The beginnings of AFS
In 1914, A. Piatt Andrew formed American Field Service (AFS) to transport wounded French soldiers. AFS began its operations in an auxiliary military hospital located in the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris. This volunteer-run, citizen-funded hospital opened in September 1914. It was an extension of the nearby American Hospital of Paris.
The AFS paramedics were unarmed. Their mission was a mission of compassion and not of conflict. During the war, 2,500 men served in the American Field Service with the French Army. 127 AFS paramedics died saving the lives of soldiers wounded in the battles of the First World War. Two AFS volunteers received the Legion of Honour, 5 the Military Medal, 245 the War Cross and 21 a Section Citation. Finally, in 1917 AFS had 2,500 drivers who carried more than 500,000 injured.
Between WWI & WWII
Stephen Galatti was involved in the creation of the AFS association in French universities, which sent 222 college students to and from the United States between 1919 and 1952. In 1936, following the death of A. Piatt Andrew, Stephen Galatti became the organization’s Executive Director.
During World War II
In September 1939, when WWII began, Stephen Galatti reorganized AFS as a volunteer ambulance corps that was active in France, North Africa, the Middle East and Italy.
After World War II
After the war, Stephen Galatti and 250 AFS ambulance attendants committed themselves to maintaining the tradition of international assistance and established international AFS scholarships.
Start of student exchanges programs
The AFS tradition of cross-cultural understanding and mutual support continues through intercultural educational exchanges. With the support of the U.S State Department, AFS began the German program, which was later expanded to include students from “enemy” countries such as Japan.
When Stephen Galatti died in 1964, AFS programs included more than 60 countries.
Since the 1970's
The multinationalization of programs occurred in 1971 with the introduction of student exchanges in countries other than the United States.
- In 1972, AFS established the program for educators in the Soviet Union and Poland
- In 1978, AFS Interculture Canada became a member of the international AFS network
- In 1980, AFS extended its programs to China, Thailand, Latin America, Jordan and Ghana
- In 1989, AFS received a special mention from the United Nations in recognition of its contribution to young people around the world
- During the 1990s, AFS began its Community Service program and expanded its network to 52 countries
- In 1997, AFS began welcoming students from the Republic of China in collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Education
- The AFS International network includes more than 55 countries
- More than 14,000 young people participate each year in this experience, for a total of 325,000 participants since 1947
- The network has more than 40,000 active volunteers worldwide
- AFS has been a proud official partner of UNESCO since April 2015