With its theme of “Friendship for the Future” and its infusion of New Zealand flair, the 2014 World Conference in Auckland was one of our most inspiring – and most fun – yet. Three hundred people attended, representing 15 countries.
The conference opened with a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony called a powhiri. A representative party of current and former FFI board members and FFI staff went forward to greet each of the Maori performers with the hongi, a gesture in which two people gently press their noses together. Following that, the performers demonstrated some of their traditional songs and dances – a delightful treat for everyone in attendance.
While Bob Duncan of FF Baton Rouge could not be there to personally hand over the World Conference Host Cup, he sent a video message to congratulate this year’s host committee. Ana Smulski of the FFI staff presented the Host Cup to Alan Milne (FF Kapiti Coast, New Zealand) on Bob’s behalf, and the conference was officially begun. Greetings from FFI President Joy DiBenedetto and Acting Mayor of Auckland Penny Hulse followed.
Delegates had the opportunity to attend four workshops throughout the conference, choosing from among 15 different topics. Led by successful Friendship Force volunteers, FFI board members and staff, the workshops were a platform for discussing FFI’s global goals, sharing successful leadership strategies, and learning new skills.
Click on “Presentations” in the yellow menu bar above to see materials and videos from the conference workshops.
The conference host committee treated everyone to a Sing-Along Musical Mystery Evening, in which guests sang along with some of their favorite songs and laughed uproariously at their hosts’ outrageous skits and jokes.
Day 2 of the conference got off to a great start with a number of fabulous guest speakers invited by the host committee. Comedian Pinky Agnew got everyone laughing and taught us the difference between New Zealand and Australian accents. Following that, two secondary school students shared with us their thoughtful reflections on the history and the future of New Zealand. Lastly, Grant Sidaway of SeniorNet impressed us all with his demonstrations of the most current technology.
Joy was then joined on stage by Strategic Planning Chair Cecile Latour of the FFI board. Together, they presented the findings of the recent global membership survey and discussed the insights it revealed into the future directions of the organization. Cecile also introduced several members of the NEXTGEN Youth and Mentors Councils, and described some of the ideas they have been forming to engage new and diverse members.
Thursday night’s gala banquet was a true show of New Zealand spirit. Delicious food and drinks started the night off well, and the music of the talented Royal New Zealand Navy Band got everyone on the dance floor right away. Many smiling photos were taken and many lasting memories were made - a great way to end the conference on a high note.
Excellence in Volunteerism and Leadership
At each World Conference, FFI presents awards to honor clubs and volunteers for their innovations, achievements and leadership. The following awards were presented at the 2014 World Conference:
Volunteer of the Year: Dave Kalan, FF Greater Milwaukee, USA
Club of the Year: FF Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Lifetime Achievement: Bobbie Jones, FF Lake Hartwell, USA
Lifetime Achievement: Colleen Potts, FF Newcastle, Australia
Lifetime Achievement: Kazuhiko Sasaki, FF Koriyama, Japan
Explore: Ray Troyahn, FF Sunshine Coast, Australia
Understand: Colin Ridge, FF Taupo, New Zealand
Serve: Van Nichols, FF Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley, USA
Remarkable Membership Growth Initiatives: FF Olympia, USA & FF Denver, USA
Fantastic Fundraising Efforts: FF New Plymouth, New Zealand
Honorable Mention: Jean Caddell, FF Fort Worth, USA
Honorable Mention: Tressa Youngbear, FF Cedar Rapids, USA
Honorable Mention: FF Norderstedt, Germany
Best Photo - Exchange: Jaap Schouten, FF Ottawa, Canada
Best Photo - Conference: Boya Marshall, FF Hamburg, Germany
FFI would like to extend a special thank you to the Friendship Force clubs of New Zealand and especially the host committee comprised of Alan Milne, Colin Ridge, Allan Brickland, Roz Bridges, Ann Campbell, Robert Campbell, Debbie Lattey, Audrey McLoughlin, Mary Milne and Ross Stevens. We would also like to thank all the volunteers who gave presentations and served on panels.
After the conference, six New Zealand clubs opened their doors for post-conference homestays. Thank you to all the hosts who gave their guests a wonderful Friendship Force experience!
The 2015 World Conference will be a one-of-a-kind event. Join us in Vancouver, Canada, August 28 to 31, 2015.