(Adapted from: About Our Institution: Federation EIL – Collective Histories, edited by Alvino Fantini.)
FRIENDS (First Rate International Educational Network Dedicated to Students, Inc.) is a Canadian organization with more than 25 years of experience developing both inbound and outbound intercultural exchange programs.
“FRIENDS was founded by my mother, Gail Sangster, in the early 90’s,” says current Director Jessica Sangster. “My mother’s passion and energy made this organization what it is today. Her main goal was to offer a unique experience to students and to make sure that they had a wonderful time in Canada, in a genuine and safe family environment.”
To that aim, Gail traveled to many international conferences and worked hard to recruit the best partners to work with FRIENDS. “We are proud to say that most of our current partnerships are the result of the long standing relationships that were built by my mother more than 25 years ago,” says Jessica.
For the past ten years, Jessica had worked to continue the tradition of excellence established by her mother. “I have a dedicated team in Victoria, British Columbia,” she says. “Together we have coordinated a number of programs, including: Au Pair, Summer/Winter Group Programs, Buddy Programs, ESL Homestays, Volunteer Programs, Full Year/Single Semester Academic Programs, and Outbound Programs.”
Today, FRIENDS represents 35 school districts and over 250 schools, in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. “Local coordinators are available in each community,” says Jessica, “providing support to participants 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.”
The relationship between FRIENDS and Federation EIL began in 1999 when they attended their first Federation General Assembly Meeting in Toledo, Spain. In 2001, FRIENDS applied for Associate Membership after successfully working with Experiment partners in Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Japan and Argentina.
FRIENDS took on full membership with the Federation at the General Assembly in Ecuador in 2004. “This relationship has helped FRIENDS develop successful working partnerships with organizations throughout Europe, Asia, and South America,” says Jessica. “We look forward to growing together in the years to come.”
About Jessica Sangster, Director of FRIENDS Inc.: Jessica resides in Victoria, British Columbia, with her son, Riley. She worked alongside her mother, Gail Sangster, who founded FRIENDS more than 25 years ago; together they have hosted more than 30 international students. Through their work with FRIENDS, more than 7,500 students have experienced Canada.