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Published on Friday, 19 Jul 2013
Dede Huang, chair of AFS, says the organisation plays an important role in inspiring young people.
Photo: Dickson Lee

AFS seeks leader for student-exchange programme

AFS Intercultural Exchanges (AFS), an international non-profit organisation that promotes student-exchange activities, is looking recruit an executive director to lead its Hong Kong office and volunteer team.

Dede Huang, chair of the organisation, says she is looking for a person who is used to working in a multi-cultural environment and has experience working for NGOs.

“The AFS is an organisation that hosts cultural-exchange activities, so the executive director will be in contact with AFS partners around the world. He or she should be comfortable interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds,” she says.

With up to 300 volunteers working for AFS, it is also important for the executive director to have experience managing volunteers. “Our volunteers come from all walks of life,” Huang says. “The executive director should be an excellent communicator who is able to connect with people from various backgrounds. I also prefer someone who has experience with fundraising.”

Huang says it will also be an advantage for the executive director to have experience of working with young people, as well as good knowledge of the local education system.

“Our work at AFS is about changing other people’s lives,” she says. “Our cultural-exchange programmes are for local secondary school students aged 15 to 18. Some students will go on 10-month overseas exchanges to non-English-speaking countries. There will also be foreign students coming to Hong Kong. The cultural immersion is deep and many of the students come back more mature people. It is really satisfying for staff at AFS to see the positive changes they bring.”

The executive director should also be able to inspire others. “He or she can expect to lead a team of experienced staff who believe in the mission of AFS, which is to provide intercultural learning opportunities for youths,” Huang says.

One of the main challenges of the job is to promote AFS and its activities. “We are a great brand with a long history and an excellent product,” Huang says. “One of the main duties of the executive director will be to lead AFS to reach more students. AFS plays an important role in inspiring our youths and society as a whole to grow in the globalised world.”

Job candidates should have a degree – preferably an MBA or other advanced degree – and at least ten years of management experience in fundraising, marketing, business development and financial oversight, ideally in Hong Kong.

Thomas Wong, programme director at AFS, joined the organisation immediately after university. “When I was a student I went on an AFS exchange programme to the US. After I returned, I worked as a volunteer for AFS before joining as a staff member. I have worked here for 14 years and I love it because I am learning every day and it feels great to be able to inspire youths,” he says.

Wong’s most satisfying times are when he sees a student return from an exchange programme an improved person. “Many of them are shy [before they go] and they come back an active and confident person. Seeing youths change for the better gives me job satisfaction,” he says.

Wong is involved in training and managing volunteers and he stresses the importance of being sociable when working at AFS. “We are in constant contact with volunteers who come from diverse backgrounds. One has to be sociable and love working with people. It is a people’s job. I find working with volunteers very enjoyable because I am able to learn from such a diverse group of people,” he says.

Staff are given many opportunities to work with AFS partners around the world and Wong advises candidates to have an open mind about different cultures. “We often interact with people on the other side of the globe. The Hong Kong office works mostly with European and Latin American countries and I enjoy learning the cultures of different people. For example, Germans are straightforward with their communication, while Latin Americans like to socialise before they get down to business,” he says.

Every year AFS organises training on areas such as intercultural learning, communication skills and marketing skills. “The training is hosted in a different country every year and staff get to travel to various places,” Wong says. “Training in a foreign country is a great way to learn about other cultures.”

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