During the Korean war I was scheduled for the draft and had to decide whether to follow my conscience and oppose the war, or to follow the line of least resistance and go into the military. There was a local office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Syracuse, N.Y. where I lived and I went there in search of more information.

A few years later I was in New York City and was at the point where I had to pick an organization for two years of alternative service. As luck would have it (or was it mere luck?) I lived only two blocks from the regional office of the AFSC and within moments I was "working" for them for about $30.00 a week. It was the most gratifying two years of my life.


The AFSC, formed in 1917, is a Quaker organization that functions as a center for people of various faiths who are concerned about social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. It grew out a concern of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) to promote the belief in the worth of every human being. Its primary premise is a faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

It was formed in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors the opportunity to serve the needs of civilian victims during World War I. Their focus is on the economic justice, peace-building and demilitarization, social justice, and youth, in the United States, and in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
In the time I was there my primary job was to help form groups of young volunteers, usually after their first year at the university, for work in a state mental hospital and in the area of New York City called "El Bario," otherwise known as Spanish Harlem. I believe that these work camps marked the turning point for many young and concerned people.

We built a church for Negro migrant laborers in upstate New York, visited the elderly and infirmed, stood on picket lines opposing the use of nuclear weapons. While I was never arrested, I saw many hauled off to jail and treated with every [indignity. But nothing seem to dislodge their faith in "the light" that exists in every person. To use an overworked word, their conduct was truly awesome.

I gradually moved away from AFSC and its concerns, but I have never lost my respect for the AFSC and for the Society of Friends that provides the driving force behind them. Their humility and their humanity and their force of spirit continue to put me to shame.

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  AFSC Star
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1917. They are a community service organization that organizes volunteer service projects across the United States and the world. They work in accordance with the values of the Religious Society of Friends, which include nonviolence and the belief that there is that of God within each of us. They welcome people of all faiths into their organization.

Structure and Statistics:

The AFSC is a not-for-profit corporation with a board of directors and located across the country. Programs are administered by single staff, committees and volunteers.

  • Approximate annual budget: 4.0 million US dollars.
  • 9 Regional Offices in the US
  • Numerous other local offices
  • 400+ staff members
  • Hundreds of committee members
  • Thousands of volunteers and contributors.
  • Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA.
Some recent work:

  • Assisted 16 families in Sarajevo plant community gardens where Bosnians, Croats and Serbs could grow fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Provided tools to Somalian farmers so they could rehabilitate 12 kilometers of irrigation canals.
  • Provided 5,000 youth in 20 states with conflict resolution, anti-racism and leadership training.
History of the AFSC:

The AFSC was formed in 1917 to provide a way for conscientious objectors to serve during World War I. During The Great Depression, J. Edgar Hoover asked the AFSC to implement a child-feeding program in areas hurt by the reduction in coal mining. They also assisted Japanese Americans interred during World War II go to college and find jobs.

Eleanor Roosevelt worked on AFSC projects in West Virginia and made financial donations to the organization.

In 1938, AFSC members met with the German Gestapo to talk about the needs of Jews after Kristallnacht.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the activities of the AFSC from the 1920's to the 1970's. During this time they collected 3500 pages of documents on the AFSC, recently made public by the Freedom of Information Act.*

In 1947 the AFSC and the British Friends Service Council received the Nobel Peace Prize for their humanitarian service.

Involvement in AFSC:

I have been involved in a number of AFSC projects and have served on an AFSC committee for the last three years.

I first went on a project when I was 15 years old. This youth project helped paint and do repairs at the Child and Migrant Services Center in Palisade, Colorado. I returned to this project 4 more years.

In 2000, I helped to organize fire relief projects for the victims of wildfires in Northern New Mexico, including victims of the fire in Los Alamos that destroyed over 200 homes.

I have been a committee member of the AFSC-IMYM Joint Service Project oversight committee for the past three years. We create budgets and help plan youth service projects in Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico.

More information about the American Friends Service Committee can be found at http://www.afsc.org/

* http://foia.fbi.gov/committe.htm

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