AFSC’s advocacy work for the rights of native Africans began in the 1930s, but our presence on the continent began with aid to refugees from the Algerian War in 1958. By that war’s end, we had shifted from emergency relief to long-term projects to support community problem solving. As nations broke free from colonial powers in the early 1960s, we supported their independent development. Often, we’ve coupled education and housing projects with quiet diplomacy, as in Zambia and during the Nigerian Civil War.

Whether joining with nomadic communities in Mali, religious peace builders in Angola, or rural villagers in Mozambique, AFSC has practiced the philosophy of strengthening local capacities to solve local problems. Today we have active programs in Zimbabwe,  Burundi, Somalia, and Kenya working with people who have survived violence as they heal from trauma, overcome political and ethnic divisions, and find ways to support themselves with dignity. 

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  • An old woman sits outside a grass-covered building while a woman holds a baby inside the building.
    AFSC began a relief program for Algerian refugees in Tunisia and Morocco in 1958 at the urging of the United Nations. Most of the Algerians were women, children, and the elderly, living in very poor conditions.
  • Two women work at sewing machines.
    Programs we offered included medical assistance, education, and job training—such as these sewing centers for women.
  • Man stands, holding a book, in front of students sitting at tables, raising their hands.
    AFSC’s Tony Henry teaches a literacy class in one of 30 communities across Tanzania that benefited from the Volunteers in International Service Assignments program in the 1960s.
  • Woman holding a baby stands in water next to three other people, also standing in water.
    Also in the 1960s, a cooperative, self-help housing project in Kafue, Zambia, helped address a critical housing shortage in a rapidly urbanizing area prone to flooding.
  • Man works on constructing a brick building.
    At Kafue’s Chawama Self-Help Housing Project in Zambia, 288 families pledged 1,000 hours of service towards building their own houses.
  • Two men sitting across the table from one another, talking.
    Drought across the Sahel decimated nomadic communities in the 1970s. AFSC proposed a successful alternative to enforced government housing, in which a tribe could make its own decisions about starting over. Photo: Terry Foss
  • One man plays a drum, facing other men as they plow the soil using hand tools. Photo: Terry Foss
    In response to AFSC’s proposal, one hundred families volunteered to leave refugee camps and begin again in an area called Tin Aicha.
  • Man speaks to classroom full of children, standing in front of a blackboard. Photo: Terry Foss
    By 1981, Tin Aicha had 1,000 people, a school, a market, a cooperative store, a mosque, and a health clinic. Families came and left as they pleased, without feeling trapped in village life.
  • Two people measure the height of a child while a woman looks on.
    About a year after civil war began in Nigeria in 1968, AFSC sent two relief and medical teams to the areas with the most acute need, where no other help was available—serving people regardless of political their affiliation.
  • Group picture of eleven people in front of a building.
    Supported by AFSC, Angolan peace activist Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga (kneeling, 2nd from right) used quiet diplomacy to build the religious coalition COIEPA into a powerful voice that helped end the Angolan Civil War.
  • Young men and women sitting together in a circle of chairs, one table in front of two people.
    Today in Burundi, AFSC supports local organizations working with women, youths, ex-combatants, and others displaced by violence.
  • Women sitting together handle money.
    Village saving circles help members accumulate the capital to buy animals and equipment or start their own businesses.
  • Group of three people do carpentry work in the shade near a tree.
    This Zimbabwean carpentry cluster includes men and women. AFSC works with the most vulnerable—women, youth, people with disabilities, and adults with HIV/AIDS—to help them gain economic self-sufficiency.