American Friends Service Committee's involvement in Asia all began in 1925 in China. The AFSC sent Lloyd Balderston, General Secretary of the Philadelphia Friends Mission Board, to survey different parts of China and report back on the type of work that the organization may be able to accomplish there. Balderston found that there was a lot to be done in engineering, education, and social work. AFSC sent $1,000 to Balderston to support a joint project with native Chinese to build a village near Shanghai in its first official Asian project. Two decades later, the AFSC sponsored the Friends Ambulance Unit and Friends Service Unit to help the Chinese throughout World War II and the difficult postwar years. The AFSC also provided food and clothing relief to the Japanese after the war through the auspices of Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA). The AFSC never shy away from crossing political boundaries to help those in need.
The AFSC became involved in Southern Asia as early as the 1930s and 40s in Bengal. The organization helped to provide humanitarian aid, famine relief, and refugee resettlement to individuals. This was especially important after the 1947-48 partition of India and Pakistan, which affected Bengaline territory as well. AFSC also contributed to rural and urban development projects in India and Pakistan before and after the split. The Friends Service Committee helped to provide humanitarian aid to Tibetan Refugees displaced by the 1959 Tibetan uprising. AFSC also helped to grant assistance to refugees fleeing China and Vietnam who settled in Hong Kong.
The organization was heavily opposed to the war in Vietnam and helped to settle refugees in South Vietnam through 1975. The AFSC provided medical aid to the North Vietnamese and in 1967 founded a prosthetics clinic in Quang Ngai. When the war was finally over, AFSC was active in postwar reconstruction in North Vietnam and Laos. AFSC also provided aid for Southeast Asians fleeing communist governments after 1975.
The AFSC's involvement in China continued as they became the host organization of exchanges between American and Chinese leaders of peace organizations in 1983. The organization began agricultural development in South Korea in 1997 and worked through the early 2000s to examine social conditions and develop policy recommendations for the advancement of women in South Korea, China, and Hong Kong.
Currently AFSC has active programs in China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and North Korea, working in areas of human rights, sustainable agricultural practices, conflict resolution, education and youth engagement.