AFS takes pride in being a lively learning environment not only for program beneficiaries but also for volunteers. Our volunteers drive innovative change and represent our values. Until recently, our volunteer activities revolved around facilitating programs, and the tasks that come with that. However, COVID-19 has had a significant effect on the way we function as an organization. The vast majority of our participants returned home early. With that, most of the program-related volunteer tasks are now no longer present in their usual form.

As we transform our approach to international mobility and education, we also have to rethink the way we connect with our volunteers. When engaging in everyday tasks is not an option, we feel that focusing on the sense of community is ever more important. On the one hand, it is pressing to be inventive in our functioning. On the other hand though, maybe now we actually have the time to really reflect on the connections that were built.

While volunteering for AFS, one creates long-lasting relations. The connections that are built on the basis of shared experiences and values are unique. They transform and shape us as people. So let’s all take a moment to remember those people that had an impact on us, and all those that we impacted.

AFS Partners around the world are sharing beautiful stories of togetherness while being physically apart. These stories help remind us that we are never alone.

Returnees of AFS India are sharing their stories of resilience in their newsletter.

The Instagram account of AFS USA recently featured alumni in 2 wonderful videos: a video of appreciation from a Finnish returnee and a message of care from the 2017/18 Dayton Area Team.

AFS Iceland has challenged its repatriated participants to share some positivity and created a video with the outcomes.

AFS Poland has published stories of their hosted and sent participants who had to return home early in their monthly newsletter.

YES Pre-Departure Orientation facilitators from AFS Malaysia prepared an encouraging music video for their participants.

A Hungarian AFS local chapter launched an Instagram series with memorandums from their participants.

“I am immensely grateful that I got the chance to be an exchange student in Hungary. AFS has helped and supported me all along the way and I got to know wonderful people. Hungary is no longer just a country for me. It is my second home, where my second family lives.”

The examples above give a testament to the power of #AFSeffect, and how intercultural connections change our lives forever.