Operation Friendship (OF) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that has been in existence for over 50 years. Our purpose is to encourage international friendship and understanding for youth ages fourteen through twenty-one and to introduce these delegates to the industrial, social, educational, religious, and secular culture of each country with a member organization. The youth who join our program are called delegates because they represent the United States in their interactions with the students and families of the other countries.
Through this experience, delegates have the opportunity to create life-long friendships in both Europe and America as well as learn about the world in which they live. Delegates of our chapters host international delegates then travel to Europe at a very limited financial cost to their families, mainly through the fundraising efforts of each chapter.
The idea of Operation Friendship was first proposed in 1964 by Rev. Wallace A. Shaw, an American minister at St. Margaret’s Church in Glenrothes, Scotland. That fall, Mrs. David Anderson brought the invitation to participate to the United States, sharing it with her pastor, Rev. Robert L. Blackwell of the First Presbyterian Church in Kearny, New Jersey. This invitation was soon extended to the Second Congregational Church in Palmer, Massachusetts through its pastor Rev. Guthrie R. Swartz.
Operation Friendship’s inaugural exchange occurred in 1965, when three youth traveled from Scotland to the United States. The following year, youth from New Jersey and Massachusetts traveled to Scotland, with a group from Sweden joining the organization the same year. Groups from England and Ireland later joined in 1970, followed by Wales and the Netherlands in 1974.
In the spring of 1974, the first International Meeting was held in Scotland with delegates from each participating group. The following August, the first International Constitution was drafted in Ireland, formalizing Operation Friendship International as an organization.
We are proud to say that through the work of our families through the years, Operation Friendship continues to be a vibrant organization providing enriching experiences to its participants!