|In front of Galatti House
on 43d Street: left to right,
Sachiye Mizuki, Dot Field, George Edgell, Assistant Director, and Stephen Galatti, Director General, AFS International Programs, 1961. In the window of the new building may be seen the faces of directors of AFS in other countries assembled for a world conference.
To Apple: 1921-1991 AFS Volunteer: ME 30, FFC, CM 94, IB 60-T
Secretary, AFS International Student Programs, 1960-1990
Since 1947, AFS has been engaged in the risky business of taking young people out of their own homes, transporting them to another country, and placing them in homes and high schools there. During this period, students from ninety-two countries have spent a school year or a summer on this program; and in the process an equivalent number of families have been presented with the challenge and have had an unforgettable experience.
It is not always easy to take a stranger into one's home with all the investment of time, energy, and effort; nor is it easy for a young person to leave his home and his community. But the rewards may be beyond one's most extravagant hopes. The dividends for one's family are like an annuity that pays off with a lifetime of friendship and understanding, and even of love.
To understand the essence of AFS and the vitality of its spirit of volunteerism, one must know something of the history of the American Field Service. Former drivers, who were also involved in the beginnings of the student exchange program, when asked what they saw as the real purpose of starting such a program stressed the desire "to give others the opportunity we had to learn to know people from another country and another culture on a personal basis."
The drivers of World Wars One and Two were all volunteers. Whatever their motives in joining the Field Service--and these motives were very diverse--they did not have to join, but did so of their own free will. The money for equipment and operating expenses was for the most part raised by volunteers, from people and organizations who gave voluntarily. People who worked in the office in this country either were volunteers or worked for a pittance. The spirit of the Field Service was "make do" and "cope."
The AFS International Scholarship organization is firmly rooted in the history of the American Field Service, a voluntary ambulance service organized during World War I. The Field Service was reactivated on an expanded basis in World War II, and served in the Near East, Africa, Syria, India, Burma, and Italy, as well as in France and Germany and with the British Liberation Army. It seemed a logical step that men with an interest in international friendship and international service after World War II should dream of a program promoting an exchange of ideas and a sharing of cultures in daily living.
The purposes of AFS International Scholarships spring then from the desires of its founders for a humanitarian service-oriented activity, with programs seeking to encourage individuals to understand and practice the art of peacefully and constructively resolving their cultural differences. The effort is sustained by the belief of AFS that people skilled in this art are needed for the establishment of peace within nations and between nations.
The AFS office in New York is the coordinating center of an extensive and complex organization of volunteer and professional workers throughout many countries of the world. Here are located the chief executive and fiscal offices of the international organization, as well as the directors of the programs from and to the United States. The Board of Trustees, international in its membership, set policy for AFS as a nonprofit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of New York, and chartered to engage in international and domestic educational exchange.
In the international headquarters building in New York are located also the professional staff of the AFS/US programs. This staff is responsible for coordinating the work of over two thousand volunteer chapters in the selection of host families in the U.S. and of candidates for the outgoing programs, for assisting families and chapters in the care of resident students from overseas, and for providing for the orientation, counseling, and reorientation of these students. The staff has a responsibility for the final selection and the placement of student candidates submitted by AFS representatives abroad, and of candidates submitted by local U.S. volunteer committees.
Major emphasis must be placed on the AFS dependence on many thousands of volunteer workers throughout the world. Volunteer host families, selection committees, school and chapter counselors, student club members, and fund raisers and contributors are all vital to the continuance and the success of the programs and the individual experiences. Many of these volunteers come from the numbers of those who have been participants in the programs as AFS students or family members.
In other AFS countries, the programs have depended largely on the work of returnees (alumni of the programs for students to the U.S. and of the MNP program). A preponderance of those on the professional staffs in these countries have also been returnees, and in turn the professional AFS representatives in each country are assisted by local committees of returnees in the selection of student candidates and host families, and in the orientation, counseling, and care of students in residence in their country. In many AFS countries, the National Returnee Board makes AFS policy, raises funds, and acts as an executive committee for the professional AFS representative.
In the thirty-year history of AFS International Scholarships, the numbers of student participants had in September, 1976, reached the impressive totals of 53,079 in the program to the U.S., 31,623 Americans Abroad, 134 Educators, 422 Multi National Program students, and 731 Domestic Program participants. When one remembers that at least one host family, and sometimes more, one natural family, and one school have participated in each experience, one gets an idea of the impact the programs can have. It is impossible to estimate the total number of lives touched in one way or another whether it be the lives of family members, or students in the host school and the sending school, or faculty members, or community residents. It is the purpose of this somewhat informal history to touch on the highlights of the AFSIS development: to do more than that would be a task beyond the author's powers, and beyond the time available. It is unfortunate that only a few of the many thousands of people who have made AFS history can be mentioned.
Part One : The Early Years