American friends visit the Manawatu
Conversation and laughter filled the home of a Manawatu Friendship Force member where a group from the United States were farewelled.
Founded in 1977 in the US, Friendship Force International boasts 377 clubs in 60 countries.
It aims to promote international understanding and peace through people experiencing each other’s lifestyles, cultures and hopes for the future.
Manawatu recently hosted a group of Americans for six days where they took to the Manawatu, doing bush walks, farm visits, factory tours, museums, art galleries and picnics.
Manawatu president Stewart Picken said the Manawatu club was formed in 1986 and is one of 21 in New Zealand. The club has 50 members.
‘‘Members make a commitment to, within their means, host for a week or become day hosts. [They] host small simple group dinners and participate in planned activities,’’ Picken said.
‘‘Every year an overseas trip is planned and one or two groups are welcomed to the Manawatu.
‘‘Members are able to travel, not only with their own club, but with any clubs around the world so have a wide choice of destinations.
‘‘Visitors from one club are hosted by members of another club with the idea that true understanding can develop by seeing a different area through the eyes of its local inhabitants.’’
Members of the Manawatu club had visited countries throughout Asia, Europe, South and North America and parts of Africa, Picken said.
They have stayed with Muslims in Indonesia and Jews in Israel. They have stayed in communist and capitalist countries, and modern traditional societies.
Picken said they had felt their way through foreign languages by using signs and laughter.
‘‘Many of the friendships last for years, often involving a reciprocal visit. There is no better way to connect with people than by having fun together.’’
The International Friendship Force office is in Atlanta.
About 90 per cent of members are older than 50.
Picken said members thinking of joining should be interested in other cultures, be friendly, flexible and like to have fun.
The Friendship force helps to cut costs such as accommodation.
From left; Tom and Peggy Best from the United States, Elizabeth Picken and president of Manawatu Friendship Force Stewart Picken.