AFS was founded in response to a global crisis in 1947 by American Field Service Volunteer Ambulance Drivers. In times like these, AFS Alumni around the world have demonstrated that it’s in our DNA to respond quickly and with compassion.
In this issue of the newsletter, we are bringing you some of the incredible stories of AFS Alumni, who are, like our founding ambulance drivers, going above and beyond the call of duty as active global citizens in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These stories filled us with pride and we hope it does the same for you. Please continue to share your stories of resilience, global citizenship, generosity, hope and compassion across social media platforms on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook Returnee Reconnect Group. Please connect to our pages, comment on and share posts.
If you have a story to tell, we’d like to hear from you at [email protected].
ALUMNI ON THE FRONTLINES
AFS Alumni on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak are going above and beyond the call of duty to stop the spread of the COVID-19, while helping people cope. AFSers are caring for the sick and most vulnerable, and helping others meet essential needs. Based on a recent alumni survey, 11% of AFS-USA alums work as doctors and nurses, most of whom are serving on the frontlines today.
Our deepest gratitude goes to healthcare workers and essential service providers fighting to “flatten the curve” in the US and abroad. We applaud AFS host father and pulmonary critical care specialist from Kansas Dr. Steven Short, who relocated to New York to provide care for patients at New York City’s largest COVID-19 hospital. Listen to his story here. We are honored to recognize public health leader Dr. Shigeru Omi, AFS Alum from Japan to the US, 1967, for serving as the Japanese government’s top advisor on COVID-19. He was the regional director of the World Health Organization and helped eradicate polio in 37 countries. And we are humbled by everyday heroes like nurse LeeAnn Pinchock, an AFS Returnee from US to Germany, 1999-2000, working in a COVID-19 ICU unit at an inner city hospital in Flint, MI. Read her touching story.
THANK YOU to all AFS-USA Alumni and alumni around the world who are responding with expertise, empathy and courage every day to the benefit of all during this worldwide pandemic.
EXPRESSING DEEP GRATITUDE TO AFS-USA VOLUNTEERS
More than 3,700 people in our nation are AFS-USA Volunteers who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to support AFS students and families through this unprecedented crisis. Read some of their personal stories here and enjoy a heartfelt video of cameo messages from AFS Staff, some of whom are alumni themselves—all of whom express their gratitude.
HIGHLIGHTING THE EXTRAORDINARY STRENGTH OF AFS-USA FAMILIES
During this unprecedented time in our world and in the history of AFS-USA, AFS Families have shown trust, strength, and support as AFS-USA programs ended early for students being hosted in the US and abroad. “Receiving news from AFS that my daughter Dulcie—and all AFS students—would be returning home was so reassuring. But it also showed the situation mandated such action,” said Dr. Anne Foster, an AFS-USA Alum who studied in South Africa in 1978. Dr. Foster, Chief Medical Officer for Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center, knows that her daughter’s early return was necessary, and she also knows that Dulcie’s stay in France remains incredibly powerful.
AFS Families are also a reservoir of compassion and generosity. AFS Host Mom Heidi said: “We hosted Zaikang Lin for the 2015-2016 school year…Two weeks ago, [Zaikang’s father] texted my husband to say he was sending masks. It was such a generous, kind gesture. Today, we delivered 1,000 masks to UW Health… where they are receiving donations and 1,000 to a physician at SSM Health.” To say we’re proud would be an understatement. This is global citizenship in action.
HELPING 300 RECENT AFS-USA ALUMNI EASE BACK INTO THEIR LIVES
As most of us who have been abroad know, returning home from an exchange program can sometime present challenges such as reverse culture shock and a sense of longing and loss for one’s host community. We know that the distress caused by this pandemic and the abrupt end to our 2020 programs has made that readjustment more difficult for many.
To help students in their adjustment process, AFS-USA offers special re-entry orientation webinars, online well-being and self-care resources, and other virtual opportunities to help students, and host families as well. AFS-USA is also providing an opportunity for US Returnees to earn a Global Competence Certificate (GCC), Special COVID-19 Edition, an online course created by AFS International for AFS Partners around the globe specifically designed for students affected by the pandemic.
AFS in the News
WHY WE’LL NEED EXCHANGE STUDENT HOSTS MORE THAN NEXT YEAR
AFS-USA is proud to be featured in an article on the hosting experience during COVID-19 and the importance of student exchange via Matador, the web’s largest independent travel media site. Matador has won awards for excellence in travel journalism, both as a website and for individual print and video stories from the North American Journalists Association and other organizations. Enjoy!
US EXCHANGE ORGS UNITE IN SUPPORT OF STUDENTS
“When needed, AFS-USA provided repatriation flights at no extra cost to the participants and chartered flights when commercial flights were unavailable,” explained AFS-USA President Tara Hofmann (in this article in The PIE News). AFS-USA is mentioned for providing mental health resources, virtual intercultural activities, and online learning for repatriated program participants.
LOCAL AFS EXCHANGE STUDENTS PITCH IN TO MAKE MASKS
AFS Exchange Students always make an impact in their communities. These AFSers are no different. Seven AFS hosted students, who are “sheltering in place” in the US, joined forces to produce masks from kits put together by Robbin Lang, a creative and outstanding volunteer with the AFS-USA Greater Illinois Team. They joined a campaign to help make 25,000 masks for places in need.
EXCHANGE STUDENT GETS SURPRISE SEND OFF
AFS-USA exchange student, Ruban Marugan from Malaysia, who participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, got a surprise send-off in his host community of Adams, NY. Ruban’s program ended early because of the COVID-19 pandemic and so his host town celebrated him in true hero style with a good-bye parade.
ADVOCATING FOR HIGH SCHOOL EXCHANGE
AFS-USA and the entire exchange industry in the U.S. needs your support in advocating for high school exchanges which, as you know, are the backbone of American people-to-people diplomacy. AFS-USA is joining in the industry’s effort to ask Congress to include the high school exchange community in any new relief measures passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge you to join us now by contacting your Representatives and Senators. It will take less than five minutes. Thank you!
Read the exchange community letter here requesting that in addition to being included in relief measures, the tax deduction for volunteer host families be increased from $50.00 per month to $400.00 per month. This will provide relief to our American host families, as well as an incentive for more families to continue to host students. Please take the time to make your voice heard through email and calls, and please pass this on to others!
SUPPORTING EDUCATORS DURING COVID-19
AFS-USA is ready to support educators in building a virtual learning community, engaging students in intercultural thinking and fostering discussion and reflection. Our Education and External Outreach team created professional development webinars that combine free educational technology platforms with intercultural learning activities to make it possible for you to have meaningful lessons in your content area.
Educators from elementary to high school and across every content area are encouraged to attend. Professional Development Certificates will be provided.
Save the date and join in #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of unity to take place on May 5, in a response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. Please support AFS-USA and help us with the additional expenses incurred during COVID-19 along with special initiatives to help more global citizens follow in our founders’ footsteps. Donate early here.
AFS is saddened to announce the passing of two AFS WWII Volunteer Ambulance Drivers and lifelong supporters, Richard Hunt and Craig Gilbert who have left us with a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Richard M. Hunt, who pursued a career in academia at Harvard University, and who maintained a lifelong connection to AFS through philanthropy, died Friday in Lincoln, Mass. He was 93. Hunt was a student at Yale when he enlisted as a volunteer Ambulance Driver in the American Field Service (AFS) and shipped out to Colombo, Sri Lanka, with his AFS Unit IB-57 (India Burma 57) in May of 1945. He was eighteen years old. From Colombo, the Unit was ordered to Calcutta, India, and then to Secundarabad—a small town in south India—which had a large military camp. Rick spent the next eight months there, during which time he had the opportunity to meet Mahatma Gandhi and hear him speak in person. Rick is survived by his wife Priscilla Stevenson Hunt, their three children, William Hunt, Helen Hunt Bouscaren, and Susan Hunt Hollingsworth, and eight grandchildren.
Craig Gilbert, a documentarian whose candid and controversial 1973 PBS series An American Family would later be credited as a forerunner of reality TV (to his chagrin), died April 10 in New York City following a brief illness. He was 94.