How does AFS-USA, a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization with more than 70 years of experience, continue to improve the ways that it engages with local communities? At one level, the organization is always focused on growing and welcoming new members from the cities and towns it serves. But embracing change and becoming more inclusive takes intention and training.

As part of its current strategic plan, AFS-USA Organizational Development team has been working closely with representatives from several dozen volunteer area teams on its “Leadership Initiative for Teams” (LIFT). Starting as an in-person workshop held in December 2018, the LIFT training and mentorship program has empowered teams to develop awareness of their own leadership strengths, enable better collaboration and effectively implement AFS-USA’s intercultural learning opportunities, which including host family and study abroad programs.

In the past year, teams began to organize and implement projects created through the LIFT program. [View a photo slideshow of the team projects.] Below are a few of the projects that have been completed so far:

Austin Area Team

Project: Organizing an “International Day” event with dance performances and an art auction to raise awareness for local AFS scholarship opportunities. (October 26, 2019)

Greater Cleveland Area Team

Project: Developing a more meaningful connection with Cleveland International Gardens by meeting with them to understand their needs and how AFS can be more involved. (Spring 2019)

Greater Illinois Area Team

Project: Organizing a book drive with local libraries in need of book donations, and creating a book plate to place in each book to carry the AFS message forward. (July 27, 2019)

Greater Puget Sound Area Team

Project: Volunteering for a habitat restoration activity with a local aquarium. (April 27-28, 2019)

Greater Los Angeles Area Team

Project 1: Walking tour to learn about the culture of the Thai-American community in Los Angeles. (June 8, 2019)
Project 2: Conducting a professional development leadership program for AFS volunteers. (November 9, 2019)

Michigan Area Team

Project: Organizing a “Day of the Dead 5k Run” to building relationship between volunteers and local community in Detroit area. (November 2, 2019)

Midland Central Area Team

Project: Inviting the town to participate in a networking session at a bakery, with an intercultural learning speaker. (April 20, 2019)

Missouri Gateway Area Team

Project: Planning and executing a tabling event to promote AFS at a local “Festival of Nations” event. (August 24-25, 2019)

Northwoods Gateway Area Team

Project: Connecting and volunteering with various community groups for a highway clean-up, creating a school mural, painting “AFS” rocks and county fair community service. (December 2018 through August 2019)

One World Area Team

Project: Coordinating with local schools to advertise and organize a kite building and flying event. (June 1, 2019)

Pacific Cascades Area Team

Project: Organizing a “take your daughters and sons to work” day (April 23, 2019)

San Francisco Area Team

Project: Recruiting students for AFS-USA’s Faces of America scholarship through a relationship with a local chapter of Minds Matter. (May 5, 2019)

Silver & Gold Area Team

Project: Hosting an international dance event in connection with a local dance studio. (January 2019)

Susquehanna Valley Area Team

Project: Holding a dinner to promote the local Speedwell Scholarship, along with a T-shirt sale. (June 8, 2019)

World Flags Area Team

Project: Constructing a “peace pole,” to be decorated by volunteers, students, and grammar school pupils. In conjunction, a dinner with music and a peace ceremony was held. (October 17, 2019)

Learn more about AFS-USA’s local community engagement and volunteer opportunities.