Westfield Washington Public Library earns national AFS-USA Community Changemaker Award

(From The Hamilton County Reporter, June 2, 2023)
Thirteen winners across the United State have been distinguished by AFS-USA as the first winners of the Community Changemaker Awards, including the Westfield Washington Public Library.

The Community Changemaker Awards were created by AFS-USA as part of the organization’s 75th Anniversary. AFS-USA, a leader in international high school exchange, is a non-profit educational organization that is volunteer-based, with more than 3,000 volunteers across the country.

Westfield Washington Public Library won an award for allowing AFS-USA to use its spaces – particularly for interviews of students who want to study abroad through an AFS-USA program.

Reflecting on its 75th Anniversary, the organization wanted to recognize the people, groups, organizations, and companies that support the work of the AFS-USA volunteer teams and its mission of developing active global citizens, through delivering meaningful intercultural experiences, to create a more just and peaceful world. It is a prestigious award that acknowledges and honors the exceptional work of these Community Changemakers.

“The theme of our 75th Anniversary is Your Story is Our Story: 75 Years of Creating Global Citizens,” AFS-USA President and CEO Tara Hofmann said. “While it’s impossible to measure the impact AFS-USA continues to have in communities now and over the last 75 years, we know there are thousands of individuals and groups outside of AFS that support our work and mission in creating global citizens who help to build a more just and peaceful world.”

Each individual or organization has contributed to their community and AFS’s mission to help people develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.

AFS-USA has a more than 50-year partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). AFS maintains an alum network of more than 500,000 individuals across the globe and is supported by over 50,000 AFS volunteers worldwide.

Over the past 75 years, AFS has impacted hundreds of thousands of people. Some accomplishments include:

•More than 150,000 international high school students have participated in exchange programs with the U.S.
•Over 81,000 U.S. families have hosted an exchange student.
•More than 50,000 volunteers across the globe have dedicated their time to creating a more just and peaceful world.

Hosting exchange students

AFS-USA arranges host families for international high school exchange students annually. These young people represent more than 80 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Turkey, Egypt, Denmark, Italy, Germany, and more. They are among the more than 1,000 international AFS students hosted in the U.S. yearly.

“We are universal creatures. It’s very easy to be comfortable staying with our own tribes, but the more you get out and meet others from around the world, the more you understand how alike we are and cut through the rhetoric and what our differences are,” said Tim, a host parent of a French student named Lison. “You start really appreciating others, and not only appreciating, but wanting to interact more … the more people that host, the more we can spread friendliness among everyone.”

All types of individuals and families are encouraged to host, including those from multi-national backgrounds, those with and without children, those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and more.

Through AFS-USA’s partnership with the Department of State, AFS-USA is able to host students awarded exchange opportunities to the U.S. through one of the following programs: The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad (YES) program, and the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX). American students can apply to go abroad through the YES Abroad and National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) programs.

For more information on AFS-USA, to welcome or host an exchange student in your community, or to volunteer with AFS-USA, visit afsusa.org.