Established in 1914 as the American Field Service（美国战地服务), this organization was originally a corps of civilian volunteers who drove ambulances on the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars. Since 1947, AFS has worked to further the cause of international understanding and peace by promoting intercultural exchange programs for secondary school students and teachers, and volunteerism. It is now one of the oldest and largest international exchange organizations in the world, working through a network of AFS organizations in 53 countries and programme activity in another 30 countries.
In Hong Kong, a well-established programme arranges short term and year-long exchanges between high school students from the Special Administrative Region and 26 other countries. AFS HK also coordinates exchanges for teachers and school groups. Students and AFS volunteers also take part in community service activities ‘to develop commitment to the philosophy of volunteerism’.
In China, AFS has worked since 1981 in partnership with the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE). Over the last 30 years, more than 1,200 Chinese high school teachers, from eleven provinces, have been placed in schools in a wide range of foreign countries, where they spend a year or a semester teaching alongside their international counterparts.
In 1997, an exchange programme for Chinese high school students was launched. By 2011, more than 2000 Chinese students have been sent to abroad. They receive intensive language training in the country where they are placed, and spend a year or a semester living with local families and attending local schools. In spring of 2008, college students started to attend AFS programs as teaching assistants. Starting in 2001, China also now hosts AFS students from other countries. In 2011, AFS expects about 350 students, exchange teachers and volunteers to come to China under the programme.
The families of participating students usually contribute to the costs of international placements but, especially in the case of students from developing countries, AFS often provides scholarship support.
AFS’ operating funds come from placement fees and from private and corporate donors.