History of Our Club


The concept of the Friendship Force originated in the United States and was launched by President Jimmy Carter at a White House gathering of state governors on 1st March 1977. At that time, President Carter asked the governors to return to their states and identify a volunteer leader who would serve as State Director for the Friendship Force in their state.

The Friendship Force originally involved groups ranging from 150 to 400 private citizens, known as friendship ambassadors, traveling via chartered aircraft to the partner city where a group of the same size boarded the plane to return to the original city, hence the use of the word 'Exchange' to refer to our travel programs until very recently. The visiting ambassadors were hosted in the homes of volunteer host families for a week, sharing everyday experiences and getting to know each other on a personal basis. The first Friendship Force exchange involved 762 Ambassadors in a simultaneous exchange between Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, and Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

During its first five years, a few large two-way exchanges were conducted each year. In 1982, however, Friendship Force travel arrangements changed from charters to one-way 'exchanges' on regularly scheduled airlines, allowing greater flexibility and a reduction of group size — first to 40-80 and later to 20-25. The change in format permitted a great expansion of the program worldwide. Instead of a few large exchanges each year, there are now 250-300 smaller exchanges worldwide.

While the size and number of exchanges has changed dramatically since 1977, the basic Friendship Force formula is the same, with visiting ambassadors spending a week in the home of a host family. While each exchange is now in just one direction, the participating ambassadors and hosts develop a shared understanding of each other’s culture so that a true cultural exchange takes place. In many cases, the friendships established during an exchange continue for many years, with follow-up visits through later Friendship Force exchanges or through private visits.

The Friendship Force of Derbyshire was founded in 1982, just at the time when one-way exchanges using scheduled airlines began, and our first exchange later that year involved a visit of about 80 ambassadors from Oklahoma in the United States, followed by a return vist to Oklahoma later the same year. Since then we have received over sixty visiting groups of ambassadors from all over the world and have made more than fifty exchange journeys, visiting almost 70 clubs in North and South America, Australasia, Asia and, of course, Europe. Details of all these exchanges can be found by selecting Past Exchanges from the menu on the left of this page.

Some photographs taken on both outgoing and incoming exchanges, now known as journeys, can be found here.

Last updated on 14 April 2019
© Friendship Force of Derbyshire, 2019