Young volunteers representing 15 national AFS organizations have been awarded scholarships to support their participation in the 27th Session of The Youth Assembly (August 12-14, 2022 in New York City).
This session of The Youth Assembly is the first one organized by AFS Intercultural Programs, a global non-profit that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world. AFS has 55 national organizations worldwide whose work largely relies on volunteers—people of all ages and backgrounds who are committed to fostering global citizenship in their communities and the world.
15 national AFS organizations have selected their most deserving volunteers between the ages of 18 and 32 to join The Youth Assembly and get empowered to confront challenges, lead action-based projects, and make a difference in their communities.
Meet these outstanding young people below!
Volunteer Roles: Host Family, Facilitator, Interviewer, Support, Intercultural Learning Coordinator
11 years as a volunteer
Lydia has been an active volunteer at a local and national level ever since she returned from her exchange. Whether facilitating orientations, supporting participants, training volunteers, or working as a mentor, AFS Canada knows that it can always count on her.
Lydia serves her community by facilitating workshops on employment, culture, children’s education, and supporting people with mental health diagnoses. In 2019, she joined the Uniterra program as a youth inclusion advisor in Bolivia. She prepared and conducted workshops on leadership and vocational orientation in an indigenous community, and collaborated on projects on ecotourism and entrepreneurship. In 2020, she worked with Sri Lanka’s first impact investment firm (World University Services of Canada), as a gender advisor, and implemented a mentorship program for women entrepreneurs, as well as a recruitment process for mentors, experts, and investors.
“Lydia is a genuine global citizen, due to her leadership in her volunteering path, her generosity to give to others, and her empathy. She is creating an impact in her community and working on projects that go beyond the traditional scope of what we do in AFS.”
Rocío María Pesallaccia Cardozo
Volunteer Roles: Contact person, member of a national committee, local chapter president
7 years as a volunteer
Rocío is an active member of the Coronel Bogado and has collaborated as a facilitator for ALEI, the regional body made of AFS organizations in Latin America. In her community, in addition to volunteering for AFS, she also volunteers for an environmental organization and has participated in various fundraising activities for other groups.
She has always been very involved in different community initiatives and groups. She was the president of the student center of her high school, and, in college, a class representative for three years. In 2017, she was part of the organization of the national Chipá festival in her community, due to her involvement in the Coronel Bogado special cultural commission. She was also a speaker at an international seminar on cooperativism organized at her university, and a participant in the 2019 “Youth Leadership Academy” organized by the Government of Itapúa.
“Rocío deserves the scholarship because, in addition to her involvement in AFS, she participates in other volunteer activities. She has always been involved in social causes and she is a very committed and enthusiastic person, who has the desire to continue growing and to be able to help others to do so.”
Priscilla Pérez Vargas
AFS Costa Rica
Volunteer Roles: Treasurer of the Board, Leader of the National Orientations Committee
5.5 years as a volunteer
Priscilla is an entrepreneur who founded her own company, Golden Natura, at 22. She offers handmade and organic products and works with local and female producers in her community. She also works for World Vission as Direct management to improve customers’ experience with the Shared Services Center. She is part of the global Change Management teams, Internal Communications, and Customer Service teams, necessary to support the organization’s administrative processes.
She has been a great young leader in AFS. In 2019, she won the National Young Volunteer Award and has been part of the National Board since February 2020. She was a trainer for Effect +, with more than 300 hours of training for high school students, and regularly facilitates orientations for AFS exchange students.
“Priscilla deserves the scholarship because she is a young woman leader. This opportunity will allow her to speak out for gender equality, but also she is conscious of sustainable needs and could play a role at AFS at large as a young leader.”
Volunteer Roles: Counselor, Finance Coordinator, Local Chapter President
7 years as a volunteer
Sebastián is a great leader for his local chapter of Cochabamba, which has been the chapter with the most sending and hosting students for several years. He also participated in the evacuation process of participants during the pandemic, which was not an easy task due to a strict lockdown.
From 2016 to 2021, he was a volunteer at the Pastoral Social Cáritas, providing administrative and logistical support for projects benefiting more than 2,800 inmates and their families. This included:
- Projects helping children get financial support and school supplies, assisting with health expenses, and getting access to food.
- Improving professional development conditions for inmates, by equipping prison centers with machinery in different areas (carpentry, locksmith, crafts, hairdressing, etc) and providing training.
- Coordination of legal and humanitarian assistance for inmates, to ensure fair hearing processes.
He also participated in a social entrepreneurship incubator called Start Americas Together, with the project “El agua es oro”, to improve access to clean water in low-income neighborhoods. Originally the project included only workshops but recently became a social enterprise with the goal to break the cycle of poverty faced by women generated by the lack of access to water.
“Sebastián has important skills that drive the mission of AFS, his volunteer contribution not only in AFS Bolivia shows that he is a person committed to the objectives of sustainable development. He is a person who can go far within the AFS structure and bring much of his knowledge to create a more just world.”
Maurício Pimenta Ferreira
Volunteer Roles: Host family, Contact Person, Orientations Facilitator, Ethics Counsel Member
4 years as a volunteer
No matter how big his responsibility at AFS is, or what task he had to get done, the thing that has always made Mauricio move forward and not give up is the gratitude he has for every person that made his exchange experience the most wonderful ever. He has been a volunteer ever since he return, supporting participants, facilitating orientations, and most recently being appointed as a representative for the National Ethics Council.
Currently, he is a team member competing in a Global Legal Hackathon. The competition requires the use of technology to help with legal challenges, to facilitate access to justice and basic civil rights. Their project consists of a platform where victims of any kind of abuse can produce and store evidence of the crime without the need for auditable protection procedures. They have just won the locals in Brazil, and now they are preparing and improving their idea for the semi-finals, against all winners from South America.
“Having the opportunity to attend The Youth Assembly will be the perfect occasion to combine his desire to expand horizons with the needs of the project he is developing. The connections that may occur in NY can not just expand the scalability of the application but also pivot the idea and even show him undiscovered paths that claim for disruptive solutions.”
Evelyne Claudia Aschwanden
Volunteer Roles: Interviewer (Hosting & Sending), A-Teamer, Country Expert, Contact Person
8 years as a volunteer
Evelyne started her AFS Volunteer Journey back in 2014 and there are countless moments where she’s gone the extra mile to promote Intercultural Learning and Global Citizenship. A very recent example was in March 2020, when she help an exchange student return home. When chaos erupted all around her and many others, she took her car, and drove to the other side of the country all by herself to pick him up, and spend hours together, wearing face masks and overcoming the silence of fear, finding a lot of common interests and conversation topics.
Evelyne is a full-hearted volunteer who promotes reassurance, trust, and peace all around her. Since she started volunteering she has been an ambassador for Quality Education, Global Citizenship, and Intercultural Learning. As part of the LGBTQIA+ community, she has been actively involved in AFS Switzerland’s “Queer AFS”, an initiative to create tools and ideas to educate the Swiss AFS community and beyond. As part of this initiative, she has developed content for AFS Orientations, Staff and Volunteer Trainings, and is developing projects for more queer sex education in schools.
“Evelyne is an open-hearted and innovative Changemaker. Our organization wouldn’t be the same without her and it is our responsibility to be opening doors for her journey. The Youth Assembly would be a nourishing ground for her to continue her journey and speak up for our values.”
Volunteer Roles: Pax mentor, Facilitator, Orientations Coordination, Volunteer Trainer
6 years as a volunteer
Magdalena’s very first role as an AFS volunteer was being a student’s mentor and she has been holding the role until now. As she gain more experience, she became a great camp leader, showing her ability to work under pressure and find creative solutions to challenges. She was also AFS Poland’s representative in the 2019’s AFS Volunteer Summer Summit and T4T (training for trainers).
Magdalena is a Quantitative Finance double-degree student at the University of Bologna and UAS BFI Vienna currently finishing her master’s degree. Her thesis focuses on ESG (Environmental, social, and corporate governance) scores, and how from financial perspective investment firms can make a profit without harming the planet. She states that firms are sometimes scared to implement the SDGs and that she’s trying to show that the only thing that we can fear is the damage that can happen to our planet.
“Magda deserves the scholarship because she’s an active AFS volunteer with a big interest in sustainability. Women are still a minority group in the field of applied mathematics and statistics. Magda wants to show that women are equal and all of us deserve quality education. Education and climate actions is what she’s very eager to further develop.”
Volunteer Roles: Orientations Coordination, Contact Person, Intern at AFS
4 years as a volunteer
Marit was an exchange student in Uruguay in 2016/2017. Ever since, she has cared about the integration of youth in the global community, both as a volunteer and in her daily life. She is a reliable volunteer that deeply cares about the students that travel to carry forward the AFS purpose, and is studying international relations at the University of Oslo.
Marit has been involved in several climate and sustainability projects, such as Young Friends of the Earth, where she delivered sustainability workshops and organize climate strikes, and Spire (Spout), an organization that works for a fairer and more sustainable distribution of the world’s resources, where she is currently a board member.
As a member of the indigenous Sámi community in Norway, Marit is a board member of an organization for Sámi youth, Noereh, where she is engaged in topics such as native land, sustainability, mental health, and the inclusion of indigenous people and marginalized groups.
“Marit believes in AFSs mission to educate global citizens as means to enhance cooperation and peace in the world. She is a person that is ready to take action in finding solutions to a better world. In addition, her knowledge of indigenous communities could be a supplement to discussions of global health and the effects of Covid-19 on marginalized groups. Her experiences and knowledge from the climate justice movement will contribute to discussions of youth in relation to climate action. Her overall insights and motivation will be a fruitful supplement to intersectional topics, and is why we want to nominate Marit to the Youth Assembly.”
3 years as a volunteer
Mahmoud AFS exchange was a turning point in his life. AFS gave him the opportunity to be introduced to different cultures, backgrounds, and values. During his exchange, he learned some ASL and developed lots of friendships with hearing-impaired people. After his exchange, he started volunteering with a school for hearing impaired people in Egypt, motivating them to reach their goals and have their rights. With the help of AFS and his friends, he designed a phone application that translate sign language into spoken language and vice versa.
Mahmoud was also one of ten young leaders who had the chance to be part of the Ambassador’s Youth Council in the U.S embassy in Cairo. This project help the US embassy work on several important matters in the relations between the US and Egypt related to climate action and environmentalism, women’s empowerment, combating gender-based violence, countering disinformation, constructive youth engagement, civil society development, and capacity building.
“He is a great candidate as he is the type of a person who learns and gets back to his country to give back what he learned and implement it in his community.”
Kwamena Addo Nhyira Hammond
8 years as a volunteer
Kwamena’s AFS journey began in 2014 when he participated in the YES Program. His exchange in Aledo-Illinois was a totally new experience for him, living in a small town and attending a predominately white high school. He quickly integrated, being a part of the Basketball, Football, and Track and Field teams, as well as a member of the choir.
On his return, he and other KL-YES students created a basketball academy project called The Eagles Basketball Academy. The academy currently runs an afterschool training program, a summer program, and a full-time program. There, students have a safe space for community recreational activity and become players with integrity and moral uprightness, that achieve academic success and can be agents of social development. This program is accompanied by an interschool basketball league for schools participating in the EBAP. People in the community now have an opportunity to come together with a unifying thought, hence promoting communal integration and harmony.
Kwamena has also recently created two startups related to sustainability, Ignite and Tracycle.co.
“This Youth Assembly will certainly bring bright minds equipped with various leadership skills, and I must say one does not often get access to such people in one setting. As I pose as a delegate for my home country, I would let no chance go in making a formidable network via all available forms of communication that would consistently be of assistance on my journey in effecting positive change in my home country and the global network at large.”
Volunteer Roles: Sending Interviewer, Facilitator, Orientation Leader
14 years as a Volunteer
He has remained committed to the AFS community for more than twelve years. With a background in design thinking and a passion to build a community, he enjoys coming up with new ways to improve the volunteering process and putting them into action. He redesigned the interview process for the Year Program Selection and has organized multiple intercultural learning workshops with teachers and students. Suwapas was one of the two awarded young National Qualified Trainers to attend the AFS Global Conference in Montreal. Following the event, he shared his experiences and knowledge with the AFS Thailand community in a variety of sessions.
Given Thailand’s huge disparity in educational standards, only wealthy children have access to high-quality schools. Suwapas used the design thinking process to push a new boundary of the learning experience in high-school education nationwide in an attempt to promote the quality of Thai education more globally and be able to enhance critical thinking in children. Within four years, his social enterprise, ‘BlendCulture,’ has delivered more than 40 unique learning programs to approximately 4,000 high-schoolers from more than 20 schools nationwide.
He also established a start-up digital fundraising platform to improve Thais’ quality of life by purchasing used items. The buyer has the option of specifying the amount as well as the social organisation to which they wish to donate. (www.bidboon.co) His project has joined Stanford’s Technology and Innovation boot camp program after a half year of development and is expected to debut publicly in June 2022.
“Suwapas’s actions are remarkable both inside and outside of AFS. His talent is very useful for AFS and the country. He came up with many projects that aimed to solve problems such as education, economics, and disparity. We can see that with a lot of projects that he created have helped people and society in a wide range, so if he could join the 27th Youth Assembly, he could come up with many more projects and could help more people in the world.”
Lely Ayusukma Batki
Volunteer Roles: Sending, Intern at the NO, Volunteer Development, Chaperon
7 years as a Volunteer
When Lely was a candidate for the KL-YES exchange program in 2015, she was first exposed to the concept of volunteering. During the Chapter Bandung selection process, she assisted the chapter by calling candidates to the interview room. Although it was a simple task, it gave her a sense of accomplishment. She was awed that her fellow chapter members could inspire her in a way she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. Because of this experience, Lely has become a regular volunteer at many AFS events. She was able to work independently while also being a good team player, suspending judgment, equipped with project management skills, and solid communication skills.
Today, her commitment to the people around her goes far beyond intercultural learning. She finds it fascinating to empower youth, research sustainable development, promote peace education, and prevent and counter violent extremism throughout Southeast Asia. She was a participant for the StudentsxCEOs Bandung Batch 9, where she launched a successful campaign to attract talent for following cohorts.
“Indonesia might become the seventh-largest economy by 2030. However, finding qualified and semi-skilled people is a significant obstacle to this goal’s realization. Lely has seen that small and local communities can play an essential role in the future growth of skilled and semi-skilled people. She is not the type who always applies to international conferences when it does not resonate with her purpose. But, this time, she has faith that the 27th Youth Assembly: Dare to Reshape the World precisely provides what she needs to do to prepare her to achieve the dream for Indonesia to become a developed country.”
Maureen Melissa Tejeda Metz
AFS Dominican Repubic
Volunteer Roles: Mentor
5 years as a Volunteer
Maureen has been an active volunteer, having participated in AFS-lead activities, like the II International Forum on Education for Global Citizenship, the Global Citizenship Training Forum, and the Strategic Alliances Workshop (July 2019). She was also a participant in the first edition of the AFS Ideathon, as a Challenge Owner.
She has participated in initiatives that impact groups in vulnerable conditions, supporting the development and implementation of public policies. Since she started volunteering, Maureen has supported AFS in strategic alliances with organizations such as Jóvenes Iberoamericanos and Best Buddies RD. As Executive Director of Best Buddies Dominican Republic, she supports the social and economical inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Maureen is also an institutional researcher at the Dominican Observatory of Inequality and Poverty of Flacso-Supérate, where they are working through social sciences and research on reducing inequalities, with an innovative approach, ensuring sustainability.
Volunteer Roles: Local Sending Coordinator, Intern at AFS India
5 years as a Volunteer
After returning from an AFS program with a YES scholarship, Sweta has proactively participated in AFS India’s activities: be it community service, orientations, counseling, training, seminars, webinars, workshops, or alumni engagement tasks.
Volunteering requires flexibility and willingness to adjust to rapidly shifting priorities. While some activities are more interesting than others, Sweta steps up to do whatever the day requires from her. Her leadership, oratory and communication skills have helped the Gandhinagar chapter abundantly, and through her role, has been able to teach and engage dozens of sending students every year. Being the Sending Coordinator of her local chapter, she is in contact communications with the community and schools, actively seeking to expand intercultural education.
Sweeta also helps in the screening and the selection process for the YES students of her local chapter, leads the chapter level Pre-Departure and Post-Arrival Orientations and motivates returnees to register as AFS volunteers. Through the pandemic, she has kept the chapter volunteers engaged through interesting virtual activities and recently has planned physical events with proper safety measures.
For the past year, Sweeta has been an intern with AFS India, leading alumni engagement initiatives. As part of this role, she headed a national level alumni initiative: the Youth for Global Empathy project – an initiative aimed at young people, aged 13 to 16 years old, to equip them with tools to contribute and take charge of social action in this new normal scenario. Through this project, several AFS India alumni became active volunteers again, and young people gained social impact knowledge and tools. At such a young age, Sweeta has achieved a great feat in her intercultural journey and continues to advance the AFS mission with every project and task she tackles.
Volunteer Roles: Chapter Coordinator, Regional Council, Organization Crew member for large events, Tech support and innovation manager at national working group, helpdesk administrator, Facilitator
9 years as a Volunteer
Shortly after completing his program in Panamá, Jonte got involved with his local chapter in Hamburg. Sending, hosting, seminars – wherever something needed to be done, Jonte would jump right in to help. He quickly emerged as a space opener, motivator, supporter and implementer. These skills made him a popular chapter member and soon he was elected local coordinator.
Starting in 2018, Jonte expanded his work joining several working groups and embracing responsibilities on a national scale. His motivation and hands-on mentality made it possible to implement tools and processes that previously seemed difficult or even impossible. His energy and ambition are contagious and a fun and productive working atmosphere will soon be established whenever Jonte joins an AFS group.
Through his involvement in sending and hosting programs, Jonte supports the development of active global citizenship at different levels. When working with participants, Jonte always demonstrates great sensibility. He encourages them to learn and explore the path to becoming global citizens while not forgetting to keep a close eye on potential challenges. Many participants look up to him and thanks to Jonte they are keen to join as volunteers as soon as their program ends.
Through his support in the digital area, the implementation of online exchange formats was made possible when sudden border closures and contact restrictions made AFS’s work difficult. When it became impossible to meet up for events due to COVID, he tirelessly helped conceptualize, plan and execute digital events for participants and volunteers.
Jonte is the kind of person who listens carefully to the opinion of others, ending up with a result that adds value for everyone. He empowers people and then gives them the confidence that they can work on their own. Jonte patiently shares his knowledge and ensures that everyone can complete their tasks in the best possible way. For younger volunteers, Jonte serves as a role model; experienced volunteers appreciate him as a reliable sidekick. He supports the AFS mission through his tireless work and makes it seem so effortless to be a true global citizen.