Opening Doors to the World!
We are a three-week summer family-stay exchange program for youth ages 14-21 years of age.
See what we're all about and open your home and your mind to the world!
Have you ever wanted to participate in a family-stay exchange program but weren't sure but weren't sure if the commitment of an entire year or semester was right for you? Operation Friendship is a great way to get your feet wet and ignite your passion for travel and learning!
Operation Friendship (O.F.) is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization affiliated with the United Nations, and we've been around for over 50 years! Our purpose is to encourage international friendship and understanding for students ages fourteen through twenty-one and to introduce these delegates to the industrial, social, educational, religious, and secular culture of each member country. Because we are affiliated with the U.N., our youth are called "delegates," representing the United States in their interactions with the students and families of the member nations. The Indianapolis North chapter serves delegates from Carmel, Fishers, and Lawrence.
Delegates in O.F. participate for at least one two-year cycle. In the first year, each delegate from Operation Friendship of America (O.F.A.—our national body) hosts someone from a foreign country and in the second year, the delegate travels to a country in Europe. The traveling and hosting programs span a two-and-a-half-week period during which a delegate will participate in several events and spend time with their host family. Often, life-long friendships are created—which is our goal and inherent in our name!
Operation Friendship (OF) originated in 1964. It was the brainchild of Rev. Wallace A. Shaw, an American minister at St. Margaret’s Church of Scotland in Glenrothes. It was his desire to develop a youth exchange, enabling the youth of one country to learn about the different cultures of other countries and develop friendships around the world.
The invitation to participate in the idea was brought to the United States of America in the fall of 1964 by Mrs. David Anderson who shared it with Rev. Robert L. Blackwell, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Kearny, New Jersey. Soon after, it was extended to the Second Congregational Church in Palmer, Massachusetts through its pastor, Rev. Guthrie R. Swartz.
The first delegates of Operation Friendship journeyed from Scotland to the USA in 1965. The three youths were hosted by the Presbyterian Church in Kearny, New Jersey and the Second Congregational Church in Palmer, Massachusetts. The following year, youth from New Jersey and Massachusetts visited Glenrothes, Scotland. Operation Friendship was off and running.
Growth of OF was rapid; there were exchange programs with Sweden in 1966 and with Ireland in 1970.
In the spring of 1974, the first International Meeting was held in Scotland with delegates of each participating country. The first International Constitution was written in August 1974 at a meeting in Ireland.
Today, Operation Friendship remains alive and well.
Hosting a Delegate
During the hosting year, each family opens their home to host one or more delegates from Operation Friendship of Europe. A great deal of care goes into matching delegates with teens who have similar interests and are close in age.
These homes provide:
adult supervision for the entire 3 week program
transportation (by an adult) to and from scheduled events
3 meals a day, provided in some way or another
a separate bed for the guest (but not necessarily a separate room)
In addition, each chapter arranges many activities that often include transportation. These activities range from trips to cities and beaches, to campgrounds, amusement parks, and always include a welcome and a farewell party. “Family days”—days where the guests and their host family have free time to arrange their own activities—are part of the schedule.
Traveling as a Delegate
There are currently six countries in Europe involved in hosting Operation Friendship of America (O.F.A.) delegates. Delegates must be 15 years of age to travel abroad. During the fall of the travel year, the delegates are asked to submit an application form and select three countries in Europe that they are most interested in traveling to.
In the fall of the travel year, each chapter will submit:
the delegates’ application forms with country preferences
a medical form of each delegate
a check deposit for travel
After a careful review of available host families, the OFA National Board makes all travel arrangements and informs the local chapter about where each delegate will travel to, including dates, times, flight numbers, and the like. In the summer, the delegates travel abroad to their respective countries to experience a three-week program not unlike the hosting year’s.
This sounds great! What does it cost?
Annual membership dues to O.F. Indy North are $300.00. In addition, each chapter conducts robust fund-raising throughout the months leading up to the summer hosting or travel period. Operation Friendship believes so strongly in the power of intercultural exchange that we want it to be affordable to as many families as possible.
Our program is unique in that the hosting chapter covers all costs for traveling delegates upon arrival. Thus, during a hosting year fundraising efforts are aimed at covering activity expenses for the visiting delegates as well as the hosting delegates. During the travel year, however, fundraising is aimed covering our own delegates' travel costs. The average cost of travel is $1600.00 to $1800.00, but is dependent on fluctuations in airfare. Fund-raising is instrumental in off-setting these costs. Once your son/daughter arrives to their host country, activity costs are covered.