FF-NM History — How We Got Started
A GIANT EXCHANGE WITH SOUTH KOREA WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE FRIENDSHIP FORCE NEW MEXICO
On Jan. 29, 1979, The Friendship Force of Albuquerque was the first Friendship Force club chartered by Friendship Force International in Atlanta, Ga. Betty Beahm was the first flight (exchange) director for the Albuquerque club. Meetings were held in later months and in June our first exchange began, with 400 ambassadors from Seoul, Korea, arriving by Korean Air on June 8 to be hosted in Albuquerque. At 1 a.m. on June 10, 401 New Mexicans left for Korea on the same 747 plane. The cost of the trip was $378 each.
In order for one to go on this exchange, it was necessary to find a family to host Korean guests in their homes for the duration of the exchange. Various activities in Albuquerque and New Mexico were planned, including a Balloon Fiesta and a reception for about a thousand people at the Convention Center with Korean music and dancers in costume. Many of the hosts planned gatherings in their homes for small groups of Korean ambassadors. All of the Korean ambassadors wanted time to shop in the local stores. On June 15, the Koreans were taken on a one-week whirlwind air tour of the United States and returned to their hosts’ homes. The New Mexico ambassadors returned from Korea on June 22 and the Koreans departed Albuquerque at 1 a.m. on June 23.
According to the records of the board of directors at that time, 70 volunteer committee members and 56 office workers gave 2,000 hours of work to make this first Albuquerque Friendship Force Exchange possible. Governor King, Dr. Davis, president of UNM, and 19 local businesses supported this project as well as over 200 hosts who opened their homes to the Korean guests.
Since that time, the club has been renamed The Friendship Force New Mexico to include all of our state, and domestic exchanges were added to include exchanges with other clubs in the USA.
Written by Peggy Birmingham
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