AFS awards intercultural learning projects that help local communities

by Hazar Yildirim, Education Content & Communications Manager, AFS Intercultural Programs


In this article you will:

  • Read about how AFS uses educational events expose communities to intercultural learning,
  • Get inspired by projects tackling refugee integration in schools, intercultural trainings for employees, intercultural storytelling, and language and cultural immersion activities.

Organizing educational events relevant to local communities is a powerful way for AFS organizations around the world to foster intercultural learning and bring diverse communities together.
AFS honors the most impactful, sustainable and innovative public events addressing education and intercultural learning with the AFS Education Event Awards. An international panel of judges representing UNESCO, the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), UN Global Education First Initiative, the European Federation of Intercultural Learning (EFIL) and the AFS Educational Advisory Council selecting the top four events from more than 30 events submitted from 19 countries.

Best Overall: Diversity is everywhere (Normal ist die Vielfalt) by AFS Germany

photo by Donata Schloenbach, AFS Germany

Taking on one of the most pressing challenges our world is facing, the “Diversity is everywhere” initiative helps to advance the integration of refugees into German society by bringing together volunteers, NGOs and other institutions working with refugees. The project provides much needed mentorship and integration support for young refugees (16 to 19 years old), most of whom are in Germany without their families.

Since 2015, more than 1,000,000 refugees sought shelter in Germany and most of them are underage. Through the “Diversity is everywhere” project, AFS Germany volunteers are trained, coached and supervised over six months as they work with refugee students and their school communities. The volunteers support refugees in and outside of classrooms, through training, providing advice and group events. They also provide intercultural training for teachers with refugee students, and support efforts to ensure curriculums are intercultural sensitive.

Most Relevant: French for Mix!n in the workplace — Intercultural training for Oxfam employees by AFS Belgium Flanders & AFS Belgium French

When Oxfam, an international charity organization, needed employee training on navigating intercultural encounters in the workplace, the two AFS organizations in Belgium seized the opportunity to create a unique training program. Delivered in both in both Dutch and French, the training taught Oxfam employees about the theories and practicalities in intercultural learning. It helped participants discover and understand their own cultural frameworks, and appreciate cultural differences.

Oxfam employees gained valuable insights about their organizational and departmental cultures through this training, becoming more aware of the diversity of cultures and the cultural differences. Given the success of this training, Oxfam is already making plans to replicate the event beyond their headquarters in Brussels.

Most Sustainable: Intercultural stories (Kültürlerarası Öyküler) by AFS Turkey

This intercultural storytelling and journey sharing event is organized every year in collaboration between AFS Turkey and a team of professionals. The popular event, modelled on the famous TED Talks format, has gathered more than 1,500 attendees over the last four years. A very diverse group of speakers has shared their stories with students, teachers, academics, families, school officials, volunteers and members of the local community. Participants used these stories to discuss a variety of topics including careers and to encourage networking within the group.

Enjoy the these great stories on AFS Turkey’s social media channels or in one of their intercultural training events.

Most Innovative: Language and cultural immersion Saturdays (Sábado de Imersão em Línguas e Culturas) by AFS Brasil

Led by AFS Brasil volunteers, “Language and cultural immersion Saturdays” is a combination of intercultural learning workshops, classes, group dynamics exercises, lectures, musical activities, video viewing sessions and a cultural food fair.

Providing exchange students and the local community with opportunities to experience cultures and languages in an interactive environment, these events develop intercultural skills and cultivate a collaborative group learning environment. Through various educational formats, the participants learn about Brazilian society, reflect on national and personal identity and discuss autonomy in learning, global citizenship education, volunteering, civic engagement.

Congratulations to the winning entries. Many thanks to all the jury members. And please tell us what local issues you would like to tackle with intercultural learning by commenting below or writing to us at connect.magazine@afs.org.
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