By Kendrea Rhodes
What would the words, ‘The Friendship Force’, conjure up in your mind?
Would you think of pen-pals or e-friends; a club; a working bee; a dating service; an army; travelling the world; or helping people?
Well you’d be sorta right and sorta wrong. It is a club, that’s for sure, and it’s about friends and helping people, but face to face, not just via the internet. And it most certainly is about travelling, and hosting travellers from all over the world. But it is definitely not a dating service, an army or a working bee!
The Friendship Force is a world-wide non-profit organisation dedicated to the principle of exchange and friendship. It starts with ‘home-hospitality’ where members from a Friendship Force club in Norway for example, will open their doors to members visiting from an Australian Friendship Force club. This is called the ‘exchange’.
When an overseas trip is planned by a local club’s Director, members who wish to go will travel together, supporting and looking out for one another. They will be allotted suitable accommodation through the Friendship Force club of the country they are visiting, and will be hosted for up to a week by those club members. The itinerary includes activities in which everyone meets up from both host and travelling club, as well as days of free activity, where the host members share everyday life with their visitors.
It was founded by American, Wayne Smith, and introduced at a White House Ceremony in 1977, by US President, Jimmy Carter. As a result of Friendship Force ‘exchanges’ between US and Soviet club members, the organisation was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, for its promotion of face to face international understanding and diplomacy.
With over 300 clubs in 60 countries world-wide, the Friendship Force brochure statement, “Make yourself at home, anywhere in the world”, certainly rings true. The program’s worthiness is realised “… by sharing a home, meals, conversation and everyday experiences, people become friends, seeing beyond governments and borders into the heart of a country and its people … ”.
Balhannah residents, Irene and Frank Bowen, have been members of the Mount Barker and Districts’ Friendship Force club for the past thirteen years and they love it.
They love travelling the world and immersing themselves in new cultures, as well as hosting other Friendship Force travellers in their own home. Their next trip will be with 20 members from the Mount Barker and Salisbury clubs, travelling to Japan, Cypress and Germany. They will stay with local Friendship Force families in each country and share meals, conversations and daily life. What a wonderful way to make new friends and see new places, all within the safety of an organised international network.
On Sunday, August the 12th, the Mount Barker and Districts’ Friendship Force Club are celebrating their 30th Anniversary with a birthday reunion lunch for past and present members and hosts, at Auchendarroch in Mount Barker. If you are interested in attending, please contact Heather Franklin on 8536 3573 or Brian Smith on 8388 7018, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Friendship Force Club in your area, please visit www.friendshipforce-aussie.org. You may contact the Mount Barker and District’s Club through secretary, Frank Bowen at email@example.com or on 8388 4383.
Friendship Force Club members, Celebrating Australia Day at Keith Stephenson Park, Mt. Barker.