Founded by Fulbright Scholar Harry Morgan and well respected travel professional Cappy Devlin, Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. has facilitated international travel and exchange programs as an independent foundation since 1973 - and for more than 15 years prior to that as an informal program supported in large part by Lila and DeWitt Wallace (founders, Readers Digest). Since its inception, FAF has cultivated international affiliations and representation in order to fulfill its mission: Promote Peace Through Cultural Exchange.
Begun as a project of Reader's Digest and later an independent, publicly supported tax-exempt organization, FAF is built upon many support communities worldwide. These remain loyal to FAF's mission and encourage American groups to visit, exchange and experience a vast, new cultural landscape. This positive and interactive concept was introduced and developed by FAF staff and founders Harry Morgan and Cappy Devlin. The concept later became a cottage industry of ‘tour operators’ but the original goal remains an important and unique concept in international communication today.
FAF pioneered cultural exchange with American arts ensembles: in 1984, we prepared the first American performance exchange with China, and during the Cold War we worked to open channels of communication between the United States and the so-called Communist Block. In the 1990’s, the foundation was in the forefront of youth reconciliation efforts during the Balkan Wars in what Team Leader and artist Joanna Sherman (Bond Street Theatre)
Kofi Annan was one of four foreign students chosen
to crisscross the United States in a donated Rambler
station wagon in 1960. The Ambassadors for
Friendship program took foreign students on the
road each summer to see the country up close.
called a Cultural Peace Corps. The Balkan Youth Reconciliation Seminar Series eventually became a Flagship Partner of UNESCO’s International Year for the Culture of
Peace. FAF is currently a Partner in Operational Relations with UNESCO,
and formally associated with the UN Department of Public Information.
Foundation's history includes significant collaborations to help heal families of victims of terror, with a strong focus on 9/11 families in particular. The project was titled Finding New Hope in 2002 and has received substantial funding from Rotary International, Hitachi, Kids for Kids 2001, the Wall, Ceiling and Carpenters Union, and signature funding of over $1M from the Lions Clubs International Foundation.
- The annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations
- Youth Symphony for United Nations
- Youth Band for United Nations
FAF is also proud of its many formal
affiliations with a long list of non-governmental
organizations which put the foundation in a unique position as it
pursues its mission.
FAF programs have included many well-known participants throughout the past four decades, including United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (see picture above), author Alex Haley, Mother Teresa, Senator Jay Rockefeller, President Vaclav
Havel, three American astronauts, Reverend Jesse Jackson, social
entrepreneur Kathy Ireland, dr. Arun Gandhi - the list goes on and on. However the foundation is most proud of the tens of thousands of private citizens and the millions of lives that have been touched and changed by the exchange our programs engender.
I am going over my collection of slides in
order to put them on the computer. I have just done the slides of two
trips of the Ellis Street Singers (Mankato State U.). One to Russia and
Poland in 1977 and the other to Bulgaria and Romania in 1979. As I look
at these and remember them amongst all of the tours that group took in 25
years of existence, I realize that these two were the very best and most
memorable. We still have alumni gatherings of ESS and these are the
trips mentioned the most. We have two special albums in the MSU archives
that are devoted to those trips.
How exciting to travel behind the Iron
Curtain but still feel most welcome and accepted by the youth of those
countries. It was a great musical experience, but really more than that
a cultural experience of a lifetime.
I think probably the most wonderful and
memorable experience of all was the Youth Folk Music Festival on the Black Sea
in Bulgaria where we spent five days. I will never forget it and neither
will any of the students. (I wish I could do it again.)
Anyway, I thought I would just write at this
time and thank the Friendship Ambassadors for these marvelous experiences for
both the students and me.
Keep up the good work.
Dr. Allen L. Wortman
Professor Emeritus of Music
Minnesota State University, Mankato