Category Archives: AFS (American Field Service)

2009 Jun 3: Host-mother fights AFS to keep exchange student in USA

While details vary from exchange student to exchange student, many students are sent home even though the host-family wishes them to stay. That can happen any time from the very beginning to the very end of the exchange. In this case, Gail Rosenblum speaks of how AFS tried to send the student home a month before graduation.

Star Tribune

By Gail Rosenblum | June 3, 2009 — 9:38pm

… Abdullah arrived in Minnesota last summer with an AFS-affiliated program called YES (Youth Exchange and Study). …

Abdullah’s stay got off to a bumpy start. He smoked cigarettes (but has since quit), and bought knives for target practice, neither of which sat well with his first host mother. …

Abdullah was removed from his first home in the fall (which happens with 25-30 percent of exchange students) and was placed briefly with Noel Evans, an Eagan attorney, before moving in with Mullaley and her family. …

Evans and Abdullah got along so well that, when Evans returned to Saudi Arabia in March, she contacted Abdullah’s mother, Seham Farah, and they became friends. Evans invited Seham to visit Minnesota as soon as she could secure a visa, …

Evans was unaware that the AFS handbook requires that parental visits be approved ahead of time. Last Friday, an AFS spokeswoman called Mullaley to tell her that Abdullah would be shipped home a month early — missing graduation. … Evans called AFS to say that Seham’s visit was her idea. Besides, as she and others noted, Abdullah … was picked as Unsung Hero for helping a teacher, volunteered with elderly neighbors, and spoke to younger students about Saudi life. He also brought up his algebra grade from an F to a B. …

Late Tuesday, an AFS spokeswoman called Mullaley with the news that Abdullah could stay through the weekend. …

Evans is now working on behalf of Abdullah’s 16-year-old sister, who has been barred from the program because of her brother’s case. …

The entire article can be read at Star Tribune


2012 Aug 18: Host-father frequently drunk

Program: Study Abroad
Location: China
Posted: August 18, 2012

My daughter went to China for a year with AFS in high school. As an overall experience, it was incredible and changed her life for the better. She was adopted from China, and always felt “different”, and after this year she was a changed child from knowing that she was accepted, recognized as beautiful, and “fit in.” She loved her Chinese high school experience, and loved the general experience of being in China. She was changed for the better as a person. And our local city AFS chapter is wonderful.

AFS China, on the other hand, and the support she received from AFS USA while over there, were a different story. Her host family had a frequently drunk father who hit his daughter, greatly upsetting my daughter. She did not want to leave the family because she felt very close to her host sister. There was quite a bit of heavy drinking and sex from the European AFS-ers, and minimal supervision from AFS China. Whoever was supposed to be supporting them over there was not supportive, and when I called the US person, he would take sometimes weeks to answer my calls and was unresponsive. (I was later told he was sick, but needless to say they needed a replacement.) So that part of it was not at all well done.

AFS is an old and extremely well established organization, and it is difficult to do a great job in so many countries working only with volunteers. On the other hand, at the least they could have good and responsive US staff.

So a mixed story.

2013 Apr 17: Removed from host-family without either party wanting it

Program: AFS
Location: USA
Posted: April 17, 2013

We are right now experiencing the same kind of situation that others have talked about, where a student was abruptly pulled from the home over a fairly minor issue, that could have easily been resolved with some guidance from AFS. The student made the unlucky choice of calling his liaison for help one day, and the next day found himself being picked up from school with his belongings and whisked off to a new family in another town. My children were heartbroken and filled with self-blame for what they could have done to cause this situation. Although we were advised by AFS to break all contact with the student, so he could start his “new life” elsewhere, we have followed his saga on Facebook, where he has poured out his frustration, anger and despair over being uprooted from his family and friends here, and his continued attempts, over the past 3 months, to return to our town. He has even rallied the support of his friends at his high school here, having them sign petitions supporting his attempts to return here. AFS seems to have turned a deaf, bureaucratic ear to his pleas. I think AFS simply does not have the staff to deal with situations of any kind of complexity. It is so sad for the student, who will remember for the rest of his life that his experience in America was marred like this. And sad for my children, who feel that the wonderful experience of having an AFS student somehow failed, for reasons they do not quite understand.

2008 Dec 17: African American Student in Russia Stabbed by Neo-Nazis

By Maria Rozalskaya

On December 5th in Volgograd (Southern Russia), an 18 year-old African American was stabbed. Stanley Robinson came to Russia to participate in a student exchange program. On a Volgograd street he ran into a group of local teenagers who picked a quarrel with him, as a result he was hospitalized with two knife wounds. His mother who spoke with him by phone said they are sure it was racially motivated.

This case is one of hundreds occurring every year in Russia. According to the statistics gathered by a Moscow based NGO “SOVA Center for Information and Analysis”, by December 1st there were 83 people murdered and 365 injured. These figures are far from being correct; the real number of violent hate crimes is much higher. The majority of crimes go unreported both by police and mass media.

However, the statistics mentioned above do help to monitor hate crimes to a degree. Although the incidence of racist violence is not increasing dramatically every year, they are becoming more and more cruel, making such cases as Robinson’s appear quite lucky.

One of the last high profile cases is the one of a 20 year-old guest worker from Tadjikistan who was murdered and beheaded by neo-nazis in Moscow. His head was found in another district, placed stealthily next to one of the Moscow municipality offices. The case stands out not only because of the gruesome particulars, but also because it was a clear terrorist act: before the head was discovered, neo-nazis sent e-mails to several NGOs and media outlets taking responsibility for the action, and announcing that the head was placed in the same district where a few months before a Russian girl had been raped and murdered, allegedly by an Uzbek man.

Anti-fascists and human rights defenders often become victims of hate motivated violence or death threats themselves.

On June 19, 2004 in St. Petersburg, Nikolai Girenko, an expert on right-wing extremism, was gunned down in his apartment. On November 13, 2005, 20-year-old human rights activist and musician, Timur Kacharava, was murdered and his friend Maxim Zgibai stabbed in St. Petersburg. On April 16, 2006, in Moscow, Alexander Ryukhin, a human rights activist, was stabbed to death on his way to a concert. On December 22, 2006 in Moscow, Tigran, also an activist, found a bomb on his staircase and on March 27, 2007, in Izhevsk, Stanislav Korepanov, a supporter of human rights, was beaten by nazis and died from his injuries a few days later. On July 21, 2007, 21-year-old Ilya Borodaenko was stabbed to death during the attack of a group of neo-nazis at an ecological camp in Siberia. On March 16, 2008, in the center of Moscow, 20 year old Alexey Krylov was stabbed to death on his way to a human rights concert. On October 10, 2008, in Moscow, 27-year-old Fyodor Filatov, one of the leaders of the human rights movement, was stabbed to death as he was leaving his home.

Photos, home addresses and telephone numbers of human rights defenders repeatedly appear on hate websites with calls for violence against them.

The response of the law enforcement is not satisfactory, though it is slowly improving, with more and more neo-nazis convicted for committing crimes with a hate motive. Law enforcement tends to prosecute singular and low profile individual nationalistic statements rather than to fight with popular and influential hate websites and to detect and put on trial perpetrators of violent crimes. Moreover, in a number of cities, there is a strong suspicion that many police officers sympathize with neo-nazis and not only avoid investigating hate crimes, but also help neo-nazis by criminalizing human rights activists and leaking their personal data to the right wing websites.

As for Stanley Robinson’s case, two 17 year-old neo-nazi skinheads have been detained and confessed to the attack. Stanly was moved from Volgorgad to a hospital in Helsinki for recovery. He is in grave, but stable condition.

Maria is a researcher at the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Moscow, Russia), and a volunteer with several antifascist and refugee aid projects.


Color and blocked text added by me to make access to SR’s case easier.

2008 Dec 12: Russia: Stabbing of African-American Exchange Student May Be Hate Crime

2008 Dec 15: Hurt R.I. Student moved to Finland

2008 Dec 15: Hurt R.I. Student moved to Finland

Monday, December 15, 2008

MOSCOW – The mother of an American exchange student who was stabbed in Russia says her son has been transferred to a hospital in Finland.

Stanley Robinson, 18, of Providence was stabbed by unknown assailants in the southern Russian city of Volgograd Dec. 5.

Robinson was studying Russian on a program arranged by the American Field Service, or AFS.

The organization said Saturday it had arranged his transfer to Finland, and his mother, Tina Robinson, confirmed by phone yesterday that he was hospitalized in Helsinki.


2008 Dec 12: Russia: Stabbing of African-American Exchange Student May Be Hate Crime

2008 Dec 12: Russia: Stabbing of African-American Exchange Student May Be Hate Crime

An African-American exchange student has been stabbed by unknown assailants in a southern Russian city in an attack officials say may have been racially motivated.

Stanley Robinson, 18, of Providence, Rhode Island, was in grave but stable condition Friday at Hospital No. 12 in the southern city of Volgograd, the hospital’s head doctor said.

Investigators were trying to determine if the Dec. 5 assault on Robinson was a hate crime, said city police spokeswoman Svetlana Smolyaninova. No suspects have been detained, and she said authorities have not ruled out robbery or random violence.

But Robinson’s mother, who has spoken twice with her son by telephone since the attack, has no doubts about what motivated the attack.

“I believe it happened because he is a person of color,” Tina Robinson said in a telephone interview Friday from her home in Providence. “It was completely unprovoked.”

The stabbing took place in Volgograd, an industrial city of 1 million people 550 miles southeast of Moscow.

Tina Robinson said her son had developed pneumonia, and said she was trying to arrange his transfer to a Western-style medical facility. “I’m very concerned about the care he’s getting there,” she said.

The U.S. Embassy declined comment, citing privacy concerns.

In recent years Russia has seen a rising number of attacks against members of non-Slavic ethnic groups, particularly darker-skinned migrants from the Caucasus region and Central Asia. African students and immigrants are also frequent targets of attacks, but attacks on Westerners are rare.

Two Tajik men were attacked in a town north of Moscow last week. One was beheaded and Russian media reported his head was found 12 miles away. On obscure nationalist group claimed responsibility in an e-mail to the Sova hate-crime monitoring group.

Tina Robinson said she was unaware of Russia’s troubles with racism when her son left for a year abroad. “If I had any inkling that there was any possibility of this happening, I would have tried to dissuade him,” she said.

The victim’s mother and police gave slightly differing accounts.

Smolyaninova said three men approached Robinson at about 6 p.m. in a dark street far from his host family’s home. The assailants stabbed Robinson twice in the chest, she said.

Tina Robinson said her son had just finished working out at a gym and was headed for a bus stop when a single stranger approached and punched him. Robinson punched back, his mother said. The attacker then pulled a knife and stabbed Robinson in the chest and side, she said.

Relatives said Robinson, a graduate of East Providence High School in Rhode Island, was three months into his stay. He was studying Russian on a program arranged by the American Field Service, or AFS.

A woman who answered the phone at AFS’s Moscow offices said no one could comment. She declined to give her name.

Tina Robinson said she did not blame the host family. The host family could not be reached for comment Friday.

Galina Kozhevnikova, the deputy head of Sova, said at least 385 people have been hurt in racially motivated attacks this year. According to Sova, at least 85 people have been killed in such incidents.

2009 Oct 20: Licata sentenced for unlawful restraint

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009

Former Colleyville councilman Tony Licata, 58, was sentenced Tuesday to 24 months of probation for unlawfully restraining a foreign exchange student at his home last year, according to court records. Licata will also have to “continue private counseling for a minimum of two sessions” each month and was fined $386, according to court documents. If he fulfills terms of his probation, the conviction will be set aside.

Licata resigned his seat earlier this year on the day the arrest warrant was executed.

Licata’s attorney, Barry Sorrels of Dallas, had no immediate comment. The prosecutor who handled the case was in court Tuesday afternoon and couldn’t be reached.

Licata was sentenced a day before his case was due for disposition in County Criminal County No. 1.


2009 May: Colleyville Councilman Accused of Fondling Exchange Student