Making Peace Relevant Again

Not that peace is not relevant in 2015, not at all. But peace is so hard to grasp. We do not live in a bi-polar world like 100 years ago when AFS was created. Our world is complex and the issue we face manyfold. That is why back at the Youth Forum in Argentina, a group of volunteers gathered around the idea of “social impact” and when talking about the social impact of AFS, quickly realized that it was hard to put it into words.

The Forum in Argentina was not only the starting point for the question of making peace relevant and tangible in 2015, it’s also the birthplace of us, a group of committed volunteers from different corners of the world who decided to make words and pictures our means of change: the #VolunteerVoices storytellers. Initially just created to keep the world outside updated about the happenings at the Forum, we soon decided we did not want to stop there. Because volunteer stories are worth telling and volunteer voices should be heard.

Since April, our Facebook page #VolunteerVoices has attracted nearly 2’500 likes - and counting. We have told smaller and bigger stories and eventually reached out to grow our team with correspondents in different parts of the world. We are proud to have a team based in more than 15 countries now - and we’re still happy to include more motivated storytellers.

Once we had decided to turn #VolunteerVoices into an ongoing channel, we started organizing our stories in categories: #HumansOfAFS portrays volunteers and their motivation to dedicate time to AFS. #ThrowBackThursday (or just #TBT) gives volunteers an opportunity to share good AFS memories and finally #AmazingVolunteers gives you the chance to award other volunteers for their dedication. Besides that, we have collected stories from different parts of the world around our core topics of #Diversity (for example talking about #LGBTQ issues being treated in Hungary and Turkey), #SocialImpact (like raising awareness of volunteers on sustainability) and #Volunteerism (interviewing volunteers about their motivation and experiences).

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More recently, we decided to also create our own campaigns to raise awareness about different topics, and there’s no better start than the International Day of Peace. Our campaign for #PeaceDay consisted in inviting volunteers to share pictures with something as simple as a piece of paper and the answer to the question: “What does Peace mean to you in 2015?”; AFSers from all around the world shared their messages with the hashtag #PeaceIn2015 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The support our campaign received surprised us. Not only individual volunteers but also AFS partners & chapters, exchange students, host families participated. Together with all of them we managed to reach more than 20’000 people and getting featured several times by the UN’s official channels for #PeaceDay.

The Peace campaign is just a starting point. It led us back to our origins of wanting to make Peace and the impact of AFS tangible. Our way to do so is by telling stories, by asking questions and by making sure we are around when change happens. So volunteers out there, tell us your story!

3 possible ways to get involved:

  1. Get featured! Tell us about your volunteering experience through this form and you will be part of our #HumansOfAFS campaign.

  1. Tell us your story! Your chapter just did something amazing with lots of #SocialImpact or you have a great idea for AFS? We want to hear it all. Send us an email.

  1. Interact! Like us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and leave us your comments and questions.

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*The VolunteerVoices team