Chair of the Board

Amalie Ferdinand

Amalie Ferdinand is Trade Union Consultant, focusing on the field of teachers’ working conditions. Currently, she works for the Union of Education Denmark, with a focus on negotiations, working conditions and individual and collective agreements. Amalie previously worked as a consultant for the Organisations of Public Employees—Denmark and The Central Organisation of Industrial Employees in Denmark. Amalie is an AFS volunteer in Denmark and a former Board Chair of AFS Denmark. Amalie is an AFS exchange program alumna to Guatemala. Amalie received her Master Degree from Roskilde University during which time she studied a semester in Mexico.

Makiko 1

Vice Chair of the Board

Makiko Haraga

Makiko Haraga has written for various publications and published books both as an author and a translator. She also teaches English as well as introductory courses on leadership at the Tokyo Institute of Technology as Adjunct Lecturer. Makiko has managed her family business manufacturing designer handkerchiefs. She also worked in the communications office at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Ltd. She has been an AFS volunteer since 1988, including: member of AFS Japan’s Board of Councilors (1998-2000), member of AFS Japan’s Board of Directors (2012-March 2018). Makiko is an AFS exchange program alumna to New Zealand.  She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University (USA) and a Bachelor degree in Sociology from Keio University (Japan).

1. Yasmin recent pix

Yasmin Ahmad Merican

Yasmin Ahmad Merican is a marketing strategist, brand builder and business transformation practitioner. A former Ernst & Young (EY) global consulting partner, she is interested in the impact of today’s communications processes and technologies on leadership and institutional behaviours, especially during and post pandemic. Passionate about building stronger competencies in sustainable goodwill management through better knowledge and governance, she is also author of the ‘The Right to Brand’ (2013). In 2006, supported the drafting of Malaysia’s nation brand blueprint and contributed towards the country’s successful positioning as a preferred tourist destination between 2000 and 2015. She holds an MBA in Strategic Marketing (Distinction) from the University of Hull, United Kingdom. An AFS alumna and former director of AFS Malaysia in the 1980s, Yasmin initiated the first multinational exchanges with Japan and the Asia-Pacific in collaboration with the Malaysian Ministry of Education.

Barrett Profile photo

Martyn Barrett

Martyn Barrett is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Surrey, UK. His primary research interests are focused on young people’s intercultural, democratic and global competences, the role of education in promoting the competences required for living in culturally diverse democratic societies and in a globalised world, and young people’s political and civic engagement and active global citizenship. Although he was originally trained as a psychologist, he has a very strong commitment to multidisciplinary research, and over the years he has worked with educationists, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists and policy analysts.

He has been working as an expert for the Council of Europe since 2006, and from 2013-2018 he led the Council of Europe expert group that developed the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (RFCDC). He has also worked as an expert for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), helping to develop the conceptual framework and assessments of global competence that took place in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018.

Martyn is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Psychology by the University of Chichester in the UK in October 2022 “in recognition of his outstanding impact on the education of children and young people and the inspiration his work continues to give across many cultures.” Further details about Martyn may be obtained from his homepage at

Screenshot 2023-11-14 at 18.06.25

Matteo Biancolini

Matteo Biancolini is an Independent Financial Advisor and Entrepreneur.

After receiving a Master’s degree in Finance and Risk Management he specialized in the areas of wealth management, financial planning and financial portfolio investment for private investors and corporations. After many years working in the independent advisory field Matteo has launched a startup called Investitore Strategico and a Research and Study Center on economy and financial markets, where he leads a team of analysts that help people manage and invest their money with the digital help and support of independent financial advisors. His main skills range from financial markets analysis, personal financial planning, financial portfolio investments, wealth management and business model creation.

A life long volunteer since his study abroad with AFS from Italy to the USA in 2003, Matteo is also a former board member and Chair of AFS Intercultura from 2017 to 2023, where he learned new skills in scholarships and fundraising, alongside volunteer’s development and engagement area.


Lennart D’hulst

Lennart D’hulst is an HR Project Manager at NMBS, the Belgian railways company. He previously worked as project manager at Bpost (Belgian’s largest parcel delivery company) and, at the beginning of his career, as a staff member of AFS Belgium Flanders and also the European Federation for Intercultural Learning, the umbrella organization for AFS in Europe. Lennart obtained his master degree in International Relations at Ghent University, Belgium and is a certified project and change manager.  He is an AFS alumnus to South Africa, still an active AFS volunteer in Belgium Flanders.

Eloise Dolan Feb 2021

Eloise Dolan

An international relations and international education professional, Eloise Dolan is the Associate Director, Business Development for Value Learning, a consulting business committed to advancing global competence by providing consultation, facilitation, program design and development to education, non-profit, and government organisations in Australia. Before this, Eloise was Program Manager and Generation Asia Lead at Asia Society Australia, where she coordinated the centre’s programming output, managed relationships with key Australian stakeholders, led the Generation Asia strategic pillar, and the National Young Leaders Forum, founded by Eloise in 2020. She has previously worked at the Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program, facilitated the Victoria Department of Education And Training “Young Leaders to China” and served at the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria.

Eloise was awarded the prestigious Tony Adams Rising Star Award in 2022. She was also nominated as the 2021 Young Woman to Watch by Young Australians in International Affairs.She holds a Master of International Relations from the University of Melbourne. Eloise studied abroad with AFS from Australia to France in 2009, and has since been active as a board member, facilitator and mentor in Australia and abroad.


Tolga Dorken

Tolga Dorken is the founding partner of ID Turkiye AS, a technical and project management consultancy firm focusing on accessibility of buildings and public spaces for people with disabilities. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Civil Engineering (METU, Turkey), M.Sc. degree in International Project Management (ESCP, France) and has over 20 years of management experience in the construction industry. Tolga is an AFS exchange program alumnus (from Turkey to the USA 1994-1995). An active AFS volunteer since his exchange year, he is a former board chair of TKV/AFS Turkey.


Michaela Mariani

Michela Mariani is a lawyer and currently the head of the legal and corporate affairs department at Cherry106 S.p.A., an Italian financial institution, operating in the field of non performing loans and credit recovery. Her work focuses mostly on banking law and regulation. Previously, as attorney at law enrolled in the Venice Bar, her main specializations were on M&A, company law and antitrust. Michela is an AFS alumna (high school year abroad from Italy to the USA 1997-1998), she is a committed and active volunteer of Intercultura in Italy. She used to be the Vice Chair of the Association and she is a member of the Board of arbitrators.

headshot Obst copy 2


Daniel Obst

Daniel is President & CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs, a global network of 55 member organizations with more than 32,000 volunteers and programs in 99 countries. Under Daniel’s leadership, the 100+-year-old organization has developed a transformative new global strategy focused on three mission-driven impact goals: developing active global citizens, globalizing schools and other institutions and expanding access to intercultural education to young people in underserved communities. In 2021, Daniel led the integration of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (FAF) and its flagship program, The Youth Assembly, into AFS.

Before joining AFS in 2016, Daniel was Deputy Vice President of International Partnerships at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York, one of the largest and oldest not-for-profit organizations in the field of international educational exchange and development training. At IIE, Daniel provided strategic leadership in the creation and implementation of international academic partnerships and IIE initiatives, including IIE’s 5-year Generation Study Abroad initiative which seeks to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. Daniel oversaw all the activities of IIE’s network of 1,400 member institutions, IIE’s publications and higher education services, IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education. He also led IIE’s strategic communications team.

Daniel co-edited several publications, including “Developing Strategic International Partnerships”​, “Global Perspectives on International Joint and Double Degree Programs”​ and “Innovation Through Education: Building the Knowledge Economy in the Middle East”​. In 2013, Daniel was appointed to serve on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. He serves on the Advisory Council of Diversity Abroad. Daniel has a B.A. in International Relations from the George Washington University (USA) and holds a Master’s degree in European Studies from the London School of Economics (UK).

Victor Oporto

Victor Oporto

Victor Oporto is the President of OPTILENT SRL, an optical chain store, and founder and partner at CONSULFE, a business consulting firm. He has a long career in the business field, as an executive director of a large manufacturing company, an entrepreneur in his own company and a consultant both in the private and public sector. Victor is the current Vice Chair of the Business Managers Association (ADE Santa Fe) and Board Member of Santa Fe Chamber of Opticians.

His educational background and expertise in financial engineering, business strategic planning, family owned companies and business valuation. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and has a postgraduate degreeBusiness Administration from Universidad Católica de Córdoba, Argentina.

Since 1979 Victor Oporto has been an AFS volunteer and has made enormous contributions to our organization, having served in many different roles and capacities. He previously served on the AFS Board of Trustees from 1995-2006, including as chair. Since his term ended in 2006, he became active again in AFS Argentina and Uruguay at the Board and the local chapter level. In 2013, Victor was granted The Galatti Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, which honors AFS volunteers whose longtime commitment, dedication and exceptional journey with the organization have advanced our mission and goals. Victor studied abroad with AFS from Argentina to the USA in 1977.


Dr. Willibald Plesser

Willibald Plesser is an attorney at law. He retired as a long-time Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner in April 2022 and has since been practicing as an independent lawyer.

Willibald focuses on strategic legal and transactional advice for investors and corporations, especially in relation to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the financial institutions, energy and media sectors. He also advises and acts as counsel on related arbitrations. His core skills lie in negotiating transactions, structuring complex matters, and resolving disputes, and he has often been involved in the negotiations of joint ventures. He is well known for his expertise in Eastern Europe, in the former Soviet Union and in Turkey.

For a number of years in a row, Willibald has been ranked as the no. 1 CEE lawyer in Austria by a leading Austrian magazine. Willibald is an AFS Alumnus, he and his wife have hosted AFS students and sent their own 3 boys on AFS programs. He is a committed AFS volunteer and currently a member of the Advisory Council of AFS Austria, and a member of the Board of Trustees of AFS International as well as a member of the AFS Foundation Board. He holds Master’s Degrees in Law and in English and History, and a Doctoral Law Degree from the University of Vienna, and is a Member of the Austrian and International Bar Associations.

Ernesto Rey Moreno

Ernesto Rey Moreno

Ernesto Rey Moreno is the  Founder & CEO of Empresas REYMORENO and President & CEO PiLife – Felicidad Inteligente. Empresas REYMORENO is based in Colombia and was initially founded in 1978 as a telecommunication and IT company, the company now focuses on tourism and capital investment, with elements of corporate social responsibility and entrepreneurial projects for sustainable development in Colombia. PiLife is a mentoring and life coaching consulting firm. Ernesto has  served as the Chair of the AFS Colombia Board. This is Ernesto’s second time serving on the AFS Board of Trustee. Ernesto received Master’s Degrees from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Telecommunications Executive Management Institute of Canada (TEMIC) and an undergraduate degree from Universidad de los Andes.

image0 copy

Gustavo Sénéchal

Gustavo Sénéchal is a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil. Since 2018, Gustavo has also served as the Head of the United Nations Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasília. His previous work experience includes working on climate change, forign policy, peacekeeping and security in different positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, and the Embassy of Brazil in South Africa. Gustavo holds a Masters in Diplomacy from Instituto Rio Branco and Masters in International Relations from Instituto de Relações Internacionais, as well as a Law Degree from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. He is an AFS exchange program alumnus from Brazil to Sweden in 1991, and an active AFS volunteer in Brazil for which he received the Distinguished LifeLong Volunteer Award in Brazil in 2016.

Urlich Voss

Ulrich Voss

Ulrich Voss is the Founder and Managing Partner of Kronberg Advisors, a management consultant firm. Ulrich has been working at the interface of banking, technology and operations for 20 years. As Chief Operating Officer of HSH Nordbank AG, a board member of Avaloq Evolution AG a financial technology company and a seasoned management consultant at McKinsey & Company Inc., Ulrich has extensive experience and an impressive track record in the design and implementation of complex projects. He is a committed AFS volunteer and a member of the Advisory Council of AFS Germany. Ulrich is Treasurer for “Freunde und Förderer der Bischof-Neumann-Schule,” a German charitable association in the field of education.  Ulrich is an AFS Alumnus. He has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University (USA) and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from Darmstadt Technical University (Germany).


Wantoe Wantoe

Wantoe T. Wantoe has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of women and children and has emerged as one of Liberia and Africa’s leading advocates for global sustainability and youth development. Currently, Wantoe serves as a Steering Member on the United Nations Department of Global Communication Youth Steering Committee, where he actively contributes to the development and implementation of global youth policies. In addition, he has been appointed to the AFS Youth Assembly Advisory Council, leveraging his expertise to provide guidance on youth-related initiatives.

In 2013, Wantoe was appointed as the youth representative to Liberia’s Independent National Human Rights Commission. In this role, he spearheaded a project focused on strengthening bystander protection and improving access to human rights investigations. Wantoe played a crucial role in establishing the first youth structures for child rights institutions across all 15 counties of Liberia, ensuring that the voices and rights of children were given due consideration and protection. In 2014, he took on the vital task of documenting the violations committed against 785 orphaned and neglected children during the Ebola outbreak, as a member of the Liberia National Children and Youth Advisory Board.

Wantoe has been recognized by Princess Diana and was awarded at the 2017 Summer Youth Assembly by the Friendship Ambassador Foundation. He is a certified 2019 Obama Foundation Leadership Asset and Dialogue Alumni, as well as a recipient of the 2019 Princess Diana Award. In 2018, he was honored as the Global Young Voices SDGs Champion Winner, and in 2020, he received the Friend of Humanity Distinguished Alumni Award At the Youth Assembly. The College of Mount Saint Vincent also acknowledged his contributions to global enlightenment, student consciousness, and systemic change in June 2020, granting him the Vincent De-Paul Award. He further received the Frédéric Ozanam Award in 2021. Wantoe was named one of eight ‘Young Pacesetters for African Development’ by the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network in June 2022, during the Africa Day celebrations at the United Nations Trustee Chambers.

Wantoe earned a Master Degree in Public Policy from the University of Oxford.