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AU, NZ, NE and Beyond!

The first quarter of 2017 has not failed to be busy, full, and exciting. Perhaps like many in the Friendship Force family, the new year brings with it not only new ambitions, but a whole lot of old ambitions that got carried over. For Friendship Force Headquarters, this included the roll-out of the new website, database, finishing the process for the 2018 Journey matching process, and the routine end-of-year financial exercises with our auditor. But the new year also brought a whole new batch of exciting projects, including liberty to begin celebrating FFI’s 40 year anniversary!

Jeremi with his hosts Ian and Joyce Thomas in FF Christchurch, New Zealand

Kicking off the celebrations were conferences in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Sunshine Coast, Australia, in February. The symbolism and themes of the two conferences were not lost on me or the conference participants.

Christchurch, as many of you know, has worked tirelessly as a community to rebuild after the devastating earthquakes that rocked the city in 2011. Their conference theme, “Building on a Strong Foundation,” provided an appropriate and visible context for us to discuss the challenges faced by Friendship Force worldwide, as well as discuss the vision and strategies to get us through them.

Jeremi with members of FF Kempsey – (L-R) Fran Tarbox, June Barnes, and Steve Tarbox

Sunshine Coast embraced a very different theme, “Waves of Change,” which is certainly appropriate for Friendship Force, and perhaps more relevant to the host club’s coastal surroundings. This theme found its way interwoven into nearly every aspect of the conference and, similar to New Zealand’s conference, provided a great platform to talk about the challenges and future of our organization.

Jeremi with the mayor of Sunshine Coast, Mark Jamieson, and FF Sunshine Coast Conference Convener Jim Haxton

Although the themes were different, the esprit de corps, sense of rejuvenation and enthusiasm for our mission felt by all the delegates who attended were the same. Our relevance as an organization, our camaraderie as global diplomats, our simple mission of making friends remains more important today than perhaps ever before.

Not too long after these conferences, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the first 40th celebrations held by clubs in Lincoln, Nebraska – following the fantastic celebrations held Brazil, a couple weeks prior. The Lincoln club had succeeded in bringing over 120 members and non-members together for an evening celebration. The pride and energy for our mission of promoting understanding across the barriers that separate people was almost palpable. And certainly represented a celebration that will be replicated in various ways throughout the rest of 2017 as clubs take the opportunity to look back on 40 years of progress, and re-energize themselves and their communities for the future.

Jeremi with FFI Staff Member Laurie-Ann and Nebraska Secretary of State John A. Gale at FF Lincoln, Nebraska’s 40th Anniversary Celebration

My sincerest thanks and gratitude to each of the conference conveners, clubs, and participants in Christchurch, Sunshine Coast, and Lincoln for providing such an inspiring start to 2017!

In Friendship,


Jeremi was also pleased to accept on behalf of Friendship Force members and clubs around the world one of Nebraska’s highest honorary titles – Admiral of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. This was given by Secretary of State, John Gale, with the approval of the Governor. Nebraska is the only triply landlocked U.S. state.
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