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International Youth Exchange Programs: Some Unexpected Roots

International Youth Exchange Programs: Some Unexpected Roots

International youth exchange programs have been around for as long as most of us can remember, arranging for teenagers to spend time in a foreign country living with volunteer “host families.”  Over 50 countries are engaged in this sort of exchange, through dozens of organizations.

In this Voices from the Past, we’ll examine the unusual histories of two such programs:  AFS (formerly American Field Service) and Youth for Understanding (YFU).  AFS evolved from its origins as a volunteer ambulance corps during World War I. YFU began as an effort to hear the wounds of World War II by bringing teenagers from war-torn Germany to the United States to live with a family and attend high school for a year. Read how these organizations grew to expand their missions and international reach.

To read the full article

Mon, 08/16/2010

Submitted on September 8, 2008 by Susan Herbert Timmons, Catalyst Consulting Team, LLC, Blue Ridge, VA.

I was a YFU student to Germany in the summer of 1966 and it was one of the true defining moments in helping me understand myself and future life-long commitment to volunteering and volunteer management.  In 1977, I became a volunteer field director for the program in Virginia, and was later tapped to serve as a volunteer on the then-Kellog grant-funded program to define YFU's international volunteer management program.  I still have some of those materials and while yellowed and worn, they became the cornerstone of my long-time involvement as a volunteer program manager and later as a trainer.  In fact, it was my volunteer role in YFU that opened up new opportunities for employment in our field.