Friendship Force International is pleased to announce the addition of four new members to its Board of Directors. As the organization plans to expand the impact of our mission, we are excited to welcome these diverse and experienced individuals to help further our promotion of cultural exchange. Please join us in welcoming the new members to the Board:


Dr. Marlena Ćukteraš – Dubrovnik, Croatia  

Marlena comes to FFI with experience as a scientist, environmentalist, magazine and newspaper deputy editor and conservationist. This new board member holds a Ph.D. in Biology and Marine Sciences and has been a high school and college professor for over 20 years. She has led over fifty EU-funded projects aimed at preserving protected areas and is president of Green Sea Safari, Dubrovnik, Croatia, and ReReC Regional Resource Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has also been involved with NGOs working to preserve natural reserves. . Marlena was the keynote speaker at FFI’s 2023 world conference in Croatia. She says she draws her energy and inspiration from the new generations – her students – who, she would often say, have the power to change the world.


Michael English – Colorado, USA 

Introduced to Friendship Force in 2019, Michael brings in expertise in conflict resolution and experience in international and higher education. He holds a doctorate from George Mason University and currently teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder. As a published author and former magazine editor, Michael continues to explore and teach peace building.


Judi Smith – Washington, USA  

Judi has been involved in Friendship Force since 1977 and she took part in the first exchange to South Korea in 1978. She has served as President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer and was a Field Representative for the Pacific Northwest & Northern Rockies regions. Judi has experience in the education field, criminal justice and holds a degree in Business & Accounting. Before retiring, Judi worked for the state of Washington in Medicaid Program Management and served on several civic organizations’ boards. This included the Ethnic Support Council, a non-profit organization that helps non-English speaking people assimilate into the local community. She has received several awards for her civic service. Judi has been married for 60 years and has 4 children. 


Ken Weaver – Colorado, USA

Ken’s first FF experience was in 1999 with his wife Paulette and their daughters.Since then, he has joined and led FF journeys in over twenty countries. With a background in radioecology, he worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, where he chaired national committees concerned with radiation safety. His interest in climate action began in the 1970s during an internship working on climate legislation in the U.S. Congress. He’s served on civic, historic preservation, and university library boards and was Friendship Force’s Northern Colorado’s President and is in FFI’s hiking-biking-outdoor group and technology assistance group. FFI and Rotary International’s global vision of promoting peace and civility is a personal passion.


These new board members join Friendship Force at an exciting time as the organization works to expand its impact and reach in the coming years. The diverse backgrounds of our new board will undoubtedly contribute to our mission and the success of FFI. We look forward to seeing how their commitment to global peace and fostering connections will help advance FFI’s goals. 


The elected board officers for 2024:

Donna Simek – Boston, Massachusetts, USA – (Chairperson)

Jon Wagner – Lake Simcoe, Canada – (Vice-Chair)

Sandee Lee – Sacramento, California, USA – (Treasurer)

Andrew Kelly – Manchester, UK – (Secretary)

For more information about the full International Board of Directors, check out our Leadership & Governance page. 


Friendship Force is still looking for board members who have applicable experience. If you or someone you know is interested in Friendship Force’s mission and values, and has a global and strategic mindset, consider nominating someone or applying for a position within our board.


About Friendship Force International

Friendship Force International (FFI) is a cultural exchange organization that has brought people from all over the world of all ages, cultures, and nationalities together for almost 50 years. With a mission of promoting global understanding across the barriers that separate people, FFI has an extensive program of international exchanges many of which have a key homestay component that allows ambassadors to share a home, meals, conversation and everyday experiences. Through these unique experiences, people become friends, seeing beyond governments and borders into the heart of a country and its people. Almost one million people have participated in Friendship Force programs since the organization was founded in 1977 by Wayne Smith and introduced by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Friendship Force has more than 300 chartered clubs and programs in more than 60 countries on six continents, with more than 18,000 members worldwide. For additional information, visit


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