In August, close to 290 AFS volunteers were gathered on the island of San Servolo, Venice, Italy for the 9th edition of the EFIL Volunteer Summer Summit making it the biggest international AFS event of the year in the network. 40 different AFS Partners were present including most of EFIL’s Member Organisations as well as: AFS Argentina and Uruguay, AFS Australia, AFS Brazil, AFS Chile, AFS Ghana, AFS India, AFS Indonesia, EIL Ireland, AFS Japan, AFS Malaysia, AFS Paraguay, AFS South Africa and AFS Thailand.

The topic of this year’s Summer Summit was “Education for Peace: the challenge of living together”. The VSS offered space for discussions, critical thinking, best practice sharing, intercultural learning, networking and fun!

Participants enjoyed a wide selection of quality workshops by external trainers with years of experience on the topic in addition to skilled EPOT trainers from the EFIL network, the famous intercultural bazaar, an Italian cultural evening where participants learned about the different sides of Italian culture, visits to more unknown side of Venice such as the Jewish ghetto and the MOSE project, open forums by Roberto Ruffino and Darla Deardorff, leisure activities of all kinds, and most of all: fantastic company and lively AFS discussions.

Behind the event stands a strong and dedicated team: the prep team, the support team and the trainers team. They have done a great job in carrying out the event and providing a space for AFS volunteers to meet, discuss and develop. Thanks to Intercultura and Fondazione Intercultura for the collaboration in hosting the Summer Summit and for inviting international external trainers who contributed to making the VSS a successful educational event.

Following in the footsteps of France, Turkey, Hungary, Portugal, Latvia, Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Germany, the ninth VSS in Italy has once more confirmed the growing popularity of the VSS in the network and shows a clear need for volunteers to share their experiences and challenges, and indeed their whole AFS life, with their peers, as well as discussing wider topics related to their AFS engagement such as education for peace and the challenge of living together. We believe the VSS is the ultimate event for this purpose.

At the EFIL office we are saying goodbye to Ingvild Grini from Norway, our “VSS intern” who has been an important part of the VSS 2016 team, focusing mainly on communication with the participants. We are happy to introduce Valentina Milanese from Italy as the new EFIL VSS intern, starting her work and life in Brussels in January 2017.

The VSS keeps on inspiring volunteers across Europe and beyond, and creates lasting friendships between volunteers and partners. We can’t wait for the VSS 2017! Already now volunteers are making plans on how to get there – “going together by plane or by boat?” is currently the biggest question! For those who weren’t present in Italy to witness the announcement of next year’s VSS venue: our Partner Organisation to host the (literally) coolest event in Europe in 2017 will be…  AFS Iceland!