The Friends Forever Group from Northern Ireland was hosted by the Rotary Club of LaPlace at their membership meeting on October 25, 2016.

 Friends Forever ( brings together 10 teens (ages 15-17) from areas of conflict—Northern Ireland — for a 2 week retreat in the USA, together 24/7 in a “neutral environment,” to build bonds of trust and friendship.  An important concept is the life raft principle—when you sit next to someone on a life raft, ones “humanity” takes precedence over religious and political differences.  Follow-up activities for a year “back home” involve the teens, their families and neighbors for continuing strides toward peace.
Some of the basics:
(1)                5 Catholic & 5 Protestant teens, are accompanied by 2 Youth Workers
(2)                An American Site Manager provides local logistics
(3)                Team building—“ropes course,” other “Outward Bound” type activities
(4)                Community Service projects: food pantry; homeless shelter; City Park; etc.
(5)                All go to a Catholic Mass and a Protestant service during the visit
Lodging for all participants - together - in Slidell & in a home near Bay St. Louis
This year’s group was made up of youth from the Holy Family Catholic Youth Center and the Mountcollyer Protestant Youth Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  The two youth centers are about 400 yards apart, but have a “Peace Wall” separating the two communities.  Before the Friends Forever activities, youth from separate sides of the wall rarely interacted with each other.
This is the fifth year that a Friends Forever group has been hosted in New Orleans by area Rotary Clubs.  The Rotary Club of LaPlace has hosted and helped sponsor this activity each of the five years.  World Peace and Conflict Resolution is one of the prime focus areas of the Rotary International organization.  The Friends Forever Organization was formed in 1986 by a Rotarian in New Hampshire.