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.
“Looking back, the conviviality of the welcome party was a marker for our journey from the handshake of strangers to the embrace of friends.” – Charles John, FF Central North Carolina Ambassador
As we welcome the first quarter of 2018 and the completion of our organization’s 40th Anniversary year, we also want to reflect on the milestones and achievements accomplished by our clubs around the world. FF São Luís, Brazil, welcomed their very first group of ambassadors, and this inbound Journey was a rousing success, as outlined in this colorful narrative written collectively by ambassadors of FF Central North Carolina, USA.
From a thrilling early morning trek to the Barreirinhas, during which the ambassadors “shared an adventurous and exciting attitude,” to a voyage up the lush River Preguiças to the Pequenos Lençois, this Journey was filled with memorable moments and budding friendships. The Journey began as many do, with a welcome dinner that was a “beautiful affair,” featuring Brazilian folk songs, a dance, a mini classical guitar presentation, and portrait photography of ambassadors with their hosts.
The Journey’s itinerary also included a celebratory day at the beach at Litoranea, a potluck dinner at the home of the Host Coordinator Selma, a visit to Sitio Piranhengas, and a city tour full of history and topped off with a seafood buffet and an evening presentation of folk rallies. So many moments in this bountiful itinerary turned into lasting memories, leaving ambassadors “always exhausted with joy!”
Click here to read this creative collection of stories, Vinhetas do Brasil, in its entirety, composed of individual entries written by each of the FF Central North Carolina ambassadors.
Members of FF Leuven and the European Action Committee hope that all Friendship Force Europe members and leaders will consider attending this gathering of clubs from many European and Eurasian countries. The Conference will take place at the Park Inn by Radisson in Leuven from June 7 – 10, 2018!
FFI CEO Jeremi Snook will be in attendance at the conference, speaking about plan for club development, global membership, new multilingual technology initiatives, revised fee schedule, and plans for festivals and revitalization!
Prior to the European Conference, national conferences will be held on June 7 for Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Belgium/The Netherlands, and the U.K.
Registration Fee for Conference Participants (including 4 coffee breaks, 3 lunches, Welcome Dinner): €220 p.p.
Registration closes on April 1 – so register here today!
Several program options are available for non-conference participants, including a free guided tour of Brussels all day on Friday, along with a culinary walking tour of Leuven and Welcome and Farewell Dinners
Workshops at the Conference will cover topics such as:
- Global Youth Journeys
- Brainstorming session about how to involve and attract younger members; identifying resources and opportunities within your club; Journey success stories and themes
- Saving Old Clubs and Starting New Clubs
- How to recruit new members and to develop future leaders; the process of starting a new club; discussion of club developments in Munich and Zurich
- How to Organize a Journey: Global, Tandem, Light
- What are the different type of Journeys; how can you make each one interesting an exciting for your members to host
- Carrying Out Our Mission in Daily Life
- Reflection on how we experience and enact our mission daily and how it aligns with our personal values; sharing of stories and inspiration
- How to Connect with Ambassadors on an Inbound Journey?
- A playful experiment in going from small talk to “big” talk
- Matrix Club Expansion
- A compilation of themes and ideas brought up throughout the conference in other workshops and keynotes; this brainstorming exercise will provide a structured plan for concrete actions for both club members and club activities
Conference organizers hope that at least one representative of each club in Europe/Eurasia will attend and participate in the meetings and workshops. But don’t worry – there will be plenty of time for entertainment and socializing, too! Come to beautiful Leuven this June, and experience the oldest university town in Flanders to renew friendships and make new friends!
Why is it so important you come?
- Help set goals for the future of the Friendship Force of Europe together!
- Renew friendships and make new friends!
- Together, discuss burning issues and make sure the Friendship Force of Europe will grow stronger!
- Hear about the future of Friendship Force from CEO Jeremi Snook, who will be in attendance!
Press Release: Friendship Force celebrates 13th annual World Friendship Day; Urging everyone to “Make a friend and make a difference”
ATLANTA, Feb. 12, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Have you ever thought you’d like to make a difference in the world some day? You can, right now.
This year on March 1, on the 13th anniversary of the founding of World Friendship Day by Friendship Force International, the theme is “Make a friend and make a difference.”
“Our world today sometimes seems more divided than ever,” says Jeremi Snook, President and CEO of Atlanta based Friendship Force International. “So, now more than ever, we need people everywhere to reject the political and partisan rhetoric all around us, look beyond it and into the eyes of another person and extend a hand of friendship. That seemingly small act, multiplied millions of times around the world, will indeed make a difference!”
Since its founding in Atlanta more than 40 years ago in 1977 as the original global citizen homestay journey/exchange program, Friendship Force International has helped to coordinate journeys of friendship and discovery by more than 1 million people who have visited in the homes of strangers for a week or more and returned home as friends.
Today, journeys of exploration, education, service or cultural immersion can be arranged in more than 60 countries around the world, where more than 15,000 Friendship Force volunteer members open their hearts, homes and communities to world travelers eager to immerse themselves in local cultures to help build bridges across the barriers that separate people.
World Friendship Day is officially recognized on March 1 each year by the United States Senate and other governing bodies around the world that encourage average people to get to know one another better because, as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once said, “International friendship is a powerful antidote to war.”
On World Friendship Day, Friendship Force International also invites you to make a difference in your community by taking part in special initiatives in the name of global friendship.
Here are some ideas for ways to make a positive impact on World Friendship Day:
- Read or give a presentation on the meaning of friendship at a library, school, neighborhood or youth organization.
- Host a dinner in your home for foreign exchange students or the new family from another land just down the street.
- Volunteer at an international school for an English (or other) language class; learn it or teach it, it doesn’t matter.
- Donate supplies or volunteer at a refugee center.
- Invite local religious leaders from various faiths for a round table discussion on religious tolerance or world peace.
- Host a World Friendship Day dinner or party for a cultural organization in your community; the Six Continents Dinner idea is a popular one.
- Donate supplies to a humanitarian or refugee organization.
- Simply make it a point to make eye contact and say hello to each and very stranger you meet on World Friendship Day (and see how good it feels).
In addition to journeys between established Friendship Force clubs, Friendship Force International conducts a variety of specialized travel programs that include individual journeys; family jamborees; humanitarian and educational journeys; Friendship Festivals that include participants from many countries; professional and academic group travel and more.
Friendship Force believes that each and every person can make an important contribution to the world on World Friendship Day March 1 and every day.
Friendship Force proudly welcomes two new Regional Support Managers to the FFI Headquarters team, serving Russia and other Eurasian countries and the South Pacific!
Oyuna Sengeeva is taking over the regional support role from Elena McCarty (who now focuses her efforts on FFI’s work with our Open World Leadership Center programs), serving as Regional Support Manager for Russia, Turkey, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Mongolia, and Cyprus. She was born in Buryatia, Russia, graduated from Ulan-Ude University in her hometown, and spent more than 10 years living in Moscow and working at the university.
In 2014, Oyuna visited Sochi to see the Olympic games and decided to stay there for few years! She helped open the FF Sochi club in 2014, serving as the club’s president until 2017. While with FF Sochi, Oyuna took part in several Journeys to the U.S. (including St. Louis, Chicago, Phoenix, and Wichita), Australia, and New Zealand, and she also hosted an inbound Journey from Canada. Currently, Oyuna lives in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the United States.
Also starting in 2018 in the Regional Support Manager role is Kimberly Fraser, who will be supporting Australia and New Zealand.
Prior to coming to Friendship Force, she worked for two years as an International Project Officer in the Victorian public service. She also has experience working in the not-for-profit sector, spending several years working and volunteering for International Development and Human Rights organizations around the world.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Kimberly believes in the importance of exploring the world and learning from other cultures and she’s happy to be at an organization that shares this goal!
A warm welcome from the FFI family, friends, and members around the world to Oyuna and Kimberly!
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!
Update – January 2018:
FFI Photography Club Clusters (FFIPhotoCC) launched in January of 2018. One of the capacity-building features of FFIPhotoCC is a Monthly FOCUS of a universal theme. The Monthly FOCUS provides Friendship Force photographers an opportunity within a defined period of time (one month) to practice and share their photography within their Club Clusters and with other Club Clusters around the world. FFI Photography Club Clusters Announce February’s “Focus” theme – faces:
“Faces, not places” is a familiar phrase to members of Friendship Force. Journeys of cultural immersion bring us face-to-face and toe-to-toe with strangers who become friends. Our experiences are etched in interesting faces. Faces are not always smiling, “saying cheese,” squinting into the sunshine, or looking at a camera. The best shots of faces may not be looking at the camera at all. Faces are pensive, sad, welcoming, surprised, awed, innocent, worn, animated, or even peacefully asleep. Faces in different countries and in our own homes each have a story to tell.
Interested in forming a Club Cluster?
FFI Photography Club Clusters are an innovative volunteer initiative to build a fun and capable group of photographers who will capture the unique experiences of Friendship Force Journeys of cultural immersion.
As a Friendship Force Club member, whether you are a novice or experienced photographer, shoot with a smartphone or DSLR, ambassador or host, you are welcome to start and join a FFI Photography Cluster in your Club.
Clusters are not just about the camera, they are about you – the photographer – your willingness to help other members in your club, and the unique subject matter of Friendship Force Journeys. As ambassadors and hosts, we live the mission of Friendship Force as individuals and small groups. But to have impact on a broader base of building peace through friendship, we need to visually show the rest of the world that the force of friendship and understanding is far more powerful and lasting than barriers and walls.
FFIPhotoCC intends to build a portfolio of amazing photographs to share with the world. Members of clubs in North America, South America, Europe, and Africa are already signing up to become clusters – five clubs as of January 1, 2018 have started organizing their clusters. Join us today!
Whether you are a novice or advanced photographer with a camera phone, point and shoot, or DSLR camera, start a Photography Club Cluster within your club! It takes only 3 amateur photographers to start a Club Cluster.
Do you want to join or start a club cluster? Sign up here: http://bit.ly/FFIphoto
Need more members in your club to form a cluster? Share this flyer with them! And ask your club president and/or Field Representatives to support your interest in this initiative. Once there are three members to start a cluster, there is a dedicated FFIPhotoCC group website with resources, ideas, photo albums, and discussion board to help guide and support the cluster leaders in organizing their own photographic capacity within their club.
View our Frequently Asked Questions document here for additional information about the Photography Club Clusters!
Are you an experienced and/or a professional photographer interested in volunteering your time, expertise, and administrative help to this initiative? Contact Roz Worrall, FFIPhotoCC@yahoo.com
As 2017 concludes, we want to thank our generous donors and contributors for supporting Friendship Force in this milestone anniversary year, in which we launched our 40th Anniversary Campaign!
- On Giving Tuesday, November 28, we surpassed our goal of $7,000, all of which went towards supporting the 40th Anniversary Campaign!
- Jeremi continued his blog post series about the Campaign, outlining how one of the initiatives supports Engagement of Future Leaders.
- Learn more about the specific programs your donations will support, including providing scholarships for Filipino students to participate in an upcoming Friendship Force Journey.
- You can contribute to a more peaceful world through your support of the 40th Anniversary Campaign.
- All information about the Campaign, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions, can be found in the Member Resources section of our website under “Support Our Mission.”
Finish 2017 by donating to help expand our mission of friendship and understanding to more people around the world!
Editor’s Note: Ambassador Coordinator, Vicki Coulson Vance, shared this glowing report from this Global Journey in September and October, where 19 ambassadors from Canada, Australia, and the U.S. were hosted by FF Nor Peru, exploring this beautiful country and culture.
This Journey was one of the best that I have participated in during my eighteen years of leading global exchanges.
I found the people of the Nor Peru club to be warm, generous, friendly, outgoing and eager to share the best of their culture with us.
Jaime Carrill, Host Coordinator and Club President, planned a full program of activities, so our days and evenings were packed with very little down time. The club was determined to show us everything we would have seen at their Festival of Spring. Our homestay dates were planned with the festival in mind, but the organizers changed the date well after our plans were finalized. We had numerous group meals and with each one we had musicians and dancers, along with wonderful food. We rode in tuk tuks (moto-taxis) to the local huacas, met some officials of Moche city where we visited their market, museum, and murals, plus had a blast at karaoke and cocktails night. We went to beach towns to see the reed canoes, walk along the beaches, eat delicious ceviche, and shop the local handicraft markets.
The Nor Peru club organized an excellent homestay for us, even though they were departing on their own outbound Journey five days after our departure. Each female ambassador received a woven Peruvian purse upon arrival, while everyone was given small gifts of pisco liqueur at the farewell party.
Our tour of the Southern Andes was very well-organized and gave us a deeper insight into the Inca culture and those people before the Incas. Of course, our highlight was Machu Picchu, which was a dream come true for many of us.
The altitude was certainly challenging for all, except the California couple who live in the mountains. Everyone except those two were taking the altitude sickness medication, but a few people really felt the effects and had difficulty at many sites. This was the most physically challenging of all the Journeys that I have led, since we were at altitudes of 16,000+ with steps and more steps at every turn.
I highly commend the Nor Peru club for giving us a wonderful homestay and appreciate all of Martha’s work in organizing a superb tour of the Andes. This was an unforgettable experience!
– Ambassador Coordinator, Vicki Coulson Vance
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Chuck Goldfarb of Friendship Force National Capital Area, USA, for this article on his experience leading this Discover Philippines Journey in October 2017.
Highlights of a Friendship Force Philippines Journey:
- Seven ambassadors from four countries
- The mile-high city of Baguio, with pine-covered mountain tops and houses seemingly stacked one upon another on every slope
- The lowlands city of Naga, surrounded by rice paddies and sporting a volcano with hot springs and waterfalls
- A two-day side trip for island-hopping to isolated beaches
- Wonderful hosts in two newly-forming clubs who introduced ambassadors to local culture and daily life in their communities
- As a special bonus, a new Friendship Force model – all the day hosting in Naga was performed by students in the Ateneo de Naga University’s Junior Eagles service club
Arriving from Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, we converged upon the charming White Knight Hotel in Intramuros, the historic Spanish colonial section of Manila. We had two days to overcome jet lag, get to know one another, explore the city’s historic neighborhoods and markets, and begin to understand the relationship between the nation’s capital and dominant city and the provinces we would be exploring. The all-day, every-day traffic jams in Manila preclude establishment of a Friendship Force club there. But the city’s vibrant museums introduced us to the nation’s pre-colonial, colonial, independence, World War, and more recent eras, and showcased the country’s art, culture, and diversity. At a beautiful and delicious luncheon buffet at Barbara’s – a recreated colonial era restaurant – musicians came to our table to play songs from our respective countries, and we all got up to dance. Alas, we also were introduced to Manila’s extremes of poverty and wealth.
Our Baguio hosts sent a van and driver to take us on the six-hour ride to their mountain city. The rare highway led to an amazing mountain road, whose hairpin turns eventually brought us to a church hall where we were greeted by a canvas sign welcoming each of us by name, a stirring performance of traditional Ilocos dances, a great potluck dinner – and a typhoon. We learned about Baguio’s history, received all the details for our next five days, and met our home hosts. Then we wandered into the storm for two days with our hosts and their extended families, many of whom already had their Christmas decorations set up. I can now tell you a lot about Sprint cell phone service since several of my host’s family members work at the Sprint call center that serves the entire English-speaking world.
Each of us has tales of rain and wind whipping the tin roofs on our host homes and of traversing mountain roads through the fog to “see” the sights. Despite lots of water falling from the skies, some older neighborhoods are not served by water pipes, so water is delivered by large trucks that fill up large tanks next to each house. After 24 hours, the rain relented, and after another 24 hours the sun came out. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the roads all followed the tops of ridges and there were colorful houses up and down all the mountains.
We explored the architecturally stunning BenCab Museum, built by a renowned local artist to showcase his works and his collection of traditional Ilocos carvings, which was located on a narrow ridge road with wood-carving studios teetering atop the sharp declines. The emotional high point of our stay was a visit to a local school and home for visually impaired children, whose sweet voices will stay with us forever.
We then took to the road for two days with our fabulous driver Jesse, chaperoned by Bernadette (Bernie) and Dan Galang, who head the Baguio club, to explore other parts of the Ilocos region. The roads zigzag in the mountains and are filled with pedaled vehicles in the lowlands, so the ride to the preserved Spanish colonial town of Vigan is long. We broke it up with an amazing uphill jeepney ride to a downhill path through a forest and rice paddies to Tangadan Falls. Keith, another ambassador, and I immediately dove into the beautiful pool below the falls. The uphill walk back to the jeepney, accompanied by a local dog and past a pool table, was quite challenging. After an evening and morning in Vigan, we continued north to Laoag, for a flight back to Manila. Along the way we discovered the amazing Paoay church, completed in 1710, and then Paula, Kayoko, and I took a wonderful dune buggy ride that surely would not meet safety standards back home. The ride to Laoag took us through Ferdinand Marcos’ home province, and it was clear that the dictator had channeled lots of government funds in that direction.
After overnighting at a hotel near the Manila airport, we flew to Naga for our second home stay. We were greeted by Naga club leader Leo Borras and a group of students from the Ateneo Junior Eagles, who had been waiting two hours for our delayed airplane.
It was final exam week and many of the students had not yet completed their exams, but they chose to spend their scarce free time with us.
They brought us by jeepney to a private room in a restaurant for a festive welcome dinner, introduction to our home and day hosts, and a brief explanation of the next week – three nights of home hosting, two nights in a Naga hotel, and two nights at a small resort on the beach in Caramoan. The students had a brilliant ice breaker, asking each of the seven ambassadors to show off a dance move, demonstrating for us the current Filipino dance craze, and then putting all the steps together and pulling everyone onto the dance floor to perform this wild new creation.
For three days, we explored in and around Naga, led by the students – more than 20 helped out at one time or another, some for multiple days. The first morning, an Ateneo professor gave a fascinating presentation on the culture and history of Bicol (Naga’s region). We toured the campus, including a building used by the Japanese to imprison and torture Filipinos during World War II. We headed out of town to Malabsay Falls near the base of volcanic Mount Isarog and then rested at nearby Panicuasan hot springs. At the falls, Keith and I again dove right in, Ambassador Paula joined us, and even Kayoko couldn’t resist ultimately. At the hot springs, we came across a group of young men similarly relaxing; they were seminary students who had just completed their final exams.
That evening I briefly left my home hosts to visit the family that had hosted me two years earlier when I had joined Colin and Janet Ridge on an exploratory visit to Naga, but I also got up early the next morning to walk with my hosts through their neighborhood. Most of their neighbors were poor; they had built basic houses on small plots of land that had been given to them, but many did not have enough money to pay the elementary school fees for their children. There were fruit, vegetable, meat, and fish stalls, and on that Sunday morning locals were supplementing their meager incomes by selling vegetables that they had grown in their tiny gardens. Every home was also surrounded by flowers.
During their freshman year, all students at the Ateneo de Naga are required to participate in an “immersion” program that includes a three-day homestay with a poor family, and must meet with their advisors each semester to discuss how they will apply their skills to help the poor.
The Junior Eagles do so by volunteering with several community-based organizations. They introduced us to the residents of the local Habitat for Humanity community, which houses 100 families and continues to grow. Then they brought us by jeepney and boat to Punta Tarawal, a very poor village that is accessible only by water. The Ateneo Juniors have created the award-winning TARPBAG program that makes use of tarpaulin scraps to fabricate book bags for the village elementary school children. We met with the children and Warren taught them how to “do the hokey pokey.”
We departed early the next morning for two days in Caramoan, traveling by van and boat. The first afternoon, only three ambassadors – along with our fabulous Ateneo guides, Jade, Anne, and Faham – chose to brave the high seas from an earlier rain in pursuit of island-hopping. Still, the rain was gone, the air was warm, and the islands we visited were quite magical, with us frequently being the only ones at a beach. The next day the water was calmer, everyone joined the trip, we took off from the local beach and explored several more islands. On one island, Keith joined Jade, Anne, Faham, and our guide to climb steep rocks up to a lagoon overlooking the beach. All agreed it had been a challenging climb. The rest of us lazed and swam on the beach.
Our return to Naga was without surprises, and we had a few hours of rest before getting back into a van for a ride to our farewell dinner, at the home of a recent Junior Eagle alumna. With their final exams behind them, more than 20 students joined us and our home hosts for this final celebration of our new friendships. The students again put on a brilliant program, with traditional and contemporary dances, and lots of photos.
Cancellation of three consecutive flights out of Naga made connections in Manila rather difficult, but all ambassadors eventually made it safely home, with the most wonderful memories of the Philippines and incredible new friendships across cultures and generations.
Read here about how the “Engage Future Leaders” initiative of our 40th Anniversary Campaign will support scholarships for some of these Filipino students to travel on an upcoming Friendship Force Journey!
Friendship Force International wants to inform our members – especially our U.S. members and friends – of some upcoming changes to identification requirements for boarding airplanes, trains, and cruise lines in the United States.
Certain states have not yet met the new ID requirements, and as of January 2018, passengers in those states will have difficulty traveling without an accepted ID, such as a passport.
Some states whose IDs do not fit these new standards have been applying for and obtaining waivers or extensions. Many states have received extensions beyond January, but typically not more than six months. This trend of providing exceptions will most likely not continue much longer, since it has already lasted more than two years.
Please consult this helpful document published by the Transportation Security Administration for additional details, including links to the status of each state: https://www.tsa.gov/sites/default/files/resources/realid_factsheet.pdf
All U.S. travelers should be prepared for their IDs to be challenged, even in states with waivers, extensions, or grace periods. Older drivers’ licenses in particular will be challenged in some states, so it is suggested that all U.S. travelers make sure they have U.S. government-issued IDs/passports, even when traveling domestically, to ensure they do not encounter any issues during this time period.
Editor’s Note: FF Greater Des Moines, Iowa, USA, celebrated their 40th Anniversary in October 2017, with many VIPs and guests of honor in attendance, including FFI CEO Jeremi Snook. Thanks to FF Des Moines and especially Adrienne Moen for the story and photos!
The 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, October 29, was a big hit with our members and guests. Chairs Adrienne Moen and Nancy Lundstrom organized a lovely late afternoon party that was attended by current and past members, potential members, friends, and leaders from other Midwest clubs, incoming Midwest Regional Rep Dale Moore, and FFI President CEO, Jeremi Snook. Mike Pace, a well-recognized TV and radio personality, served as Master of Ceremonies for the event.
Mike did a superb job of setting the historic tone of the evening by reading a letter from former Governor Robert Ray who founded The Friendship Force in Iowa. Irish step dancers from Ames and The Mariachi band from W. Des Moines book-ended the entertainment as a tribute to our first (1977) and most recent (2017) international Journeys. Beautiful tri-fold displays of many Journeys were created by several Journey Coordinators, and the large silent auction, which benefited the FFGDM Scholarship Fund, exceeded our expectations. Thanks to Shelley Bain, our President, for organizing the latter.
For many, one of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Wayne Smith Medal to Past President and outgoing Regional Field Representative Adrienne Moen. Earlier this fall, the local Board of Directors, for the first time in its 40-year club history, voted to honor Adrienne for her undaunted promotion of Friendship Force in our community. Adrienne joined the club at a time when her leadership was greatly needed; when she pushed the Board and members to better the club—she led by example. Thank you, Adrienne, for your successful years of service to FFGDM.
We all were so pleased and grateful to have Jeremi Snook, our FFI President/CEO, join us on this historical occasion. Jeremi was our keynote speaker who challenged the audience with his focus on diverse thinking and analogies which was an inspiration to all. We are reminded of the “big picture” as we navigate through life and cross many unexpected paths. Since Des Moines was the first club in 1977 to conduct a Journey after Atlanta with England, it was so appropriate that our CEO join us; so a huge thank you to Jeremi Snook for traveling to our city.
A heartfelt thank you also to all members and community sponsors for support in our efforts to promote The Friendship Force before, during, and after the event with dollars, time, and media promotion. We are also excited to welcome several new members who look forward to spreading the mission of breaking down the barriers that separate people.