From 22 to 25 November, EFIL’s Member Organisations – the European AFS Partner Organisations – met in Krakow, Poland, for their annual Heads of Office meeting (HOO). For several of the participants, this was there first HOO meeting, among them the new National Directors of our Members in Iceland (Gudmundur Gunnarsson), the Netherlands (Annemarie Postma), Croatia (Dubravka Filipec), Switzerland (Luc Estapé) and Turkey (Derya Komitoglu). Following the recent tragic events in France, Myriam Verger, recently appointed National Director of AFS France, had opted to stay with her staff in the office in Paris. In Krakow, we also had the pleasure of the company of Kevin Hickey, Director of EIL, the Partner Organisation of AFS in Ireland. From AFS International, Christine Leimgruber attended the meeting.
During two days of plenaries and group discussions, we touched upon all kinds of topics of relevance to the work of our offices, including volunteer and staff training, fee negotiations, late placements, school relations, new and short programmes, etc. Special attention was given to the upcoming new regulations in Europe with regards to data protection and record retention. Herman Croux, who’s an expert on European law and who regularly works together with AFS International (Hal Denton), gave a presentation on the topic and answered questions from the group.
Following the events in Europe over the past year, a discussion session was dedicated to the current refugees and migrant crisis in Europe, and – taking in account the very different realities in various parts of Europe – how AFS can/cannot or should/shouldn’t react, on national, regional or local level, through activities that are either volunteer or office driven.
Christine Leimgruber facilitated a session on balancing the NH/SH cycles, presenting the outcomes of a recent survey (questionnaire) done by AFS International among the European Partner Organisations.
The meeting closed with a lively discussion on the position of the National Director in an AFS office and the role of the Boards in our organisations, a session facilitated by Ulrik Wehner, National Director of AFS Denmark.
A big thank you goes to Magda Porebska, National Director of our AFS Partner in Poland, and her team of staff and volunteers for being the perfect host of our meeting. A great evening was spent together with the Polish volunteers, in Piekary near Krakow, where the Fr. Siemaszko Foundation is based. On Wednesday morning, as a group activity, we visited the famous Salt Mine near Krakow, the largest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We are already looking forward to next year’s meeting of the European National Directors, which will be a HOO retreat in Lisbon in June, attached to AFS Portugal’s anniversary celebrations!