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History of FF

Friendship Force - Facts in Brief

Friendship Force International is a private, nonprofit organization whose purpose is to create an environment where personal friendships can be established across the international barriers that separate people. The organization promotes world friendship and goodwill through international homestay exchanges.
A 1992 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Friendship Force International was founded in 1977 by Wayne Smith and was announced on March 1, 1977 by President Jimmy Carter at a White House gathering of state governors.

Mrs. Rosalynn Carter served as Honorary Chairperson and a member of the Board of Trustees, the governing body of the organization, for 25 years until she stepped down in 2002.

Friendship Force International achieves its goals through the travel of goodwill Ambassadors who share the lives of a Host family in another country for one or two weeks. Host families receive no payment for opening their homes. Ambassadors pay their own travel expenses plus an administrative fee that covers most of the operating costs of Friendship Force International. Over 150,000 Ambassadors and 450,000 Hosts have participated through more than 4000 exchanges, touching the lives of over two million people and bringing to life Friendship Force International motto: "A world of friends is a world of peace.

Friendship Force exchanges began in 1977 with groups ranging from 150 to over 400 Ambassadors traveling by chartered aircraft to a partner city. In 1982, travel arrangements changed from chartered to scheduled airline service. This transition allowed greater flexibility and the reduction of group sizes to 20 or 40 persons. In an average year, 5000 citizen Ambassadors participate in 300 different exchanges.

Beginning in 1980, independent local chapters, or "Friendship Force clubs," were organized in each active city and were officially licensed by Friendship Force International. These clubs provide volunteer leadership for the exchange program as well as a community focus for Friendship Force International between exchanges. Membership is open to all in the community who share in the organization's goals. There are now 375 clubs in 55 countries and 40 U.S. states. The headquarters of the organization is in Atlanta, Georgia, with a small, professional staff.
Friendship Missions, with day hosting only, were introduced in 1982, first to the USSR, then to Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Vietnam and Yugoslavia. Today, these countries or their successors participate in the regular homestay exchange program.

Festivals of Friendship were begun in 1987 combining cultural seminars and with the home-hosting experience. Participants spend several nights in a hotel setting followed by a homestay experience in the region.

In 1985, a unique American-Soviet homestay program was inaugurated between Friendship Force International and the USSR/USA Society. In April 1990, Friendship Force International successfully conducted the largest single exchange of citizens that has ever taken place between the USA and the USSR: the Georgia-to-Georgia exchange.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Wayne Smith initiated a special program, "Friend-to-Friend," featuring the traditional homestay combined with humanitarian aid. Over the next six months, 1,038 Ambassadors traveled to Moscow carrying 45 tons of food and medical supplies. A strong program of exchanges continues to Russia and the newly independent republics, with a program in Bosnia added in 1996.
During the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, Friendship Force International organized and managed a unique homestay program for the family members of Olympic athletes. The program was sponsored by AT&T and provided a free homestay for over 2,500 people.

The newest Friendship Force program, BridgeBuilders, uses the homestay format as the means for linking professional or special interest counterparts. Bridgebuilders exchanges provide unique opportunities for putting friendship into action through joint projects that grow out of the personal friendship established during the exchange.
Each year, an International Conference brings together Friendship Force volunteer leaders from around the world. The 2014 International Conference was held in Auckland, NZ. The 2015 Conference will be held in Vancouver, BC Canada in August, 2015.

Friendship Magazine was launched in 1983 and was published quarterly until it went online in 2010. Each issue features articles on recent exchanges and upcoming activities.

FFI Leaders

FFI Leaders have included:

Wayne Smith, founder

“Chip” Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, served as  President of The Friendship Force from 2000 to 2002. During his father’s presidency, he represented the United States in 26 foreign countries. With his rich experience in international personal relationships, “Chip” expanded the organization’s role through managing trips to many foreign countries.

Constance Swank served as President for one year.

Susie Smith, daughter of Wayne Smith, served as President  for two years.

George Brown first joined the Friendship Force staff in 1983 and worked closely for many years with founder Wayne Smith. He rejoined FFI in 2004 as President after Susie Smith left. He served Friendship Force for 23 years.

President Joy DiBenedetto served as President from  July 15, 2013 through May 2015.

Ceclile Latour, as Chairperson of the Friendship Force International board, announced the appointment of Jeremi Snook as FFI's sixth President and CEO, effective November 9, 2015.

We are proud that two members of our Dallas club have served on the International Board – Mac Mackenzie (who was President of the Board),

and Mary Suther. Both now live in Florida.

We have also had two Dallas members win the annual international award for Member of the Year –

Ed Edgren, for his work in establishing two new clubs in Romania and in working with our BridgeBuilder project – supplying computers for the blind in other countries


Bob Langford, who started the BridgeBuilder project for the Dallas club.

Contact Information
Postal address: P. O. Box 551151, Dallas, TX 75355
Phone and fax: 214- 699-7574 
Electronic mail
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