We learned about Friendship Force on Friday January 4, 2019 from Maxine Moul who is a member of Lincoln South Rotary Club. Maxine shared her experiences during a recent Friendship Force Journey to Morocco.

Maxine believes that one-on-one relationships - the personal touch - is key to world understanding and peace.

Friendship Force is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a non-profit cultural organization focused on promoting understanding, cultural education and citizen diplomacy through homestay Journeys and personal friendships. There are chapters in 58 countries, with 15,000 active members and over 300 Journeys taking place each year, Through personal encounters, strangers become friends. By experiencing different views, you can discover common ground.

Each Friendship Force chapter plans their domestic and international journeys. Members can join journeys from their chapter or any other chapter.

Friendship Force Lincoln (FFL) (https://fflincoln.org/) has more than 100 members. They hold one international and one domestic journey annually; and host one the same annually. FFL has welcomed 22 visitors from eight countries in November and December. One group nominated Lincoln as their favorite city - and their journey included visits to Seattle and Washington D.C..

FFL also provides home hospitality for the Open World Program which is managed through the Library of Congress. Lincoln South Rotary club has met recent groups from Georgia, the Ukraine and also Azerbaijan.

Home hospitality is FFL's signature program. None of the hosts are paid. This aspect is the program is true citizen diplomacy.

The State Department puts out invitations to countries throughout the world asking them to nominate participants - particularly emerging leaders. Some of the visitors became high-level leaders in their countries. The program started during the term of President Carter.

Maxine recently returned from a Friendship Force Journey to Morocco. They had home stays in Rabat (the Capital of Morocco) and also Azrou, a small city in northeast Morocco. They did a circle tour of Morocco from Casablanca -> Rabat -> Fez -> Erfoud -> Dades -> Ouarzazate -> Marrakesh and back to Casablanca.

The host in one of the homes was a engineer. They learned how difficult it was for women to get an education. 

They happened to be in Morocco when they were celebrating the anniversary of the Green March - a mass demonstration in 1975, to force Spain to hand over the province of  Spanish Sahara.

The daughter of one host family was studying to be a tour guide - and Maxine's group challenged her and provided here with real experiences. They had a camel ride at sunset which offer the opportunity for beautiful photos.

They were fully immersed in the Berber culture (indigenous people of north Africa)  including the opportunity to make a full meal during the home stay - from making Tajine Chicken to baking bread and grinding almonds to make butter.

To learn more about Maxine's background:

Maxine Moul, a native of Oakland, NE, was appointed by President Barack Obama as Nebraska State Director of USDA—Rural Development on June 29, 2009 and served until her retirement on January 20, 2017. 
Moul is a journalism graduate of the University of Nebraska and was publisher and CEO of Maverick Media, Inc., including the Syracuse (Nebraska) Journal-Democrat.
In 1990, she was elected Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska with Governor Ben Nelson.  She led the administration’s rural development efforts and was the first Chairperson of the Nebraska Rural Development Commission. She also served as Nebraska Director of Economic Development in the Nelson administration.
She served as the first Chair and then President of the Nebraska Community Foundation, a statewide 501(c)(3) foundation formed in 1993 that includes more than 200 affiliated community and program funds.

She is a member of Lincoln South Rotary, the Lincoln Council for International Visitors and Friendship Force of Lincoln