June 23, 2014

Friendship Force Builds a Bridge for the Future

(Atlanta, Georgia - 6.23.14) Today, FFI’s President and CEO, Joy DiBenedetto announced the launch of the organization's NextGen Initiative, an exciting opportunity to help shape the future of  Friendship Force International. For some time members have been pressing to include younger, working people. This new initiative will retain the pillars of home hosting and hospitality that are the hallmark of Friendship Force, yet make it possible for working people to discover the Friendship Force experience.

"The best way to widen our `friendship circle' is to continue bringing down walls and building more bridges, bridges that cross language barriers, cultures, and generations.  The first generation of members gave Friendship Force its global network of clubs and the baby boomers introduced the popular thematic exchanges. The Next Generation will expand that influence further. Research shows that meeting people of other cultures is the most important motivation for young travelers who seek authenticity and travel experiences that money alone cannot buy," explained CEO DiBenedetto

The NextGen Initiative will introduce several new travel/home hosting opportunities especially designed to appeal to the interests and energy of the Next Generation. 

"We cannot build this bridge alone, nor can we build it without modern tools," said DiBenedetto.  New web-based tools will be introduced to make communication easier and faster.  The organization is also exploring new, shorter models for home hosting. "I have gathered some of the most dynamic people I know to help with their vision, talent, and creativity," DiBenedetto noted.  “I am proud to announce these two groups today.”

The NextGen Council - Young leaders from 17 countries will constitute an advisory body reporting directly to the CEO.  These leaders from various cultural backgrounds are ideally suited to adapt current exchange models to the interests of Next Generation travelers. They may also help connect Friendship Force to their own social networks, create and lead exchanges, as well as generate interest in Next Generation travel, home hosting, and hospitality. 

The NextGen Mentors – A team of experienced leaders, from clubs in every major region of the world, who will work with Field Representatives and club executives to attract clusters of young participants from local communities, and shape travel and home hosting around their interests. Mentors are already at work preparing the launch of an information campaign.  Their role is to anticipate needs, provide training and promote bestpractices, all hands on guidance for clubs and leaders as this new initiative is introduced. 

Members of both the NextGen Council and the NextGen Mentors are outlined below. While the list of Mentors is complete, Council members will continue to be added in regions that are under-represented.

Jack Mullen, Chair of the Friendship Force International Board of Directors, agrees: “Connecting people for the purpose of growing international friendships and peace is essential in today’s world. It is worth every ounce of energy we have. Every age is suited for that purpose and every station in life is made richer by changing the way we see and experience the world.”


NextGen Council members will report directly to the CEO, Joy DiBenedetto.

Europe - Birgit Wagner, FF Varel, Germany, Club President; Serafina Haefeli, FF Solothurn, Switzerland; Dilek Sinlak, FF Karsiyaka Bay, Izmir, Turkey, Club VP; Arthur Smeers, FF Limburg, Belgium, Club President; Hendrik Schraa, Netherlands ESN.  United States - Pilar Stella Ingargiola, Founder, Alchemy P4 Fund, OneGiving, Los Angeles, California; Guilaine Jean-Pierre, Director, engagesimply, New York, NY; Navneet Singh Narula, Entrepreneur, Atlanta, GA; Nicole Dow, Journalist, Atlanta, Georgia; Maria Ebrahimji, Founder, `I Speak for Myself', Atlanta, Georgia;  Camille Feanny, Anthropologist, Journalist, Atlanta, GA; Pallie Savoie, FF staff, Louisville, KY; Pamela McNall, Founder, Let's Chat Productions, Atlanta, GA; Shawn Decareaux, FF Club Member-Missoula, Montana; Kelli Koogler, Content Strategy at SapientNitro, Atlanta, GA. Latin America - Carolina Ardila, FF Bogota, Colombia, Member; Joel Aizprua, FF Discover Panama, Panama City, Panama; Simone Lanzoni, FF Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, Club President. Africa Fredrick Bombo, FF Kampala, Uganda, Club Member; Joanna O. Mensah, FF Accra, Ghana, Club President. Asia  Ben Kantawang, FF Lamphun, Thailand, Club Manager; Atik Wijayanti, FF Solo-Surakarta, Indonesia, Club Manager; Bayar Lkhamjav, FF Mongolia, Club President; Ayu Trisna Bahar, FF Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Club Secretary. Canada - Max Jones, Founder, FeliceNews, Toronto, Canada. Middle East Samarth Puri, President and Founder, TEAM HOPE, Kuwait City, Kuwait.

FFI's NEXTGEN Mentors 2014-2016:

Cécile Latour, Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, FFI International Board of Directors will coordinate the work of NextGen Mentors. 

Europe - Boya Marshall, FF Hamburg, Germany, Club Member. United States - Patricia Meyer, FF Northern Illinois, FFI Field Representative. Latin America - Beatriz `Cuqui' Ardila, FF Bogota, Colombia, FFI Board of Directors; Celia Accorsi, FF Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Brazil, Club President. Africa- Maatjie Hoffmann, FF Cape Town, South Africa, Club President. Asia - Tsuguyo Ishii, FF Western Tokyo, Japan, Club Member; Ivan Ng, FF Nanyang, Singapore, FFI Board of Directors. Canada - Murray Pink, FF Stratford St. Mary's, Ontario, Canada, Vice President. South Pacific - Debbie Lattey, FF Kapiti Coast, New Zealand, Club President; Bobbie Mulholland, FF Adelaide, Australia, Club President. 

ABOUT FFI: Using simple tools of friendship, FFI promotes global understanding across the barriers that separate people around the world by conducting 400 programs every year, in 377 communities in 70 countries. When you travel or host with the Friendship Force, you get to know real people by sharing real life. Since 1977 when founder Wayne Smith and US President Jimmy Carter introduced FFI at a White House gathering, one million people have participated in Friendship Force International's unique cultural exchange programs. Our work creates global cooperation and collaboration at the personal, human level - beyond governments and borders - where people live, work, play and explore in everyday life. FFI's efforts have been honored with a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 1992. 

Find out more about us by visiting our website: www.friendshipforce.org

Follow us on twitter: @FriendshipForce / Facebook: Friendship Force

For more information contact:

Jillian Walters, Communications Coordinator jwalters@friendshipforce.org(770) 891-1004