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World War I Volunteers And Beyond

on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 By | Randy LeGrant | 2 Comments | AFS History of Volunteering
Happy Veteran's Day!
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Volunteer Abroad: An Exchange of Ideas and People

Shaw once wrote, "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." There are more organizations offering Voluntourism this year than last.  And more colleges and universities are providing their own volunteer experiences too.  That's always a good thing.  When I travel, I do my best to visit other organizations offering volunteer abroad or teach abroad programs.  And when I'm really stumped about what to do, how to respond to a crisis, I have found some them to be the best people to talk with about the problem. The problem I have is with people wanting to exchange an apple with me rather than an idea.  I only really need one apple a day "to keep the doctor away" but I really need a lot of ideas. If you type "exchanging ideas" in the little Google search bar on your Internet browser, two things come to mind.  1) You have a lot of time on your hands and 2) 5,440,000 results.  People are exchanging ideas on software features, hearing loss, medicine, art, and I even noticed someone called exchanging ideas a "circulation of knowledge."  If you type in "exchanging apples" a) you REALLY have too much time on your hands and b) most of the entries are either math related for grade school children or you'd better have an Apple computer.  But I guess, therein lies the point of Shaw's quote. If, when we experience the miracle of spending time together we exchange computers or we learn that if Dick has one apple and Jane has one apple and after they trade apples, how many apples do Dick and Jane have?...we really don't walk away with much.  Unless I give you my old Mac Classic and you give me a new iMac.  But I doubt Shaw had any of that in mind. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps with three simple goals: Help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women. Help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. Help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. In 1914,  A. Piatt Andrew organized the American Field Service (AFS) whose mission was to transport wounded French soldiers.  By 1917, AFS had grown to 2,500 volunteers who had carried more than 500,000 wounded to hospitals.  127 AFS volunteers would lose their lives. I have doubts that President Kennedy or Mr. Andrew were very keen on exchanging apples of any kind.  They exchanged ideas with others and you can see, here, only a couple of results.  They also believed in exchanging people, who could exchange THEIR ideas.  From there, the exchange never ends. We continue to get testimonials from our volunteers who are exchanging ideas, in many cases exchanging sweat and tears, and whose lives and hearts have been changed forever and have changed the hearts and minds of their host communities forever.  It typifies what President Kennedy and Mr. Andrew knew would happen.  We are proud that you are a part of that. I started this post with a quote.  I suppose I should end with one.  How 'bout Emerson.  "It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life...we can never help another without helping ourselves."
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We Share AFS Roots...We All Do

on Thu, Feb 15, 2007 By | Randy LeGrant | 0 Comments | AFS History of Volunteering
Last night I watched Fly Boys, a movie about U.S. volunteers traveling to France in 1914 to take part in World War I.  It’s a true story about the legendary Lafayette Escadrille, and tells the tale of America’s first fighter pilots.  The Lafayette Escadrille was a squadron (or Escadrille in French) of volunteer Americans established for active fighter pilot service on the Western Front.  Fittingly, the squadron was named after the Frenchman who served alongside George Washington.
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