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Friendship Force, pioneer in global homestay experience, celebrates 40 years of promoting understanding, peace
More than 1 million people have enjoyed cultural immersion with new friends as they experience different views and discover common ground
ATLANTA, Ga. USA – Atlanta-based Friendship Force International, a global pioneer in promoting homestay travel experiences, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year of building bridges of understanding through a unique program in which more than 1 million strangers have become friends.
“When Atlantan Wayne Smith and then-President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter boldly announced the creation of The Friendship Force in 1977, they could not have dreamed how their idea would go on to change the world for the better,” commented Jeremi Snook, President and CEO of Friendship Force International. “Today, after four decades in which more than a million people all over the world have welcomed each other in their homes, one can truly believe that the bridges of understanding built by that single idea have resulted in a more peaceful world.
In 1977, Friendship Force quickly took its place on the world stage with a single program supporting a high-profile two-way citizen homestay exchange involving 762 citizen ambassadors between the United States and the United Kingdom.
What began as an experiment soon became a global phenomenon. Over the next five years, several large scale citizen exchanges ranging between 150 and 500 people took place around the world.
With guidance and direction from Smith and an international cast of prominent supporters, along with a determination by many create a more peaceful world, FFI continued to grow as average people eagerly embraced the excitement and wonder of meeting new friends and staying in their home for a few days, a week or more.
Today, thousands of people participate in more than 300 global and domestic travel experiences through Friendship Force International each year. Almost 400 Friendship Force clubs with some 15,000 members dot the planet in 66 countries. Participants of all ages and backgrounds have their choice of dozens of experience-rich, group and individual travel opportunities in which they can enjoy, learn, explore and serve.
“What Wayne Smith and the Carters started, and what has happened since then, are pretty tough acts to follow,” commented Robert Duncan, Chairman of the Friendship Force Board of Directors and President of the Baton Rouge, La. Friendship Force Club. “But we do have specific, research-based plans in motion to make the Friendship Force experience so attractive, meaningful, enriching and relevant to current and future generations that we’re confident we’ll be able to continue the positive impact on humanity those original travelers began so many years ago.”
In a nod to that first exchange to England in 1977, the host city for the international celebration of Friendship Force’s 40TH anniversary will be Manchester, U.K. in August.