Exchange program forges friendships
Published 6:42 pm Friday, April 22, 2016
Many people like to travel, and through a national program that allows just that, a group of foreigners visited Washington this week. However, the program promotes more than just travel; lifelong friendships are forged between people in communities throughout the world.
Colonial Carolina Friendship Force hosted 18 Canadians this week, not only exposing local members to the Canadian culture and way of life, but also allowing the visiting counterparts to get a feel for life in Beaufort County in a hands-on way.
During the week, members of the local charter coordinated various activities for its visitors to experience each day, including trips to Wright Memorial in Kitty Hawk, Tryon Palace in New Bern, Somerset Plantation in Creswell, Historic Bath, Aurora Fossil Museum and PotashCorp-Aurora and tours of Washington, including the N.C. Estuarium. Some visiting members also had the chance to dine at King Chicken and Bill’s Hot Dogs, two local landmarks.
Pack Hindsley, president of the local charter, and his wife, Jan, hosted Wendy and Steve Adams of Ottawa, Ontario, at their home for the week, which is customary for the program. Jan Hindsley, serving as the Washington charter’s exchange director, helped coordinate the exchange between the two charters through communication with Wendy Adams, the Ottawan counterpart to Jan Hindsley.
Steve Adams said the program provides an experience that normally wouldn’t happen during a road trip where one would stay in a hotel and sightsee. The Adamses agreed the flat lands of eastern North Carolina, as well as the flooding and most towns in the county being close to the water, was something they weren’t used to. They will also now be worried for their Carolina counterparts each hurricane season, something they knew very little about considering where they’re from, Steve Adams said.
“What you remember in the long-term is the people,” Wendy Adams said. “We’ve lived the life of the people here. You can’t do that staying in a hotel. You don’t normally find these kinds of opportunities.”
Jan Hindsley agreed with the Adamses’ assessment of how engaging the program is.
“The thing about Friendship Force is not just travel,” Jan Hindsley said. “It’s an opportunity to live with other people from other backgrounds and really learn about that country, learn about what these people think and how they live. It’s not just going to tourist spots; it’s finding out how similar we are all over the world.”
The Friendship Force began in 1977 during President Jimmy Carter’s administration as a way to promote ambassadorship around the world, according to Pack Hindsley. The organization’s motto, “A world of friends is a world of peace,” is a nod to the true purpose of the program — for people of different cultures, religions and walks of life to become friends through personal experiences shared together. Since, 65 countries have become involved in the program. In all cases, the exchange means the visiting group members stay in hosting members’ homes throughout the week, Steve Adams said.
The Hindsleys got involved in 1983 when Margaret Hackney and other founding members approached them about housing visitors in the cottage on their property, Pack Hindsley said. At that time, the couple didn’t go on trips, but they frequently housed people visiting from other parts of the world.
Since joining the program and taking the step of traveling to other places, the Hindsleys have been all over the world, visiting places such as Japan, Turkey and Brazil, to name a few.
“It’s fun,” Jan Hindsley said. “It has enriched our lives beyond words, and we have literally traveled the world and the world has traveled us. (Washington) is such a wonderful place, and it really opens the eyes of people from other countries what small town life is about.”