Friendship Force International turns 40

Non-profit Friendship Force International (FFI) is celebrating its 40th year this year, with its Cape Town club planning a visit to Mexico with a side-trip to Guatemala in September.

FFI has its headquarters in Atlanta in the US, and the Cape town club is one of 345 volunteer-led clubs in 66 countries around the world.

Cape Town FF celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, while there also are two other clubs in Cape Town, FF Goodhope and FF Mispah.

The organisation’s mission is to promote global understanding, experience different views and discover common ground across the cultures of the world.

“Our clubs consist of volunteers from all walks of life who are all dedicated to our mission of breaking down the barriers that separate people through a variety of activities, journeys and experiences. From small, family-based groups to large, 100-person networks, Friendship Force clubs are the heart of our organisation. They are the true testament of the power of friendship and understanding – qualities so desperately needed in our world today,” said FF Cape Town president Eileen Bintcliffe.

At the core of these exchanges are home-stays. Typically, members travel in a small group, from their own club, led by an experienced volunteer. Abroad they are welcomed into the home of a FF host family for a stay of five to seven days. Members gain the opportunity to experience a different culture as a personal guest and not just as a tourist.

The host club will take the group on outings to see the interesting cultural, historical and natural aspect of their town/city and country.

“The general experience, from clubs we have visited, has been that hosts would go out of their way to make sure the guests had and saw all they wanted to, even if they were not well-off themselves. Likewise we in Cape Town are very proud to show our guests all the beauty that surrounds us,” Ms Bintcliffe
said.

There are also “humanitarian” exchanges. “Our club recently collected clothing and household goods for workers at the Hout Bay Tbag project who had lost everything in the horrendous fire in Imizamo Yethu. We always take our ambassadors to visit this great upliftment project.”

Since FF Cape Town began, members have visited many countries in Europe, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus, Turkey, Thailand, a number of States in America and Canada, different parts of Brazil, Columbia and Peru.They have also visited FF clubs in Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda.

“Our club usually travel outbound once a year and we have two inbound clubs per year. The result is that members soon have friends across the world – some of whom become firm friends.

“We recently hosted FF Cottbus, Germany and Goran Havenstein, the journey co-ordinator, brought greetings and a gift, from their mayor for the Cape Town mayor. This was received by deputy mayor Ian Neilson who then handed a return gift and greetings for the Mayor of Cottbus.”

While the outbound Mexico and Guatemala trip will take place in September, FF Cape Town will host Brasov, Romania.

Next year they will host Ottowa, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. They will travel to India in 2018.

There are still places available for the September trip, and for more information Ms Bintcliffe can be contacted on 083 652 2514 or eileenb@mweb.co.za

Visit www.friendshipforce.org or the club website www.fficapetown.webs.com