SIDNEY — AFS-USA was formed more than 70 years ago. It began as the American Ambulance Field Service (later to be known as the American Field Service), a voluntary ambulance and truck organization which emerged soon after the outbreak of World War I. AFS participated in every major French battle and the 2,500 volunteers carried supplies and more than 500,000 casualties during the War.
The AFS Association was established in May 1920 to coordinate reunions among former members of the American Field Service and to administer the AFS Fellowships for French Universities program to perpetuate the fraternal relations among French and American youth.
Discontinued in 1952, the ambulance service was reactivated at the start of World War II. By the end of that war, 2,196 volunteers had served in France, North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, Germany, India, and Burma.
Following World War II, AFS ambulance and camion drivers from both wars gathered in New York where they launched a secondary school student exchange program that they hoped would maintain and strengthen the international friendships and understanding they had fostered during their wartime humanitarian work.
Today, AFS-USA is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS Organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office and headed up by a volunteer board.
This school year there are 25 students attending 13 schools in the Dayton area. Countries represented include Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Japan, Spain, Pakistan, Austria, Italy, Finland, China, Chile, Philippines and Mali.
In Sidney, Lee and Donna Jones and their children are hosting Isabel from Germany who is attending Sidney High School.
Isabel says her American studies include child development, chemistry, pre-calculus, and Spanish. She is also running Cross Country and playing in the band. Besides English, she also knows French and Latin.
Throughout the school year, AFS hosts day trips and weekend adventures which include a tour of Heidelberg College and Cedar Point in October, skiing in February, Newport Aquarium, Huffman Prairie, Carillion Park, and the National Museum of the USAF. Last year’s students even got to go to a drive-in movie for the first time. There are a couple of mandatory meetings for the students and liaisons during the year and many students even go on vacation with the families they are staying with.
If anyone is interested in hosting an exchange student or are a student hoping to go abroad for an exchange for the 2017-18 school year or beyond, check out www.afsusa.org.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News