AFS was founded as the American Ambulance Field Service (AAFS) shortly after the outbreak of World War I, when Americans living in Paris volunteered as ambulance drivers at the American Hospital of Paris. Under the leadership of former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury A. Piatt Andrew, AFS participated in major battles and carried more than 500,000 wounded by the time the United States entered the war in 1917. Stephen Galatti, who had been Assistant General Inspector to Andrew during part of World War I, reactivated AFS in 1939 at the start of World War II. AFS ambulance drivers carried more than 700,000 casualties during this war.
After the end of World War II, Galatti and ambulance drivers from both World Wars pledged to continue the AFS mission of volunteer service—working to promote global peace and understanding through cultural exchange experiences.
In 1946, the AFS Drivers established the American Field Service secondary school exchange programs and one year later invited students from ten countries to live with American families and attend secondary school in their communities. Over the next 68 years, more than 450,000 students and an equal number of hosting and sending families from more than 110 countries participated in various AFS intercultural exchange and volunteer programs.
Today, AFS is an intercultural exchange organization for students and young adults, with Partners and affiliates in 59 countries around the world. In the span of a century, the American Field Service has evolved from a courageous volunteer group of ambulance drivers to a network of global citizens, including more than 42,000 volunteers.
Going forward, AFS is committed to continue to provide quality intercultural experiential intercultural learning opportunities for students, families and volunteers. By linking our “learning to live together” philosophy to the defining global issues facing humanity, AFS is dedicated to building an inclusive community of global citizens determined to build bridges among cultures.