The AFS Story
Welcome to the AFS family, a family of global friendship that includes people from all walks of life and virtually every corner of the earth!
AFS began as a volunteer ambulance corps created in 1915. Our fascinating history starts with the American Field Service Ambulance Drivers and how AFS was transformed from a wartime humanitarian aid organization into a groundbreaking international secondary school exchange, volunteer, and intercultural learning organization with a bold mission: to help build a more peaceful world by promoting understanding among cultures.
75 years later, the AFS Mission continues to respond to the needs of an increasingly complex world, offering programs abroad in 45+ countries and hosting international students from more than 90 countries. True to the spirit of our founders, these life-changing intercultural learning programs are made possible by the dedicated work of AFS Volunteers—more than 3000 in the U.S. and over 50,000 worldwide.
Our mission today is to empower people to become globally engaged citizens by delivering meaningful intercultural experiences that provide the knowledge and skills needed to help create a more just and peaceful world.
Watch this video to learn more about the AFS Story.
AFS is a Volunteer Driven Organization
One of the things that sets AFS apart from many other exchange programs is that we are a not-for-profit organization with a long tradition of volunteerism dating back to the American Field Service, the volunteer ambulance corps. AFS recognizes that volunteers are and have always been the key to the organization’s continued success.
AFS is supported by over 50,000 volunteers worldwide, making it one of the largest volunteer-driven organizations in the world. Most AFS Volunteers are people whose lives have been touched by an AFS experience in some way already and have a great passion for the organization.
You will rely on AFS Volunteers before, during, and after your AFS hosting experience. All host families are assigned a local support liaison, a volunteer who will help support you through your experience with AFS. Many volunteers are experienced host families or former participants themselves, and thus have experience with other cultures and with the emotional adjustment cycles of participants on programs abroad. Volunteers also undergo training on various topics depending on their role/s within the organization. For example, your liaison and other volunteers complete training on how to prevent and identify inappropriate behaviors and sexual abuse and immediate steps to take when any related concern arises, conflict resolution, and effective intercultural communication. AFS Volunteers run most parts of the AFS Program including local orientations, which they customize for their local area.
A Proud Tradition of Host Family Homestay
As an AFS Host Family, you provide much more than meals and a bed. We know that families in every society are the primary “culture carriers.” This is why the AFS experience is founded on the host family homestay. By participating in family life—daily routines, holidays, and chores— AFS Participants gain a true understanding of the elements that make up American culture. AFS is more than simply an exchange program; the aspects of the AFS experience turn contact between cultures into rare and lasting bonds between students and families.
While we hope the articles and resources in Help & Learning for Host Families will be a valuable tool for you and your family, the most important thing to remember is that you are never alone as an AFS Host Family. The hallmark of AFS Programs is the support we provide to our participants and host families. Whether by way of local AFS Volunteers or our staff at AFS National Office, we provide a “safety net” to help ensure that your AFS experience is a valuable one. This safety net has been put into place because we at AFS understand that we are working with unique individuals, all with distinct personalities.
In addition to providing a safety net, we endeavor to partner with you on your journey to develop as a global family and provide an enjoyable, rewarding and transformative experience for the whole family through the Host Family Learning Journey, built on the objectives of:
- Communication Skills & Empathy
- Intercultural Competence
- Global Concern
Created to engage families before, during and after their hosting experience and using the AFS Host Family Learning Objectives as a foundation, this Intercultural Learning Journey helps families:
- Explore and build their intercultural awareness and understanding as individual global citizens and as a family and
- Better support their hosted student’s integration into a new culture, as well as their intercultural educational experience as outlined in the AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum.
Remember, there is NO single formula for success. We accept that every placement we make may or may not be the right match. While the majority of our placements are successful, one of the strengths of AFS is its ability to recognize that sometimes a placement simply does not work. AFS Volunteers will work with you and your student to help ensure that your family and the AFS Participant leave the experience feeling satisfied with each other’s efforts and supported by AFS.
We wish you well as your family embarks on this challenging, stimulating, and meaningful adventure. As with many things in life, the level of effort put into the hosting experience can have a big impact on what you gain from it. We hope you will take advantage of the many tools, resources, and people available to assist and support you in this process and that the experience will result in international kinship and intercultural understanding for your family, as it has been for so many others. Call on AFS at any time because we are here for you.