows first hand what it takes to provide humanitarian aid in more than 80 countries.

AFS Network major donors for scholarships and initiatives

AFS partners with governments, foundations, corporations, and individuals to build intercultural understanding by giving students and young adults from different parts of the world transformative international experiences.

For a comprehensive list of donors for each AFS network organization, please refer to their respective national Annual Reports, or contact the local AFS office.

Your donation will help transform the lives of AFS participants seeking to learn their place in the world. Donate now.

Since 2011, more than 220 students from six countries have received the “BP/AFS Global Citizens of Tomorrow Program, Intercultural Scholarships to Study Abroad” to develop key global competencies by participating in secondary school study abroad programs. The alumni of this scholarship program are already making a positive change in their communities. Upon returning from his year abroad in the USA in 2015, Lucas Martins from Brazil launched Intercultural News with 16 classmates at his high school. Intercultural News encourages teens to advance their education and become more active in their communities. It also provides a youth perspective on current events and issues of national importance in Brazil.

AFS Leadership

AFS International provides worldwide leadership, coordination, support, quality control and development of 59 AFS Network Organizations in 60 countries.

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About AFS

A world-class intercultural education organization; a global movement to develop and activate global citizens.

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AFS Network Finances

AFS Intercultural Programs, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the laws of New York State, USA, and is a tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) of the United States of America.

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