American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Written by Kelly M., OPFM Peace & Justice Committee
Two of the organizations OPFM gives monetary support to each year are American Friends Service Committee (National) and AFSC-Chicago. In this summary I’ve collected information from the AFSC website and from staff at the Chicago office to help us understand better the goals of each, and how they are different.
AFSC-National describes itself thus, “The American Friends Service Committee carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, AFSC's work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures.”
About their work they state, “We work to relieve and prevent suffering through both immediate aid and long-term development and seek to serve the needs of people on all sides of violent strife.
Among other things, they currently have projects in the US concerning issues of LGTB rights and recognition, Mexico-US border relations, immigrant rights, youth and militarism, and Fair Trade. Sadly as of last year they have ended their support of the Pine Ridge Reservation Service Project. AFSC National also has programs raising awareness about issues in Africa, Iraq, and Israel-Palestine.
AFSC-National also coordinates the international offices. For example in 2008 they established an East and Central African Regional Office in Kenya. It oversees, among other work, programs in the Congo, Somalia, and Burundi.
AFSC-Chicago is also the Great Lakes regional office. It oversees AFSC projects in WI, MI, IL, IN, OH, and KY. The Chicago branch is currently running four programs: Taxi Worker Organizing Project, Truth in Recruitment, Peacebuilding Program, and the Middle East Program. The Taxi Worker program provides a voice for immigrant taxi drivers, Truth in Recruitment raises awareness about military recruitment, the Peacebuilding program coordinates the Eyes Wide Open exhibit, and the Middle East Program works to create awareness and support for a just settlement to the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict (mostly by arranging lectures and talks about various issues).
Donations to the AFSC-National, unless earmarked for a specific campaign, go into a pot for distribution all over the US and to regional offices abroad at their discretion. According to Karen, contributions at the local level are generally given to a specific program. In addition to local fund-raising the Great Lakes Regional office does get some money from AFSC- National.
Contributions to both AFSC-National or AFSC-Chicago are tax-deductible. Contributions at both the National and Regional level are down about 50% from last year.