We congratulate 2021 AFS Volunteer Award winners:

AFS Galatti Award

Established in 1983, the AFS Galatti Award honors AFS volunteers whose longtime commitment, dedication and exceptional journey with the organization have advanced the AFS mission and created an impact. It is awarded in honor of Stephen Galatti, who was Director General of AFS for more than 28 years (1936-1964) and who built and transformed AFS into a world-wide organization that promotes peace and global awareness through intercultural learning experiences.

(Galatti) Zhang Xiuying

Zhang Xiuying, AFS China

Zhang Xiuying has been a volunteer since 2004 when her school applied to become an AFS school. She is not only a volunteer, a host mom, a contact person but also a teacher, a local director, and a facilitator of intercultural learning for AFS participants and volunteers. 

With all the roles she has been in, her most valuable contribution has been her work in the Hebei province. She developed the “International Teacher Team” training program helping to connect outstanding young teachers and academic leaders from China with peers in more than 20 countries. Over the past 16 years, more than 16,000 people have been impacted by her work. With all of her efforts, Zhang Xiuying was awarded the AAI 2019 Outstanding Volunteer.

In 2005, Ms. Zhang hosted Misa, an AFS student from Japan. When COVID-19 broke she coordinated with schools in Hebei province and formed a strong team to ensure the repatriation of AFS students. During the pandemic, she also made sure training for volunteers would still be underway for more than 700 AFS volunteers in the province.

(Galatti) Benthe_Johansson

Benthe Johansson, AFS Denmark

Over the almost 50 years of dedicated volunteering, Benthe has touched many lives with her smile, her positive approach and strong belief in the AFS mission. Benthe’s focus has always been on the cultural encounters on the individual and local level. 

Benthe’s journey began in 1972 when she was a teacher in Greenland. A colleague who was an AFS alumni started introducing students to AFS and included Benthe in the work of preparing the applicants for the AFS experience. In 1984 she established the local AFS chapter in Sydfyn, Denmark of which she’s still today the chairperson. 

One of the main motivating factors for Benthe is to help solve conflicts and challenges between hosted students and host families. Finding common solutions together with the people involved gives Benthe great joy and satisfaction. Benthe is always happy to share her experiences and her vast knowledge with fellow volunteers and staff. She has done so on numerous occasions in workshops and seminars or one-one with a fellow volunteer who needed a bit of advice.

Peggy and Art Howe Award

Established in 2016, Peggy and Art Howe Award honors the outstanding service of AFS volunteer families. This award is inspired by the Howe family, who volunteered for AFS for more than six decades. Art Howe was a volunteer AFS Ambulance Driver in World War II, President of AFS (1965-1971), and Life Trustee until his passing in 2014.

(Howe) Aline and René Lauzier

AFS Canada

Aline and René Lauzier

The Lauzier’s AFS adventure began in 1998. Following a TV report and an advertisement in a local newspaper, Aline and her husband decided to become a host family for a young Icelandic student for a year. They are longtime volunteers and have welcomed 9 students to their home.

Since their involvement with the Trois-Rivières Chapters, 363 students have been hosted, and 160 have travelled to a program abroad. Aline has been recognized nationally as the leader for the best-structured chapter ensuring sustainability. René and Aline have have supported each other in their AFS chapter leadership position and both gained the respect of their volunteers. They started with 4 volunteers including themselves and now they count 60 volunteers in their chapter, thanks to their warmth, big hearts and leadership.

Because of all their work, achievements and dedication to the AFS mission, they have built a strong, autonomous team and developed tools and methods which inspire everyone in AFS Canada.

Young AFS Volunteer Award

Volunteerism has an important role to play in harnessing the potential of young people, and in AFS, young volunteers make fundamental contributions to promote intercultural understanding. Established in 2015, the Young AFS Volunteer Award for Outstanding Service recognizes AFS volunteers under the age of 30 whose exceptional contributions to the organization have made a difference in advancing the mission and goals of AFS.

(Young) Jonte Pietsch

Jonte Pietsch, AFS Germany

Shortly after completing his AFS exchange program in Panamá, Jonte got involved with his local chapter in Hamburg in 2013. Sending, hosting, seminars – wherever something needed to be done, Jonte would jump right in to help.

He quickly emerged as a space opener, motivator, supporter and implementer, and soon he was elected local coordinator. Starting in 2018, Jonte expanded his work joining several working groups and embracing responsibilities on a national scale. Many participants look up to him and thanks to Jonte they are keen to join as volunteers as soon as their program ends.

Through his support in the digital area, the implementation of online exchange formats was made possible when sudden border closures and contact restrictions made AFS’s work difficult. When it became impossible to meet up for events due to COVID, he tirelessly helped conceptualize, plan and execute digital events for participants and volunteers. 

Jonte empowers people and then gives them the confidence that they can work on their own. Jonte patiently shares his knowledge and ensures that everyone can complete their tasks in the best possible way. For younger volunteers, Jonte serves as a role model; experienced volunteers appreciate him as a reliable sidekick. 

(Young) Sweta

Sweta Sadhu, AFS India

Since returning from an AFS exchange program with a YES scholarship in 2017, Sweta has proactively participated in AFS India’s activities: be it community service, orientations, counseling, training, seminars, webinars, workshops, or alumni engagement tasks.

Her leadership, oratory, and communication skills have helped the Gandhinagar chapter abundantly, and through her role, has been able to teach and engage dozens of sending students every year. Being the Sending Coordinator of her local chapter, she is in contact communications with the community and schools, actively seeking to expand intercultural education. Sweeta also helps in the screening and the selection process for the YES students of her local chapter, leads the chapter level Pre-Departure and Post-Arrival Orientations and motivates returnees to register as AFS volunteers. Through the pandemic, she has kept the chapter volunteers engaged through interesting virtual activities and recently has planned physical events with proper safety measures. 

For the past year, Sweeta has been an intern with AFS India, leading alumni engagement initiatives. As part of this role, she headed a national level alumni initiative: the Youth for Global Empathy project.

Globally connected through volunteerism

AFS thanks all our 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!