The 2013 World Conference in New Orleans, USA, was the largest Friendship Force gathering in history, with over 700 people in attendance, representing 33 countries.
The conference opened with a new video to welcome everyone to a weekend of learning, sharing, and friendship in the “Big Easy.” James Morikawa of FF Hiroshima, on behalf of last year’s conference committee, handed over the official FFI Conference Cup to FF Baton Rouge, our wonderful hosts.
President and CEO of Friendship Force International Joy DiBenedetto greeted us all and made her first public address to the members. She emphasized the significance of the Friendship Force stories that each of us has to tell, and how spreading those stories using traditional and social media can draw people in to our mission, helping to build a bright Friendship Force future.
FF Baton Rouge pulled us right into the local culture with a powerful performance by the group Heritage, which sings the African American spirituals that have been sung in this region for over a century. Other cultural opportunities during the conference included New Orleans-style cooking classes and a Cajun dance workshop.
Almost 30 workshop sessions over two days gave delegates opportunities to learn more about FFI’s global goals and the innovative strategies taking shape in other clubs around the world. Our members were able to share with one another their own successes and ideas and come away with new ways of being a force of friendship in the world. Topics including club growth, engaging the next generation, “dinner party diplomacy,” social media and storytelling/photography were especially popular.
Click on “Presentations” in the yellow menu bar above to see materials and videos from the conference workshops.
Sunday night’s gala banquet was a true Mardi Gras-style celebration, complete with gumbo and other savory dishes, a live jazz band, costumed performers, dancing, lots of laughs and even a parade King and Queen.
Afterward, the band led us on a parade through the French Quarter. It was cold, but everyone had a great time dancing with the music and tossing beads to the spectators who stopped to watch us.
On Monday morning, the Baton Rouge club had arranged a musical presentation for us by two renowned jazz musicians, Don Vappie and Ed Petersen. With a banjo and saxophone, they played songs for us that demonstrated the historic connections between jazz and Creole folk music.
Former Board Chair Alan Milne invited us all to the next world conference in Auckland, New Zealand, before Ann Errington officially closed the 2013 conference by leading the singing of “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”
Excellence in Volunteerism and Leadership
At each World Conference, FFI recognizes two clubs and two volunteers for achieving excellence in such areas as exchange programs, public relations, service and specific achievements. The 2013 Outstanding Volunteers are Bobbie Mulholland of FF Adelaide, Australia, and Peter Peiffer of FF Central North Carolina, USA. The 2013 Outstanding Clubs are FF Sunshine Coast, Australia, and (jointly) the Friendship Force clubs of Omaha, Lincoln, Kansas and Oklahoma, who collaborated on a four-part global exchange. Click here to read the award citations.
This year, FFI presented three additional awards. In the category of “explore,” the award was given to Dave and Pat Meyer of FF Northern Illinois; in the category of “understand,” the award went to Bob Langford of FF Dallas; and in the category of “serve,” the award went to Yasushi Kinugasa of FF Koriyama and Tom and Jean Ledwidge of FF Sunshine Coast. Click here to read their award citations.
FFI would like to extend a special thank you to FF Baton Rouge, Bob Duncan and the other volunteers who worked so hard to make the conference a success. We would also like to thank all the volunteers who gave presentations and served on panels.
After the conference, 21 clubs in the US opened their doors for post-conference homestays over the Thanksgiving holiday. Thank you to all the hosts who gave their guests a wonderful Friendship Force experience!
The 2014 World Conference is an event you won’t want to miss. Join us in Auckland, New Zealand, October 14 to 16, 2014.
Registration will open in January.