Volunteers serve as the driving force of AFS by helping students, host families and schools learn to live together. They facilitate the transformative AFS experience—what we call the #AFSeffect—in others.  And volunteers help keep our organization strong by serving on boards, work groups and task forces to constantly drive improvement.

Although rethinking our volunteer experience required questioning assumptions, the ultimate role of AFS volunteers remains true: Bringing people together to promote intercultural understanding is more important than ever. 

Keeping this in mind, the AFS International Organizational Development team also explored what volunteers want to gain personally and professionally while supporting students, host families and schools. The answer was loud and clear: As they help others, volunteers believe their AFS experience should help them learn, grow and make a difference too.

The new AFS Strategic Framework for Volunteer Development introduced in October 2015 sets the foundation to make this happen. 

Empowering young AFS volunteers

How can young volunteers have a bigger voice in AFS? That was the focus of the AFS Youth Volunteer Forum held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in April 2015, sponsored by AFS Argentina & Uruguay and organized with AFS International. Fifty young AFSers from 24 countries brainstormed ways to involve more young people in AFS governance, decision-making and planning for the future. Forum outcomes reinforced discussions that were already taking place among young AFS volunteers, which then resulted in the AFS Green Paper: Empowering Young People for a Bigger, Better, Stronger AFS submitted to the AFS Board of Trustees. Their suggestions also informed the AFS Strategic Framework for Volunteer Development.

AFS Malaysia and AFS International forum highlights the importance of volunteerism to civil society

The Volunteering & Growing Impact Forum, organized by Yayasan AFS Antarabudaya Malaysia (AFS Malaysia) and AFS International in October 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, explored how active volunteerism in the region contributes to a stronger civil society in the age of global citizenship. This essential conversation came on the heels of the 2015 UN General Assembly meeting where volunteerism was declared “vital” to the success of the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDG), and an “integral component of the new development agenda.” Distinguished speakers represented four local nonprofits: 1Malaysia For Youth (iM4U), MERCY Malaysia—The Malaysian Medical Relief Society, Sols 24/7 Malaysia and AFS Malaysia.