Before COVID-19, AFS has much relied on the power of building connections and sharing experiences in person. Since the start of the pandemic, we see the tireless work AFS Partners around the globe put into engaging volunteers online. When we think about online volunteering, we should always consider keeping key volunteer traditions alive. With a bit of creativity and thinking outside the box, we can reinvent core activities.

One particular volunteer project has been gaining popularity during the past years. Volunteer exchanges, both national and international, have become an exciting addition to our volunteer activity repertoire. Volunteers of different chapters traveled to each other to learn more about the local culture, how AFS functions there, and to build stronger connections.

Nowadays, we have to get a little creative, and that is exactly what AFS India did. They asked volunteers and teachers to share their ideas on how to promote engagement within the AFS community. From this was born the idea of VeRVE – a Virtual Regional Volunteer Exchange between Bangalore and Nashik chapters. The 2,5-hour session took volunteers from Nashik on an interactive virtual journey around the state of Karnataka. They talked about the cultural specifications of the region, as well as its unique traditions and even played some games.

 

Volunteer exchange initiatives can take many forms.

You may decide to want a few of your chapters to work together on an AFS or social initiative. You can also combine it with a learning opportunity and target a topic people are interested in. It can also be a platform for enhancing collaboration between AFS Partners if you decide to facilitate an exchange between chapters in different countries.

Going beyond the conventional ideas of volunteer exchange, we can also work on projects for a wider audience. We recently announced the continuation of our mobility programs in 2020. To keep our future participants interested, volunteer exchanges can also be turned into an exchange of experiences. Our alumni volunteer force is the living breathing example of the AFS effect. They have been deeply impacted by our mission, and their experiences are of utmost value to anyone thinking about starting their own intercultural journey. The team at AFS International shared a collection of ideas to keep our participants engaged. Those resources can provide concrete ideas on how volunteers can share their knowledge and make an impact on future global citizens.

It is exciting to see the first steps of a lively virtual volunteering experience, and we cannot wait to see how this will shape our future.