Thanks to her grandfather, Brenda Humphrey likes to say she was born with wings on her feet.
“My grandfather was a blind man and he could hear the pitter-patter of my feet that I was going far and wide [away] from him, and he was right,” Humphrey says.
So it’s no surprise that she’s involved as the Outbound Journey Coordinator with the nonprofit cultural journey organization, Friendship Force of Central North Carolina. It was formed in 2006 through the merger of the Winston-Salem Friendship Force Club and Guilford County’s Chapter of the North Carolina Citizens for International Understanding.
Ambassadors from the Triad may embark on an outbound journey to a destination where they are hosted by Friendship Force International members. Inbound journeys are when members host visitors. Travelers spend a second week further exploring a locale; domestic and international journeys are offered annually. An outbound journey to Canada is planned for this summer, and the group is also preparing to host ambassadors from Australia.
At a 1977 gathering of state governors at the White House, President Jimmy Carter presented the Friendship Force International initiative; its mission was (and still is) to improve intercultural relations and encourage cultural diplomacy and friendship.
Member Woody Clinard says Friendship Force brings people together to promote peace and foster relationships in the local community, the U.S., and the world.
“Education about the world promotes understanding and assists in learning of the many similarities within the U.S. and those in other countries,” Clinard says. “I believe I have a greater tolerance of others and accept their differences and challenges with more empathy.”
Simply put, it’s about people to people relationships, says Judy Greene. Their organization builds a cadre of people who are citizen ambassadors. She calls it “kitchen table diplomacy.”
“To me the unique feature of Friendship Force is the home stay,” she says. “We learn others’ cultures first-hand and create friendships by living together for a week. When we host international visitors in our homes and introduce them both to our families and to the ‘City of Arts and Innovation,’ we share not only our public cultural treasures, but our humanity as well.”
Humphrey’s involvement with the group is a natural extension of her lifelong passion for learning languages and interest in meeting people from elsewhere. She also sought travel or exchange opportunities throughout her academic and professional career. She used the proceeds from her Ford Fellowship in City Planning at Howard University to travel throughout Europe and Africa. She eventually settled in the West African country of Liberia to work in the Ministry of City and Regional Planning. Other professional stints included the non-governmental organization, Peace Brigades International, and Witness for Peace, in which she frequently traveled to Latin America.
“This organization is a natural fit for volunteering, now that I am no longer in the workplace,” Humphrey says.
For more about Friendship Force of Central North Carolina, visit ffcnc.org. In addition to international and domestic travel and host opportunities, members also organize Let’s Eat Out gatherings. There will be an informational meeting later this month to plan the outbound journey to Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.