A More Peaceful World

One of our pioneer alumni, Mohamed Abubakar, was hosted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he met his friend and host brother, Timothy Hoffelder. Seven years later, Hoffelder visited Kenya where he reconnected with Abubakar and met his family. This is the story of Tim and Mohamed, which shows the impact of AFS and essence of intercultural exchange in creating a more peaceful world.

Mohamed and I are quite different at the superficial level. He is African, brown, and Muslim. I am American, white, and Catholic. But on a deeper, human level, we quickly learned that there is more which unites us than divides us. For example, we are both sports fans, though of different sports. We both love to swim. We both love to laugh, and can find comedy in almost anything. We also share a passion for education. Even our different faiths unite us in the fact that we care deeply about the greater good; doing right by neighbors and strangers alike. As our friendship grew, Mohamed taught me a little bit about his home. He taught me Swahili words for animals and greetings, and I even struggled to learn numbers in Arabic. He showed me pictures of his family and friends back in Kenya; and the inventory of living, dynamic Kenyans who I knew by name grew. This is important.

To read the full article by Hoffelder, click here

Whether you are a host family, YES scholar, volunteer or staff member, the AFS experience is obvious and constantly present within the organization. These stories are just snapshots on what can constitute the AFS experience - the meeting with a new culture, living with a family, working with people from other cultures and so much more... 

The Story of Kikanae Punyua 

By Kikanae Punyua
AFS YES alumnus 2009-2010, United States. 

"It was a great experience that I'll never forget ever. I got a chance to live with a regular American family that was just amazing friendly than I expected, I was just their own son. I felt right at home. I also got a chance to play a sport that I never tried back in Kenya. I was part of the Wilde Lake High School varsity Cross Country team as well as Track and Field. I actually got to be the Maryland State two-mile champion and that was just a great feeling. On the same year, I made all-American status which is really prestige honor in the world of sport in America. I also met great people that are still great friends and it was just amazing. Finally, I got an opportunity to travel around the country, visited couple state like California, Chicago, Florida, New York, Oregon and other states around Maryland.  In general, I'll describe the whole AFS experience fun and an eye opener for us who never got a chance to travel to the western world. 

I have a word for those students who'll be part of this program in the coming years.. that just be yourself and enjoy the experience because it's one in a lifetime and grab an opportunity that comes your way." 

See more about Kikanae's experience here

From Turkey to Kenya

By Ömer Ongun
Former AFS/YES student to USA in 2004
Volunteer in AFS Turkey

"It was such a hard decision for me to make when I was asked to go to Kenya for a week in January 2010 by the AFS office in Turkey. An orientation camp was going to be held in the city of Mombasa for both volunteers and 2010 YES candidates I, as 2004 returnee, current alumni-volunteer, was involved with various selection processes and orientation camps in Turkey but this was different...and it was going to be in Africa...

Africa? What did I know about it? Kenya to me was a ‘safari country’ and that was pretty much all. Well, I made the decision and got prepared for the orientation. I decided to take couple days off in Kenya before the camp so that I could get to see around a little bit. Ahmed, Fatima and Athman, from AFS-Kenya took care of me for two days in Mombasa. They were so welcoming and hospitable. It was just amazing to feel the connection that we all are volunteers doing pretty much the same things but in totally different regions.

Swahili Resource Center which at that time hosted AFS Kenya was one of the greatest culture centers that I had ever been to. I was amazed by what they had succeeded there. SRC offers intensive Swahili language and cultural studies for the foreign exchange students, and it has a small library that has various books and written resources for the interested. I had a chance to read about the tribes of Kenya, Swahili food and clothing during my stay. I felt like I knew nothing about Kenya or Africa in general. SRC and the AFS staff of Kenya were a great opportunity for me to learn and I was very glad that those are the people that ‘do AFS’. While Ahmed was showing me around in Mombasa, there was also the orientation preparation rush going on. We went to the street markets to get some items, went to the hotel for negotiation and photocopied materials. It was very meaningful for me to be part of their rush. Ahmed and Fatima were planning everything in details and it was unbelievable that they have been volunteering for only about a year and doing such a good job.

Orientation started with volunteer training and the students were supposed to arrive the next day. There were 16 volunteers coming from different regions of Kenya. I was impressed by their passion, sense of responsibility, willingness, and excitement. From the very first moment, I felt that I was with the right people. Although I was much younger than all of them, they were carefully listening whatever I told them and each appreciated my experience. It was such a learning process for both them and me. Volunteer training took about a day and then 41 candidates arrived at the orientation site. Together with students, we did activities such as ‘iceberg’, ‘expectations circle’, ‘bingo’ and so on. We only had 20 scholarships so only half of the group made it but I personally wished that we were able to send all 41 students. Each had great potential and I could imagine how successful they would be when given a chance.

Now, it makes more sense to me what I am volunteering for. It is not only the paperwork or another orientation rush but our volunteering makes a huge difference. Kenya experience showed me that link which keeps all of the volunteers throughout the entire world excited and connected although we never know each other."


Bringing the Don Bosco Community Together

By Anthony Mulanzia
YES 2012-2013 Alumnus

"The YES program and AFS have made my life take a new turn because I have been able to realize my potential and my capabilities as a young person.  It has empowered me to be able to have critical thinking, clear decision-making and it has enhanced my skills in leadership and effective communication. YES has enabled me to pursue more knowledge of not only what concerns me, but also what concerns the well-being of other people."

Read more about Mulanzia's Community Sanitation Project here.