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  • A Short History

    Since its founding in 1977, The Friendship Force has brought together millions of people. Today we are over 350 clubs active in more than 60 countries, promoting friendship and goodwill through an extensive program of home hosting, or journeys. In 1992, Friendship Force was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its work building understanding between the people of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

    Friendship Force Beginnings

    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 return to their states and identify a volunteer leader who would serve as State Director for the Friendship Force in their state. Rosalynn Carter served as Honorary Chairperson until 2002.

    Friendship Force originally involved groups ranging from 150 to 400 private citizens, known as friendship ambassadors, travelling via chartered aircraft to the partner city where a group of the same size boarded to return to the original city, hence the terminology "exchange," a term still used by long serving members (the new, official term is a "Journey"). The visiting ambassadors were hosted in the homes of volunteer host families for a week, sharing everyday experiences and getting to know each other on a personal basis. The first Friendship Force experience involved 762 Ambassadors in a simultaneous exchange between Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England and Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

    During its first five years, a few large two-way exchanges were conducted each year. In 1982, Friendship Force travel arrangements changed from charters to one-way "exchanges" on regularly scheduled airlines, allowing greater flexibility and a reduction of group size—first to 40-80 and later to 20-25. The change in format permitted a great expansion of the program worldwide. Instead of a few large exchanges each year, there are now 250-300 smaller journeys.

    While the size and number of journeys has changed dramatically since 1977, the basic Friendship Force formula is the same, with visiting ambassadors spending a week in the home of a host family. While each journey is now in just one direction, the participating ambassadors and hosts develop a shared understanding of each other's culture so that a true cultural exchange takes place. In many cases, the friendships established during a journey continue for many years, with follow-up visits through later Friendship Force journeys or through private visits.

    Friendship Force Perth

    At the 10th Australian Conference, held in Murray Bridge, on 11th February 2000, during the Australian Council meeting, a motion was put to try to organise a Friendship Force Club in Perth and that Robin Mulholland from the Friendship Force of Adelaide was to be the coordinator for such effort.

    Robin Mulholland was to be in Perth later in the year where he intended to call a public meeting with the view of gauging the response to the formation of a club. Initially Robin had a list of 28 prospective members and during the next four months he made telephone calls to each of these outlining the ethos of the Friendship Force and enthusing people about the activities.

    Eventually two meetings were held in Perth and from these a clear picture emerged regarding who was seriously interested in starting a new club with three people, Eileen Bogart, Di Pethrick and Pam Jackson agreeing to work on a steering committee. They worked hard to establish the nucleus of the club and it was a difficult job indeed.  Robin assisted from Adelaide by providing advice and support and by continuing to write to interested people.   The Adelaide club also agreed to donate $200 to the fledgling Perth club to assist with the many expenses involved.

    Eileen's employment as a pharmaceutical representative took her to Adelaide, periodically, and while there she met with Robin and Bobbie Mulholland on quite a few occasions asking many questions and discussing progress. Eileen Bogart and Pam Jackson were supported by the Australian clubs to attend the Australian Conference in Sydney in February 2001, which they did. The hard work of the steering group was paying of as new names were added to the club list.

    Social events were organised and as the new group gained strength and knowledge the decision was taken to become a chartered member of Friendship Force International at a reception held on the 28th September 2001, with the Lord Mayor of Perth, Dr Peter Nuttrass in attendance and becoming Patron.

    Robin and Bobbie Mulholland launched the idea of an all-Australian clubs journey to Perth. The brand new club in Perth jumped at the idea and 30 members were recruited from all over Australia to meet in Adelaide and travel across the Nullarbor Plain, by train, arriving in Perth on 28th November 2001. This first journey was a great success with the Adelaide Exchange Directors (Bobbie and Robin Mulholland) being presented with a gold medallion from the Perth Mint.