Friendship Force members and clubs around the world are doing spectacular work all the time!

Look here for news, stories and information on upcoming FFI events worldwide.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Friendship Force To Participate in Georgia Gives on #GivingTuesday on November 28

Friendship Force has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Atlanta-based FFI last participated in Georgia Gives Day in 2015, a movement that has now combined with the global #GivingTuesday initiative. Our goal is to raise $7000 in this global, day-long effort on Tuesday, November 28, with all donations going towards our 40th Anniversary Campaign, as we work towards creating a friendlier and more peaceful world.

#GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their communities and world by giving back to the organizations and causes they support.

In 2016, the fifth year of #GivingTuesday, millions of people in 98 countries came together to give back and support the causes they believe in. Over $177 million was raised online to benefit a tremendously broad range of organizations, and much more was given in volunteer hours, donations of food and clothing, and acts of kindness.

If you are interested in becoming part of Friendship Force’s #GivingTuesday initiative, please visit our GAgives on #GivingTuesday profile page here and be sure to donate on Tuesday, November 28, with all gifts going towards our 40th Anniversary Campaign.

FFI President and CEO Jeremi Snook has personally pledged a gift of $1,000 to GAgives on Giving Tuesday and Georgia Gives Day in order to encourage our members, leaders, friends, and supporters around the world to join in this global celebration of giving.

“This wonderful effort has raised more than $13.6 million for Georgia non-profits since it was begun in 2012, and one can only imagine the good those funds have done. You also must wonder about the needs that sadly would have gone unmet if this movement did not exist,” said Snook. “Here is our opportunity to bring about positive change, to make a difference even in a small way, by giving whatever we can.”

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, November 28, and stay tuned to the Friendship Force Facebook page, Twitter feed, and your email inbox for more updates!
Not on our mailing list? Join here!

For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website, Facebook page, or follow @GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Calling All Photographers!

Are you a Friendship Force member with an interest in photography? We are looking for members worldwide with an interest in taking and sharing photos and improving their photography skills to form Club Clusters. No professional training required!

Whether you are a novice or advanced photographer with a camera phone, point and shoot, or DSLR, start a Photography Club Cluster within your club! It takes only 3 amateur photographers to start a Club Cluster.

With organizational structure, curriculum support, and recognition from FFI and your Field Representatives, you will…

  • Go on Challenge Assignments
  • Grow Your Skills
  • Produce Fabulous Photos
  • Have Fun and Nurture Friendships!

Have 3 people interested? Sign up here:

Need more members in your club to form a cluster? Share this flyer with them!

View our Frequently Asked Questions document here for additional information about the Photography Club Clusters!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Friendship Force partnership with Global Green and Peace Boat US brings 3 groups together to promote world understanding



ATLANTA, GA, USA — The leadership of Friendship Force International, Global Green and Peace Boat US have agreed to combine efforts to advance global awareness of the critical need for citizen engagement to promote environmental sustainability, peace, understanding, friendship and to address other urgent global causes.

“Imagine the power for positive change that such an alliance can apply to help find solutions for our planet’s most serious challenges, most of which can be addressed and even solved by international cooperation created through friendship initiatives,” said Jeremi Snook, President and CEO of Atlanta-based Friendship Force International.

Snook said the coordinated campaign will bring together people and groups from an array of nations and cultures to share diverse perspectives and seek unity of purpose on the pressing issues facing humankind that affect the future of the planet.

The collaboration with Global Green and Peace Boat US is an outcome of Friendship Force’s stated strategy to forge partnerships with organizations aligned with its historic mission to promote understanding across the barriers that separate people.

The partners will be formalizing plans for mutual strategic cooperation in 2018, Snook said, with each organization leveraging its worldwide networks, public education initiatives, financial resources, and personnel to achieve common objectives.

“One of the most exciting and promising proposals is for members of Friendship Force and Global Green, along with other similarly-focused organizations, to travel around the world on Peace Boat to ignite a global citizen movement for our shared objectives of positive change,” said Snook.

“Global Green’s focus is to partner with like-minded organizations that share our vision of making this world a more peaceful and sustainable place,” said William Bridge, Chief Operating Officer at Global Green. “Our common values that include helping people, places and a planet in need will be brought to life during these incredible journeys where travelers will make life-long friends while discovering new perspectives and collaborating to build peaceful and sustainable communities around the world.”

Declared Emilie McGlone, Director of Peace Boat US: “We look forward to working with Friendship Force International and Global Green to create awareness and initiate action to inspire positive social change in the world as we travel to more than 100 countries annually on our Global Voyages with Peace Boat.”

With more than 15,000 people involved in Friendship Force International in more than 60 countries worldwide, FFI provides opportunities to experience new adventures and cultures from the inside by bringing people together at the personal level. Through the signature program of home hospitality, local hosts welcome international visitors into their culture, sharing with them meals, conversation, and the best sights and experiences of their region.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2017, Friendship Force has brought together more than 1 million people in homestay and cultural immersion experiences that have helped to promote global understanding across the barriers that separate people.

To learn more about how Friendship Force International can enrich your life, please visit

Global Green is dedicated to helping the people, the places, and the planet in need through catalytic projects, transformative policy, and cutting-edge research. Global Green’s signature programs include greening affordable housing, schools, neighborhoods, and cities across the United States through its four office locations: Los Angeles, CA; New York City, NY, Washington, D.C.; and New Orleans, LA.

Peace Boat US works to build a culture of peace around the world by connecting people across borders and creating opportunities for learning, activism and cooperation. Peace Boat US achieves this through programs in which people from the US and around the world participate in voyages onboard the Peace Boat, the organization’s Japan-based partner organization and one of the most unique and creative peace-building initiatives in the world.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Moonfall Over Oregon: A Global Journey Story

Editor’s Note: Our first eNewsletter Club of the Quarter is a joint honor, featuring FF of Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley and FF Columbia Cascade, USA, with their fantastic program and effort in hosting an eclipse-themed Journey in August 2017. Thanks to members Marilyn Peterson and Rita Powell for writing the story about the adventure below!

After the eclipse and a good lunch – everyone is in a party mood!
Moonfall Over Oregon: A Global Journey
Hosted by the Friendship Force of Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley and the Columbia Cascade Friendship Force club
August 16-25, 2017

What began as a way to share the Great American Solar Eclipse with the world turned into an adventure for the planners as well due to the large number of anticipated visitors to Oregon for the 2017 eclipse. Every event planned by Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley Host Coordinators, Marilyn Peterson, Mary Ellen Lind, and Dennis Murphy had to be changed in some respect, whether it was the time, date, or even menu. Nineteen ambassadors from several US states and Canada participated in this Journey, arriving on August 16, and staying in the Salem/Corvallis/Albany, Oregon area until the day of the eclipse.

Newlyweds (only 6 months!) Shrock and Doris, at Cascadia

During the Journey, the ambassadors experienced both the urban and the rural Oregon. Tony Farque, Forest Service Archaeologist, led a hike to visit petroglyphs and members of the Kalapuya tribe shared the art of stone knapping.

A visit to the Thyme Garden near Alsea, Oregon included a guided tramp in the herb garden and the fish restoration area. Salmon and Steelheadnow spawn in the stream on the property. A progressive dinner allowed the guests to meet more club members and visit different homes.

Luncheon in the garden

About two months before the eclipse date, August 21, the state emergency services, the media, and other governmental agencies became increasingly concerned about the anticipated 1 or so million people coming to Oregon (population about 4 million), confined to a 65 mile wide stripe (path of totality) across the state. Concerns about traffic, possible cell or power outages, and wildfires caused both clubs to reconsider the Journey’s plans. When we tried to get a second portable toilet for our group’s eclipse party and were unable to do so, we decided to change the plans.

Tent camping

Why not have a sleepover the night before the eclipse so no one has to travel on the morning of the eclipse to our viewing site? Ted and Rita Powell’s home was the perfect viewing and sleepover site. Tents were pitched, the equipment barn and living room floor became the slumber party venue. Ted and Rita prepared breakfast burritos for about 60 people beginning at 6:30 am.

Indoor “camping”

Even the weather cooperated for this spectacular event. The sky had been very smoky for several days due to forest fires, but the morning of August 21 was a beautiful sunny day. Perfect eclipse weather. Over 70 people participated in the watch party, which was followed by a spaghetti dinner prepared by the Powells and the Columbia Cascade hosts.

Totality is indescribable. Watching the corona appear, seeing stars and planets during the day, the 360 degree sunset, seeing shadows with crescent sun cutouts was an amazing experience for all. But, the Journey was not over yet!

Science experiments during the partial phases of the eclipse

After viewing the eclipse, the ambassadors and their Columbia Cascade hosts traveled home to the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area for the remainder of the Journey. The traffic was as bad as expected, and Host Coordinator, Laural Engeman reported it took over twice the usual time to return home.

The next morning, the ambassadors boarded a bus for a trip to the iconic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, visiting Bonneville dam and fish hatchery with a stop at Multnomah Falls. Using Portland’s famous mass transit system, the ambassadors visited Powell’s Bookstore, the Portland Art Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry, and dined at a food cart pod.

Luncheon in the garden

The Journey concluded with a bus trip to Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum followed by wine tasting and a Farewell Dinner. New friends, shared memories, a total solar eclipse, an unforgettable Friendship Force sleepover – what a wonderful Journey!

Gathering at Portland International Airport over lunch
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

FFI Board Meeting Highlights – August 2017

This year, the International Board of Directors held their bi-annual meeting in Manchester, U.K., to coincide with the 40th Anniversary World Conference.

If you didn’t get a chance to be at the conference in person, you missed a truly fantastic event (read a recap of the festivities here)! In addition to receiving acknowledgement of our anniversary from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and hearing from Wayne Smith’s daughter and former FFI President, Suzy Smith Bennitt, the Friendship Force of Manchester and the staff at Friendship Force International put together a celebration to remember!

Although the celebration largely focused on Friendship Force’s past, our Board meeting before the conference was focused on our future. Here are the highlights from the meeting:

  • The Executive Committee for 2018 was approved with Jo Custead as Chair, and Bobbie Mulholland as Vice-Chair, Ramona McGee as Treasurer, and Lyn Hargreave as Secretary.
  • The Strengthening Clubs Workgroup, chaired by Bobbie Mulholland, presented insights on how to support struggling clubs with information gathered from surveying some of FFI’s top performing clubs.
  • There was ample discussion on the need to revisit Journey fees, noting that it has been several years since any adjustments have been made. This discussion will continue in 2018.
  • The European Action Group reported positive feedback regarding staff being stationed closer to clubs and the focus on revitalizing Europe.

  • A detailed report from the Fund Development Committee was received ahead of the World Conference. The Board expressed much confidence in the structure and plan in place to support the goals of the 40th Anniversary Campaign.
  • The Board also received general reports on the outstanding progress being made in FFI’s effort to be more transparent, the increase in communication overall, and the efficiency and strength of the home office.
  • A detailed report on the progress of the new database and the next steps with the website was also received.

The largest block of time at the Board meeting was dedicated to the 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. As Jeremi mentioned during the conference, he and the Board feel strongly that a thorough and detailed Strategic Plan that is connected to the campaign is critical to the success of both. The Board hopes to have more information on this for members soon. The Board recognizes the significance of this anniversary for Friendship Force International, and we are working hard to ensure that our next 40 years allow us to take our mission further than ever before.

World Friendship Day kicked off our 40th Anniversary with excitement, the World Conference in Manchester continued the celebration, and we know that more events are happening throughout the year. 40 years is a significant milestone, and we enjoy celebrating it with all of you!

In friendship,

Bob Duncan, Board Chair

Jo Custead, Vice-Chair

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two New Members Elected to International Board of Directors

During the August meeting of FFI’s International Board of Directors in Manchester, U.K., the Board elected two new members, formally saying goodbye to Ivan Ng, Fred Opondo, and Kurt Haefeli who will be finishing their four-year term in December 2017. James Permana, from the USA, and Krisztina Balogh, from Hungary were put forward by the Nominating Committee. They were unanimously approved and will join the Board of Directors beginning January 2018.

Read more about these new Board Members here!

Krisztina Balogh

Krisztina has grown up with Friendship Force, as her family joined the organization in 1991 when she was only 21 years old. She is an English language teacher and a certified accountant, and she has lived in Székesfehérvár, Hungary, all of her life.

Krisztina has had several positions in her club throughout the years, serving as president most recently. When she has some spare time, she is keen on watching films, reading, and meeting new people.


James Permana

James Permana lives in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and works as a healthcare data consultant. Friendship Force has been instrumental in shaping his love and appreciation of international friendship in high school when he participated in the first International Summer Institute (later renamed “Global Youth Institute”). James hosted international guests through Sisters Cities International and Youth For Understanding, and he was a pioneer member of the CouchSurfing community.

James also volunteers as an ESL tutor, an income tax preparer, and works at the information desk at O’Hare International Airport through Traveler’s Aid. James travels extensively domestically for work and internationally for fun. He has been all over Asia and Europe and looks forward to exploring new countries with FFI.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

40th Anniversary Campaign Update

The 40th Anniversary Campaign is off to a great start, raising over $10,000 in donations from members, clubs, and corporate donors as well. If you’re wondering why you should give, read below why some members have donated to the 40th Anniversary Campaign:

“Friendship Force has enriched my world outlook for more than 12 years. I am grateful for my friends worldwide and want Friendship Force to expand as a way to enable peace and understanding among many cultures and nationalities.”

“I was on the first exchange to Korea from the Seattle-Tacoma club in Washington State in 1988, and for many years traveled with and hosted many groups until my wife became unable to participate. All of these FFI experiences enriched my life beyond description, and I’m forever grateful to the founder Wayne Smith and all the leadership that made it possible!”

“I strongly support our mission, and want us to continue to work toward peace for at least another 40 years.”

Do any of these comments resonate with you and your experience as a member of Friendship Force International? If so, click here to learn more about how you can support the 40th Anniversary Campaign.

We’ve received many questions since the campaign was launched in May 2017 and want to clarify what the campaign will accomplish. More details will be sent in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for information about specific programs that will be funded by the campaign, a presentation for clubs to utilize when talking about the campaign, and answers to some frequently asked questions.

As always, if you have any questions, you can contact Pallie Savoie or Jeremi Snook and they will be happy to help.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Now More Than Ever – Our Newest Video

The mission of Friendship Force is to promote global understanding across the barriers that separate people.

Since the founding of our organization in 1977, Friendship Force has worked to bridge the divide created by cultural misunderstandings and fear. Over the last 40 years, we have remained committed to this mission, with friendship and understanding as our primary objectives.

Friendship Force International previewed our newest video at the World Conference in Manchester. We are pleased to now officially debut it with the larger membership. We encourage you to share this new official video on how the Friendship Force mission is important now more than ever!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Recap of 40th Anniversary World Conference in Manchester, U.K.

Friendship Force’s 40th Anniversary World Conference in Manchester, U.K. kicked off with the arrival of 325 delegates on August 24, 2017, to The Midland Hotel for registration, seeing new and old friends, and preparing for the exciting FFI events ahead.

Larger than life historical newspaper clippings that decorated the 1970s Welcome Party.

The first night was a blast to the past in a themed “Travel Back to 1977” welcome party, with an introduction by Suzy Smith Bennitt, former FFI CEO and daughter of founder Wayne Smith. There was also a costume and name-that-tune contest, throwback ’70s games, and plenty of moves on the disco floor.

Richard and Wynne from North Bay, Canada in their ’70s costumes at the Blast from the Past Welcome Party

Friday was a full plenary day, with a spectacular, rhythmic surprise opening from Drum Cafe UK where the delegates helped provide the beat.

Suzy Smith Bennitt, spoke next about her father’s vision when founding the Friendship Force, as well as her experiences growing up with Friendship Force, even presenting a letter written to FFI by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter in honor of FFI’s 40th Anniversary.

Bobbie and Jim Jones with Suzy Smith Bennitt

Newcastle upon Tyne City Councillor David Faulkner spoke, reflecting upon the inaugural FFI exchange in July 1977 between his city and Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Delegates watched a special video message from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in honor of our milestone year. Lotfi Lamrani of FF Morocco, host of 2016’s World Conference, presented the host cup to Andrew Kelly, president of FF Greater Manchester, who welcomed everyone to his magnificent city.

FFI Board Member Simone Lanzoni from FF Ribeirao Preto, Brazil

On Friday afternoon, FFI’s President and CEO Jeremi Snook spoke about his “side of the mountain” and the bright future ahead for Friendship Force. Next, Board Chair Bob Duncan thanked the Board Members for their service, followed by a very funny short sketch written by FF of Greater Manchester’s own Andrew Kelly about a “typical” Friendship Force club meeting, performed by the Meighan Youth Theatre Productions (see the video here!).

Commemorative 40th Anniversary merchandise

The afternoon concluded with a fascinating talk by adventurer, writer, and TV documentary maker Benedict Allen, who illustrated the importance of approaching new cultures and experiences with the heart and mind of a learner in order to truly experience connection with others, even those who may seem otherwise very dissimilar.

Delegates from Japan, including FFI Board Member Hiro Onishi

On Saturday, delegates had a free day with many options of enjoyment around Manchester and neighboring regions. Tours departed for a walk the countryside, to see the ancient walled city of Chester, on an excursion to see famous Beatles sites, and on Mancunian walking tours and canal cruises! The city of Manchester itself threw its largest ever Pride Parade on Saturday in support of their local LGBTQ community, celebrating diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. A diverse group of Friendship Force delegates from around the world, including Suzy Smith Bennitt, chose to walk in this optional parade, advocating FFI’s shared values of understanding and peace.

FFI staff on the steps of Concorde

On Saturday evening, delegates landed in the hangar of the famed Concorde jetliner for an elegant gala banquet. The evening began with a Prosecco reception under the aircraft, and continued with dinner during a program with greetings by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Eddy Newman, and an informative talk by long-time air traffic controller and pilot Phil Holt. After dessert, delegates were able to board Concorde to see the inside of this supersonic aircraft that was able to cross the Atlantic in 3.5 hours, and the event was capped off with dancing to the tunes of the Greater Manchester Police Band.

Marina from Moscow, Russia colors in the specially-commissioned FFI artwork canvas

Sunday was full of dynamic workshops, with presenters ranging from experienced FFI members and leaders to industry and cultural experts. Workshop topics included volunteering while traveling, media relations, photographing Journeys, the history of FFI in sound and image (watch historical FFI videos here and here!), engaging your local community presented by Sucheta Rawal of Go Eat Give, Family Journeys, and strengthening clubs, club boards, and regions, and so much more (view workshop materials and presentations here)!

QuinTEAssential gives a history of tea along with a tea tasting lesson

Cultural workshops covered two decades of popular music in and from Manchester, an exploration of the Midland Hotel and its historical significance, tea education and tasting from QuinTEAssential, and Regency style dancing from the 17th-19th centuries from Regency Rejigged.

Rejency Regjigge demonstrates historical dancing styles

The closing ceremonies of the 40th Anniversary World Conference took place on Monday, and included a keynote presentation by philanthropist, conservationist and “Hart to Hart” actress Stefanie Powers, a heartfelt final thanks to the host club, FF Greater Manchester, and the reveal of the completed commemorative artwork canvas colored in by delegates from all over the world.

Hanaa from Cairo, Egypt is being interviewed about her story of friendship

Next came a lively, interactive session where delegates shared their personal Friendship Force stories with someone they didn’t yet know, and we were able to capture many of these stories on video. Jeremi Snook and Conference Director Debbie Powell shared some final thoughts on the weekend and, in traditional Friendship Force fashion, the delegation closed the conference with an a cappella rendition of “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Thank you to all of the Conference delegates, members of the host club of FF of Greater Manchester, all of our speakers and performers, FFI staff, club members and leaders, and every one of our new friends for joining in on this remarkable celebration!

Links to Conference Materials and Photos

Friday, September 8, 2017

Expanding Our Core – Part 2 of a Blog Series by Jeremi Snook

This is the second entry in a series of blog posts by CEO Jeremi Snook outlining the goals of the 40th Anniversary Campaign. Read Part One here.

I love to garden. Well, to be more precise, I love the idea of gardening. Growing up in rural New England, in the far northeastern corner of the United States, our growing season was short. At the end of each winter, with increasing anticipation, we looked forward to putting seeds into the ground. Growing wax beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash was part of what we did each year as a family, and with the end of growing season always looming, there was never enough time to complain about weeding or the heat of summer.  

As an adult, I carried the nostalgia of that gardening experience to our home in Georgia. But instead of a small manageable garden, I wanted a ridiculously large garden. Unlike the garden experience I remembered from my youth, the growing season was long. So long, in fact, there were two growing seasons in Georgia. And unlike a little warmth at the peak of summer in New England, Georgia consistently delivers an endless supply of sweltering hot days with little to no rain. While I remember plucking just a few pesky weeds with my family, my ambitious 40-foot-by-60-foot Georgian vegetable kingdom was constantly invaded by armies of neighboring grasses, weeds, and wild herbs. Needless to say, I was tempted at many points to give up on the project as each day’s labor slowly began to replace once fond memories of gardening with calluses, soreness, and frustration.

That was until I discovered the miracle of drip irrigation, the efficiency of a gas-powered tiller, and the necessity of friends and neighbors with decades more experience to help guide us – and to help pull weeds at the end of a rainstorm! With the need for a garden out of my system, we’ve moved on from the 40-by-60-foot second job and are now satisfied supporting local agriculture at the farmer’s market (where I can also drink coffee and eat samples in the cool shade!).  If there was one big take-away from the experience, it was this: You need the right tools for the job or you will only burn yourself out.

Friendship Force is not a garden, but the growth we hope to see and aim to achieve requires that we have the right tools. Over the years, clubs have experimented with different recruitment methods (think FF Taupo’s successful technique) and adopted new approaches to welcoming younger members (think Associate Members in Nara) with great success. Many clubs have developed their own specialized welcome brochures and training materials, and some regions even have their own websites and encourage online interaction amongst their members. These approaches are fantastic examples of the kind of innovation that will propel Friendship Force forward. But could we do more?  

As I study these kinds of club successes, I’m constantly perplexed by one question:

What is the single most important thing that world headquarters could do to amplify and support these efforts at the local level?

Is it greater press coverage of the work we are collectively doing to promote greater understanding? Is it shiny new marketing materials available in multiple languages? Perhaps it’s an easier way to create clubs through a streamlined process that uses both the power of the internet and the power of our seasoned leaders within FFI? Maybe it’s creating different membership types, like many of our clubs have already done, to make it easier for people to be a part of what we’re doing?

Unfortunately there isn’t just one thing we need to do, it’s all of the above. And depending upon where you are in the world, your one thing is likely different from the one thing needed on the other side of the world.  

Strengthening worldwide membership and building new clubs requires that we invest strategically in all the tools mentioned above. This 40th Anniversary Campaign goal aims to equip FFI with the right tools to be more impactful in our club development efforts worldwide. With standard recruitment materials at your fingertips, better technology, access to universal trainings, and defined processes for regionally-specific media engagement, we can amplify the work you all are doing in your communities.  

Perhaps in these ways we can help make tending your garden in your part of the world a little easier.

Stay tuned for additional entries into this series about the 40th Anniversary Campaign, and read Part One here.