Founded in the United States (US) in 1977 with the support of then President Jimmy Carter, the aim of Friendship Force International is to develop friendships, mainly through home hosting programmes, in turn helping to generate understanding and encourage peace across differ› ent cultures. There are now more than 300 clubs in 60 countries, including 24 in New Zealand.
The Southland branch, which began about six years ago, had 18 members in River› ton, Winton and Invercargill, Mr Gibbs, the vice›president, said.
Not only was the club an economical way to travel, mem› bers could meet others around the globe and as travellers they ‘‘also got to see things that tourists didn’t normally see’’, he said.
Each year clubs nominated other clubs they would like to visit and the clubs they would like to host, with that informa› tion sent to international head› quarters in Atlanta, US.
Most clubs in New Zealand took part in at least one outward exchange and hosted two inbound exchanges a year, club member May Evans said.
Visiting groups of 20›30 people stayed as guests in the homes of the host club for about one week, she said.
‘‘There needed to be a mini› mum of 10 people to form an exchange somewhere, but clubs can band together,’’ club presi› dent Carol Evans said.
Members of the hosting club had hosting options including hosting dinners, taking visitors on day trips, or offering them accommodation.
May Evans, who along with her husband Russell has travel› led to Ottawa, Canada, and has hosted international members, said the Southland club was keen for more members.
‘‘[We] are hospitable, and are keen for others to have the opportunity of making new friends, both locally and inter› nationally.’’
Í A public meeting will be held today at Les and Janet Gibbs’ home, 34 Brook St, Riverton. If you wish to attend, phone May Evans, 03 213 053. For more information about Friendship Force International go to www.thefriendshipforce.org.