AFS ZUL: over de organisatie

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Over de organisatie


structuur van AFS-Vlaanderen

De historiek van AFS (American Field Sevice)
gaat bijna 100 jaar terug.
Ze heeft haar wortels in de moed en zelfopoffering
van enkele Amerikaanse vrijwillige ambulanciers
die tijdens WO I hun humane diensten aanboden
op de Europese slagvelden.
Na WO II ontstond de idee
om ook buiten oorlogsomstandigheden
mensen uit verschillende landen met elkaar in contact te brengen
om begrip en waardering voor ieders cultuur te bevorderen.
De basisidee van AFS was geboren!

Ieper 11 mei 2008:
90 jaar American Field Service, 60 jaar uitwisselingen met België en 30 jaar AFS Vlaanderen.
Dat werd heel plechtig gevierd!
Toespraak Yves Leterme, Eerste Minister
Toespraak van Lieven Bauwens, voorzitter van de Raad van Bestuur van AFS Interculturele Programma's vzw
• Toespraak van Tachi (Francisco) Cazal, Francisco (Tachi) Cazal, President and CEO of AFS International

"I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of AFS in Belgium in this special place and in this special day – Mother’s Day

The AFS organization in Belgium was established in 1948, barely some months after the AFS World War Two ambulance drivers decided to start the AFS exchange program in New York City in 1947. Belgium was one of the first among the 10 AFS countries and in 1948 it sent four Belgian participants to the United States for their exchange program. We are honored to have today with us a participants from one of the first groups whose family was crucial in setting the organization in Belgium.

The history of AFS in Belgium has been extraordinary since those first four students ventured out of a war-torn Europe. These Belgian participants were pioneers who traveled to the United States and accepted the challenge of spending a year with a host family and attend school in a country with a culture that was completely unknown to them. They had gone through the terrible conflict of WWII, and yet they were willing to face a new culture and learn from it with open minds while on an AFS program. We owe much to our AFS ambulance drivers and their vision of a world characterized by intercultural understanding, and to the young people that heard the call to travel to other countries searching for that understanding.

As I reviewed the history of AFS in Belgium in preparation for my talk with you tonight, I was reminded that, given your long history, you benefitted from the guidance of Stephen Galatti, one of our founders, who in 1954 was involved in encouraging a group of AFS Returnees in Belgium to spread the word about AFS exchange programs in Belgian Schools.

I also came across an article that was published in an AFS Belgium newsletter in 1968 on the occasion of your 20th anniversary. It said, and I quote from the article that, “AFS in Belgium, in spite of the various difficulties and the small size of the country, has grown into quite an important organization. It has only been able to do so thanks to the devotion and the initiative of many who believed in a same ideal and in a common goal.”

These words are as relevant today as they were forty years ago when AFS in Belgium was celebrating that 20th anniversary. AFS grew and prospered here in Belgium because there were many of you who believed, then and now, in the power of the simple but life-changing message that an intercultural learning experience offers to our participants.

Anniversaries are an excellent opportunity to pause and take stock of what we have achieved, but also – even more importantly – to look towards the future as we plan a course of action We did this recently in NYC as we celebrated 60 years of student exchanges.

Brian Atwood, the Chairperson of the AFS International Board of Trustees, delivered a memorable speech at the Peace Forum. Brian said that, “We live in a different world today, one where our solidarity is more important than ever. The values held by the architects of the international system are being challenged by severe pressures: extremism; grievances over territory, enervating poverty, the effects of global warming and other manifestations of change. This is a world that cries out for new leadership and for the commitment of individuals like you, who have acquired a deeper understanding of human nature and the common humanity that creates the opportunities for peace.”

As AFS in Belgium celebrates this wonderful 60th anniversary I now that, as always you will be a pioneer in helping AFS move towards a future that will be shaped by a worldwide community of globally connected citizens who are able to listen and understand each other, and that is after all, our enduring goal, a goal that is defined not by the volume of the intercultural dialogue, but rather by the quality and consistency of the global conversation.

I would not want to end without remarking on the significance of where we are today, in Ypres, the site of one of the major battles fought during World War One. You might be surprised to learn, or perhaps not, that our AFS volunteer ambulance drivers where here, back in 1918, 90 years ago. They were here helping to carry the wounded to safety in the fields of Flanders. We have a huge debt of gratitude to our drivers, who showed that caring and understanding were important in the face of insurmountable differences.

And we also have a great deal of gratitude for the work that youalldo,volunteers, staff, hosting and sending families, in Belgium today, for AFS.

So glad to welcome back so many returnees from over the 60 years of history. I can tell you that as you look at AFS today, many things have changed, But many others had not and will not – our mission, our commitment to voluntarism, our passion and our desire to a better world.

Thank you for what you do for AFS every day."

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