By Aadil F. , Manager – Communications, Branding & Volunteer Development, AFS Intercultural Programs India

My exchange year changed the way I looked at the world around me and gave me what I would call a Glocal perspective.”, says Akash, an alumnus turned volunteer while reflecting on his new initiative to raise awareness and induce action in school students towards attaining the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

Like Akash, many other alumni who choose to volunteer with AFS India have similar stories to share. The most impactful element of the AFS Program is the continued journey. Once an AFS educational exchange program is over, an AFSer shifts from being an exchange student learning to become a global citizen to a volunteer acting as a global citizen. The most recent survey done by AFS on Volunteer Satisfaction outlines that 89 percent of volunteers feel that their work makes an impact in their communities and 90 percent are satisfied by volunteering with AFS in India. 

My exchange experience with AFS helped me understand the importance of community service and its sustainability.”, says Wasudev, an alumnus turned volunteer, who started his initiative Silaigram which sells handmade cloth bags made by underprivileged women in the rural area. 

A journey as an AFS volunteer is a rewarding one. Being part of the AFS community means being around exceptional changemakers and innovators. With their selfless desire to address the challenges of the grassroots and the laser-sharp focus on creating positive change in the community, AFS volunteers design and implement local impact projects with a global viewpoint. 

With a belief in the power of the UN SDGs, AFS has aligned itself to Goal #4 (Quality Education) and Goal #16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) through the 3 impact pillars of its Network Strategy that underscore the need for Developing Active Global Citizens, Globalizing Schools & Institutions and Expanding Access to Intercultural Education. AFS Volunteers, Students, Educators & other stakeholders have been advocating for these goals in around 90 countries where AFS programs exist. In the recent United Nations SDGs Campaign that happened through the portal, AFS India was an Action Partner where our volunteers designed and implemented innovative social impact projects and SDG awareness campaigns.

AFS volunteers don’t create impact by chance but through a carefully thought design. AFS has a learning curriculum in place to teach Active Global Citizenship and to build Intercultural Competency which has been built through our experience and research of running educational exchange programs for 70+ years. This learning is imparted to students, teachers, host families and volunteers through regular experiential training. Using this expertise, AFS has also created a Global Competence Readiness Index for schools to help schools identify the gaps in their curriculum to create Active Global Citizens with 21st Century Skills.

To create a just, peaceful and sustainable world, AFS India volunteers have been working on areas of actions such as gender inequality, interfaith harmony, beating plastic pollution, beach cleaning, taking quality education to the underserved communities, clean energy, community enhancement, peace education and much more. 

Today’s world requires volunteers who are civic-minded and ready to think of sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations, as mentioned in the Brundtland Commission Report. If you believe that you have got the potential to bring a positive change in the community and have the resilience to fight alongside the community of changemakers to develop a better tomorrow, reach out to us, become an AFS volunteer. If you’re an organization aiming to collaborate to advance a sustainable future, we’d be happy to partner.

AFS India is privileged and proud to have a group of dedicated and committed volunteers in more than 25 cities who are actively engaged in meaningful social impact projects and inspiring others in their community. The old adage ‘the change starts with you’ is what drives AFS volunteers towards improving the 21st-century imbalanced world to build a sustainable tomorrow.