Leadership & Governance
International Board of Directors
Chair - Montréal, Canada
Vice-Chair - Massachusetts, USA
Treasurer - California, USA
Secretary - Lake Simcoe, Canada
Jon Wagner has been involved with Friendship Force since 2016. In 2019 he launched the New FF Lake Simcoe club, of which he is currently club President. He has participated in world and regional conferences, FF Leadership Training in Nebraska, and journeyed extensively. Jon has a BASc. in Systems Design Engineering and a MASc. in Management Sciences and Cross-Cultural Behaviour, and is retired from a diverse career in Senior Human Resources, Organizational Development, Training & Development and Change Management leadership roles in large corporations. As President of J Wagner Consulting Inc. and Managing Director of VirtualeTeams he consulted to government, non‐profit and private sector clients. Jon is a “virtual work” pioneer. He has supported, researched and led virtual teams for over 25 years. He authored three books about virtual teams, meetings and classrooms. He also developed/delivered HR, Leadership, Management and Adult Learning workshops. Jon was co‐founder of the Toronto Organization Development (OD) Network and was on the Faculty of Canadian OD Institute and the Master’s Certificate in Adult Training & Development. He has been a frequent speaker at major conferences in Canada, US & Globally (Virtual). He has helped numerous non-profit organizations to global, virtual collaboration. Jon has worked internationally and with his family has travelled extensively in over 30 countries. He enjoys the natural world, music, learning about and experiencing other cultures.
Andrew joined Friendship Force in 1986 and has been an active member of the Greater Manchester UK club ever since. He has served as journey coordinator many times and is currently the president of his club. His career background is telecommunications and computing, although he was also a partner in an adult mental health care home business for many years. Andrew likes to travel and his journeys have so far taken him to all seven continents of the world. His hobbies are music and photography.
John Hannah, former president of the Christchurch club, New Zealand. After retiring from civil engineering and project management, he has taken on numerous additional roles within Friendship Force and is now focusing his efforts on leading the development of the Global Club in New Zealand and is working on the Tech Advisory Committee – a group that helps to prioritize, guide, and test new technology initiatives. John came to Friendship Force after reading about the organization in the book by Jimmy Carter, former US president and has a real passion for progressing Friendship Force’s objective to create “A world of Friends is a World of Peace”.
Sunshine Coast, Australia
Mike McFarlane a retired academic, served as Vice President, President, and is the webmaster and online database administrator of the Sunshine Coast FFC, Australia. Mike enjoys weekly cycling, mountain biking, tennis with his mates, and skiting about his kids – especially his grandchildren. Appointed to a fledgling regional college that evolved into the University of Southern Queensland – Mike was involved initially in staff professional development as well as in the development of distance education that allowed people of all ages, occupations, educational levels, and location, to study off-campus. He developed his faculty’s international program, travelling regularly to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, and India. Mike designed and taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses in analytics, and information technology, and co-managed SimStat – a self-funding consultancy specialising in modelling large complex systems and advanced statistical analyses. He worked with commercial software development teams in Pittsburgh USA, in 1997 and 2001. Mike was a Board Director of Tread Lightly Australia and held leadership positions in APEX, P&C of his children’s school, the Downs Four Wheel Drive Club, and the Queensland Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs.
Robert Wagner, a business executive who has traveled, worked, and lived in numerous countries around the world. He was introduced to Friendship Force by his neighbors after his family moved back to Germany and he was looking to continue building the sort of global connections he had experienced through work. He has been a member of his club in Germany, Friendship Force of Bavaria, for 16 years and served as president for the past 6 years. He is looking forward to an expanded role with Friendship Force to further the mission of peace through friendship.
Thiago de Lorena Fábio
Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
Thiago is a Physiotherapy and Master of Science graduate who has lived and worked not only in his native Brazil but in the United Arab Emirates, where he worked as a cabin crew for Emirates Airlines. That role, at age 30, allowed him to travel extensively throughout the world and work as part of a multicultural team. However, his frustration with his level of English inspired him to start “SpeakOut”, his own successful English school and learning method based on verbal communication. He has become an effective ESL teacher and mentor, helping hundreds of professionals reach their English goals in business, finance, marketing, science, and technology, which has demanded, of course, that he become well-versed in these subject areas as well. He became a member of the FF Ribeirão Preto club in Brazil in 2017 and matched straight away with FFI’s values and mission. Two years later, Thiago led his first Journey, the global Journey “Fortaleza and Amazon Village” with 15 Ambassadors – a marvelous experience sharing some of the most beautiful landscapes of his country. Since then he has been selected for leadership roles in other successful Journeys. He invites his English students, mentees, and friends to participate when inbound Journeys come to his region, benefitting both these locals and the visitors as they are exposed to one another’s ways and cultures. Thiago counts outdoor activities, sports, and the ocean among his great loves, as well as history, geography, movies, seafood, coffee, and Japanese food.
Tracy has been an active member of Friendship Force since 2016. Tracy holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration majoring in Procurement and Logistics and high diploma in counseling; special needs, and family/marriage counseling. Tracy’s career is mainly in charity and business development. Throughout her life, she has found herself in positions of leadership in her community and enjoys interacting with people of different cultures and background. Tracy travels a lot internationally and locally for both work and fun, and has also had the privilege of living in different countries. She enjoys reading, travelling, and spending time with her amazing big family. She hopes to help FFI growth plans in Africa and into the next generation
Yoshiko Koizumi joined the Friendship Force of Sapporo in 1999 for the simple reason that she wished to travel abroad. However, when she first experienced a Friendship Force inbound journey, she noticed that this organization offered something quite different from a travel lovers’ club. The FF history book “The Other Side of the Mountain” fueled her motivation to be deeply involved in the organization’s and local club’s activities. She became Vice President of the Sapporo club in 2005 and served as President since 2013, for a total of 14 years. Most recently, Yoshiko has been the Field Representative for the northern region of Japan since 2019. She has also been responsible for many inbound and outbound journeys, as a Journey Coordinator. While busy raising her three children, Yoshiko was also involved in her town’s community activities and the PTA, leading other volunteers. She is also a Vice President of the Hokkaido International Women’s Association. Her motto is “We learn by acting”.
International Advisory Council (IAC)
Writer, Explorer, Traveller & Filmmaker
”In my work as an explorer, film maker and author, I have come to see that establishing relationships with ‘ordinary’ people around the world is something of crucial importance –a way of discovering the good will that in my experience is to be found everywhere. This is what citizen diplomacy is all about and what the work of Friendship Force is all about -making friends of strangers and discovering that there is far, far more that we have in common than divides us.”
Benedict Allen is one of the world’s leading explorers, particularly known for his solo expeditions through rainforest, desert and Arctic -journeys famously achieved not with a satellite phone, GPS or any of the usual “backup” but after months training with remote indigenous communities. These and other ventures are depicted in his ten books -including two best sellers -and numerous television series for the BBC, National Geographic, Channel 5, the History Channel and elsewhere. Benedict is a former Trustee of the Royal Geographical Society and editor of the definitive Faber Book of Exploration, an anthology of adventurers past and present. According to the Daily Telegraph, he is one of only two ‘great British explorers.’ His expeditions include a seven-and-a-half-month jungle trek –the only recorded crossing of the Amazon Basin at its widest -the first recorded journey the length of the Namib Desert and a solo crossing of the Gobi with camels. In PNG, he was permanently scared and beaten for six weeks as part of a traditional ritual to become “a man as strong as a crocodile,” and elsewhere journeyed with a faithful dog team 1000 km through the Russian tundra in the worst winter in living memory. He has been shot at by hitmen, elsewhere in the Amazon been robbed and left to die, and once in Sumatra sewed up a wound to his chest with his boot mending kit. Few people alive have spent so long isolated and alone in so many different potentially hostile environments. Benedict also pioneered the use of a hand-held camera on expeditions, thus doing away with a camera-crew and allowing millions of people around the world for the first time to witness a testing journey –and immersion in remote communities and environments -exactly as it happened. It is no exaggeration to say he paved the way for every TV adventurer we see on our screens today. Of his immersive philosophy he says this:
“To me personally, exploration isn’t about planting a flag or conquering nature or going somewhere in order to make a mark. It’s about the opposite: it’s about allowing the place to make its mark on you.”
C Suite Executive
”I was fortunate to be able to travel extensively around the globe during my tenure with The Coca-Cola Company. It made me appreciate the value of our similarities and our cultural differences and the fact that we are all ‘in this boat together.’ I consider my most important asset to be the friendships I have had the opportunity to develop globally.”
Pat is a highly admired executive with over 40 years of experience in the C suite of Fortune 100 and middle-market companies. He is noted for his ability to attract, develop and deploy highly talented people from various countries and cultures and is credited with positively transforming the quality of the world-wide finance staff at The Coca-Cola Company. At Coca-Cola, Pat served as Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer as well as Senior Vice President and CFO of Coca-Cola North America. He was very involved with the international operations of The Coca-Cola Company and traveled extensively, visiting Coke’s operations around the world. He served on the board of directors of the Company’s bottling operations in both France and Germany. Pat enjoys the opportunity to engage with people and cultures around the globe and takes pride in the friendships he has developed. His other volunteer activities have included serving on the boards of advisors for the business schools at the University of Illinois and Georgia State University and the Georgia Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Pat resides in St. Petersburg, Florida and enjoys bicycling and caring for his three dogs and five birds.
”I am proud to be a member of the IAC at FFI. It feels to me that there hasn’t been a time in our history where forging friendships across the globe based on deep understanding of each other is more important. The work each one of us do to strengthen the ties of friendship amongst the people of our planet will do more good than what we can imagine.”
Ahmet served as an Executive Vice President of The Coca-Cola Company until his retirement in March 2016, serving as the President of Coca-Cola International since January 1, 2013. In that position, he was responsible for all units outside North America. Ahmet began his career in 1983 as an Assistant Professor at the DeVry Institute of Technology. He joined the audit firm Coopers & Lybrand in Atlanta in 1985, serving in a variety of audit, consultancy & management roles. He joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1990 as a Financial Control Manager in Atlanta, and then moved to his native Turkey in 1992 as Region Finance Manager. In 1994, he joined the Coca-Cola Bottlers of Turkey as Finance Director and was named Managing Director of the bottler in 1998. He re-joined The Coca-Cola Company in 2000 as President of Eurasia Division. During 2000 to 2012, Ahmet’s responsibilities increased from a geographic scope of 9 countries to 90 as the President of the Eurasia and Africa Group including, Africa, India, Russia, Middle East and Eurasia. A founding member of The Coca-Cola Turkey Life Plus Foundation, Ahmet also previously served as head of various business councils including Brazil – US, US – Pakistan and US – Turkey business councils. In 2013, Ahmet was named Chair of the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), and served in that capacity until 2016. Following his retirement, Ahmet assumed various non-executive business roles around the globe. He is an advisory board member of Swire Coca-Cola, Board member at Hepsi Burada and Board member in ESAS Holding in Turkey, a member of the Board of Directors to The Whole Coffee Company in Miami. He is also a Board Member at the Turkish Philanthropy Foundation in New York and holds various advisory Board membership positions at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. Youth development is Ahmet’s top priority, and to that end, he is committed to a variety of initiatives in this area. Ahmet has a Master of Science in Business Info Systems from Georgia State University, US, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Admin from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. He is married to Fatos and has two children, Kerem and Esra.
Entrepreneur, Attorney, Author & Speaker
“Friendship Force plays an important role in forging strong bonds of friendship and respect with people of different backgrounds and cultures. If history taught us anything, it is that peace comes from understanding and respecting one another – not only the things we have in common but also the things that make us unique.”
Chris Salamone is highly respected entrepreneur, attorney, author and speaker.
Mr. Salamone is currently the Chairman of Aventus Holdings, a private investment firm that invests in companies and assets in a variety of industries including healthcare, aviation, food processing, entertainment, sports franchising, real estate development and construction. He is also currently the Managing Partner of Salamone & Associates, which provides legal and business consulting services.
He attended Saint Anselm College on a full basketball scholarship where he was a 4-year starting guard and 2-time recipient of the Al Grenert Award recognizing his leadership on and off the court.
Following graduation from Saint Anselm College, Chris took a position in Chase Bank’s prestigious management training program. He left Chase Bank to attend Nova Southeastern University Law School where he graduated 3rd in his class receiving Magna Cum Laude and Law Review honors.
A true “coach” at heart, Chris has dedicated much of his 30-year professional career to building first-of their-kind education and leadership training companies. Hundreds of thousands of students from over 50 countries around the world have attended these training programs including LeadAmerica, the National Student Leadership Conference, the National Institute for Legal Education and the BarBri Pre-Law Prep Program.
Mr. Salamone was selected to and served on the International Advisory Board for Bentley University, as well as the Ambassadors Board at Nova University. He served as special advisor to the Landfall Centre for Finance, Trade & International Affairs, and to the former Chairman of TC Invest, the National Investment Agency of Turks and Caicos. Mr. Salamone was part of the original ownership group and member of the Board of Directors of the Las Vegas Outlaws AFL football team.
Mr. Salamone has authored 2 books. The Law School Companion (Random House), and The New York Times Best-Selling book Rescue America which examines the historical, philosophical and leadership principles upon which America was founded. The book recounts his family’s humble journey from a small town in Sicily to America in 1903. Like many immigrants of their time, they personified the very principles that made America the most prosperous and generation nation in human history – Gratitude, Personal Responsibility and Sacrifice.
A gifted speaker and trainer, Mr. Salamone has addressed audiences around the world on leadership principles and personal development, inspiring them to tap into their potential and achieve their dreams. He has spoken at the prestigious New Hampshire Institute for Politics and universities across the country including Stanford, Harvard, the University of Texas, Columbia, and Georgetown. He has taught trial advocacy skills at Loyola Law School in Chicago and served on the teaching faculty for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
Chris is a quiet philanthropist who believes in giving back. He generously donates his time and money to a variety of worthy causes. For more than a decade, his direct financial support has provided for the education of more than 300 Haitian children, including all funding for school facilities, teachers, books, and school supplies. Each year he generously donates scholarship funds for deserving students to Saint Anselm College and recently provided a legacy gift to the college. In recognition of his generosity, the College recently dedicated and named the Salamone Family Athletic Hall of Fame in his honor.
He also serves on the Board of Directors of several non-profit organizations including the Symphony of the Americas, il Circolo Italian Cultural Society of Florida, Above & Beyond Youth Ministries, and the National Italian American Bar Association (NIABA). In 2016, Chris was honored by the Symphony of the America’s with their annual “Style and Substance” Award.
Chris attributes much of his success to his Italian upbringing and the values, principles and discipline instilled by his parents and grandparents. His father Anthony is his best friend and main source of inspiration, encouragement and love. He instilled in Chris a tremendous work ethic and a belief that he could achieve anything through commitment and hard work. His mother, Rita passed away when Chris was just 15, but left a lasting legacy of kindness, compassion and generosity that has remained with him to this day.
CEO and President
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell
Jeremi believes that travel, both local and international, and exploring different cultures helps us develop and grow as individuals while expanding our view of the world around us. For more than 20 years, Jeremi has helped organizations of all sizes realize their potential through program innovation guided by a strong sense of purpose. His experience is now being utilized to help Friendship Force International realize its potential and continue to grow in its role of bringing people together through understanding and friendship.
Jeremi completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida and holds a Masters of Business Administration from Queens University of Charlotte. He currently serves the Friendship Force International Board of Directors, members, and clubs as CEO & President.
Vice President of Member Engagement
After studying abroad in college, Allison was completely smitten with traveling internationally and exploring different cultures became her favorite hobby. Allison’s career with Friendship Force began in 1996 after returning home from an Au Pair position in Berlin, Germany. She has held many positions at FFI and currently serves as the Vice President of Member Engagement. Her favorite thing about the job is the people she works with, both the staff and the volunteers around the world. She lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA with her husband, two children, their dog Bella and from time to time, foster dogs awaiting adoption. When she isn’t working she can be found at the baseball or softball field cheering on her children as their biggest fan. )
Vice President of Global Development
Back in England after 25 nomadic years, Debbie has been heavily influenced by these multicultural and multilingual adventures – beginning with her studies in Japanese and German languages at the University of Cardiff. She has held a variety of roles since joining the Friendship Force staff in 2000, the most recent of which are Vice President of Global Development/Conference Director. In her free time, Debbie enjoys watercolour painting, karaoke, and challenging escape rooms. Her favorite words are “please proceed to your gate” and she is at her happiest when snorkelling in the blue. As the mother of two small boys, she struggles constantly against the growing mountain of Lego in her home.
VP of Finance and Director of Open World Programs
Dana has been with Friendship Force since 2019 and has loved every minute of her new career. She currently helps to manage the fundraising and finance sectors of Friendship Force. She splits her time between being a full-time mom, teaching yoga, hiking, and being an active board member at a community nonprofit fighting local food insecurities. Her love for the outdoors and animals has inspired her to work toward a naturalist lifestyle in many ways. Between her husband Adam, two boys, Gus and Jake, and her two big black dogs and two rescue cats, there is never a dull moment in the Jackson house. Dana studied at Appalachian State University and graduated from Tusculum University with a degree in Business Management.
Regional Support Manager
Hemily Nogueira dos Santos
Regional Support Manager
Hemily was born and raised in Brazil. She joined the FFI staff team in 2016 and supports the clubs in Latin America. Her passion for languages and travelling led her to live a few years abroad in Australia and Europe, where she studied English and Business. Hemily graduated in Languages, Translation and Interpreting and has an MBA in International Business. During her 2 years in Ireland, Hemily worked and studied with people all over the world and learned the importance of culture barriers being broken as people have so much to share with each other with respect and affection. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband while they watch their favorite TV shows with a big bucket of popcorn. Doing cross stitches and reading are her great hobbies and being a fur mum to Zoe, her little shih tzu, brings her great joy.
Vice President of Central European Operations
Kerstin enjoys travelling, hiking, reading, gardening and playing the piano. She speaks several languages and has lived in different corners of the world. She is now based in Munich, Germany. Kerstin holds a master’s degree in Intercultural Communication, Nordic Philology, and New German Literature from LMU München.
At FFI, she has been the go-to-person for most European clubs since 2016. Besides club support, she has worked with Journey Coordinators worldwide to facilitate a smooth journey process. Kerstin is also part of the FFI Virtual Experiences Team. She especially loves connecting with Friendship Force members in her online trivia games or during virtual FFI Book Club meetings.
Regional Support Manager
Kimberly joined the Friendship Force staff in January 2018. She is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the contact person for clubs in Australia and New Zealand. She is also responsible for the Journey matching process each year. Kimberly has a Master’s degree in Human Rights and has spent most of her career working in international programs around the world. She has worked in Nepal, Mauritius, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Kimberly loves long flights, exploring new countries, and never says no to a cup of tea.
Regional Support Manager
Her long career experience in customer service and extensive travels around the world, serve to help Noriko build strong relationships with Friendship Force clubs and volunteers everywhere and to provide consistently professional support to them.
From her home in Tokyo, Noriko works closely with Friendship Force members throughout Asia. she majored in Japanese Language and Literature from the School of Humanities at the Japan Women’s University and has studied teaching Japanese as a second language.In her spare time she loves to draw beautiful scenery, do oil paintings of people, paint in watercolor, and experiment with photography beside Japan’s many beautiful cherry blossom trees in the springtime.
Regional Support Manager
Oyuna has been involved with the Friendship Force as a member in Ulan-Ude, Russia. She moved to Sochi, Russia where she served as President in 2012 and also has been an Exchange Director for inbound and outbound exchanges/Journeys. Oyuna joined the Friendship Force staff in January 2018. She is based in Atlantic City, USA and she is the contact person for clubs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Turkey and Russia.
In her free time she loves to do crafts (wire wrapping, embroidery, sewing, making jewelry etc).
Regional Support Manager
Valerie was born and raised in France but spent most of her life abroad, and recently moved to Guadeloupe, a French island in the Caribbean.
Valerie graduated in Tourism Project Management, starting her career in the travel industry before spending two year backpacking around the world on a solo-adventure. This eye-opening adventure expanded her understanding of the world, and shaped her interest in cross-cultural experiences.
Valerie joined the Friendship Force team in 2016 to support clubs and members in Africa, Middle East and part of Europe. When she is not planning her next adventure, Valerie enjoys exploring nature, yoga, photography and diy, and has a slight obsession with cooking and street food.
Financials and Reports
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Friendship Force International relies on fees for service and the generous support individuals globally to fulfill its mission.