ATLANTA, Feb. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Friendship Force International, an Atlanta-based organization promoting friendship and goodwill among people in more than 50 countries, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with plans to grow new chapters and add more citizen exchanges to parts of the world it has never been before.
Each year, about 5,000 people take part in Friendship Force International home-stay exchanges, living in the homes of chapter members in a different country for a week or two. These grassroots, people-to-people experiences help eliminate cultural barriers and often result in friendships that last for years.
And now, plans call for enhanced cultural, professional and educational exchanges and more new chapters around the world as FFI begins its 35th anniversary year on March 1, 2012.
"This milestone is a testament to the enduring relevance of our mission to promote global understanding across the barriers that separate people," said George Brown, president of Friendship Force International. "Our mission is just as important today as it was 35 years ago, and maybe more so."
Ensuring a strong future for the organization requires a new generation of volunteers to carry forward its important mission. With this goal in mind, Friendship Force has just launched a three-year expansion that will create 45 new clubs/chapters around the world. As a result, Friendship Force will surpass 400 clubs for the first time in its history.
There will be new clubs in Mexico, Japan, Colombia, Russia, Turkey, Indonesia and the United States. Part of the expansion also focuses on East Africa, where there are clubs in Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi, and plans call for new programs in Uganda and Rwanda.
In addition, a people-to-people program to Cuba is being launched in June 2012.
As Friendship Force celebrates this anniversary, it has touched 1 million people. About 225,000 ambassadors and 750,000 hosts have participated in Friendship Force programs since the organization was founded in 1977.
"A million people around the world have benefited from the legacy provided by those who built the Friendship Force 35 years ago," Brown said. "Now, it is our turn to build for the future."
Friendship Force was founded by Wayne Smith and introduced on March 1, 1977, by President Jimmy Carter at a White House gathering of state governors. At that time, President Carter asked the governors to identify a volunteer leader who would serve as state director for the Friendship Force in their state. Rosalyn Carter served as Honorary Chairperson until 2002.
Expansion plans also call for more specialized and themed exchanges, which are becoming increasingly popular with members. Recent themed exchanges included a cycling tour in Canada, eco-exchanges and a multi-generational exchange where grandparents and grandchildren traveled together.
ABOUT FRIENDSHIP FORCE
Friendship Force International organizes an extensive program of international exchanges with home-stays. In addition to exchanges between established Friendship Force clubs, Friendship Force International conducts a variety of specialized cultural travel programs. These include the "discover" series that introduces Friendship Force members to new countries and cultures; humanitarian and educational exchanges; and Friendship Festivals that include participants from many countries.
Friendship Force is currently active in 365 communities in 57 countries — with more than 18,000 members worldwide.
SOURCE Friendship Force International