Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nonprofit Responds to Exchange Student's Claim That He Was Starved While Abroad

The New York Times reports that "AFS, a nonprofit formerly known as American Field Service, is one of the largest and oldest organizers of student exchanges.  Since its founding as an ambulance corps during World War I, the agency has arranged exchanges for 325,000 American and foreign students from more then 50 countries."  One student, Jonathan McCullum, spent the year in Egypt with a Coptic Christian family.  The student alleges that the family starved him.  He says that "he was denied of sufficient food while staying with [the]family of Coptic Christians, who fast for more than 200 days of a year."  The parents believe that the nonprofit is at fault for not warning the family "that students placed with Coptic families would be subject to dietary restrictions."  When the student returned to the United States, he had lost nearly one-third of his body weight, standing at a mere 97 pounds.  Mr. McCullum stands 5 foot, 9 inches tall.

The article raises issues of accountability, disclosure and privacy.  The family is considering a lawsuit against the charity for the ill-treatment their son received while on the exchange.  The family also asserts that the nonprofit should have disclosed the circumstances of the student's stay before it reached a critical stage, and last, to what extent might the student want the organization to keep his condition private, meaning no parents.

See full article for complete story.


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