Friendship Force World Conference 2017

Suzy Smith Bennitt

Welcome Party Speaker, "Time Travel Back to 1977", August 24

Suzy Bennitt is a former President and CEO of Friendship Force International. Her father, Dr. Wayne Smith founded the organization in 1977. Suzy was a young teen at the time, and participated in the inaugural Friendship Force exchange between Georgia, US and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. Suzy worked at FFI for over 15 years in various roles. A highlight of her career involved working in Moscow, Russia in the early 1990’s coordinating the Friend-to-Friend exchanges throughout the former Soviet Union.

She has also worked as Executive-Administrative Affairs Manager for The Yosemite Fund, paralegal, and mental health crisis specialist. She has a B.S. in Political Science, and M.A. in Counseling Psychology. A lifelong animal advocate, Suzy serves on the National Council of the Humane Society of the United States, and is on its Humane Society International Subcommittee. Suzy is Publisher of Pink Moment Press, and is currently writing a fantasy adventure novel with a kindness to animals theme.

Suzy and her husband, Bob, serve on the Council of Directors of The Yosemite Conservancy. They reside in Ojai, California, US with their animal friends, and Suzy’s mother, Carolyn, who lives nearby.

Benedict Allen

Keynote Speaker, August 25

Described by the BBC’s Mark Thompson as being “part of the history of television,” Benedict Allen is best known for being the first to record his arduous and treacherous exploits without a TV crew.

His technique has been to sink into remote communities, placing himself in the hands of these people and their environment, learning to survive from them alone. By single-handedly capturing his experiences on film he has created ground breaking, spontaneous and authentic programming.

He says “To me exploration isn’t about conquering natural obstacles, planting flags... It’s not about going where no one’s gone before in order to leave your mark, but about the opposite of that – about making yourself vulnerable, opening yourself up to whatever’s there and letting the place leave its mark on you.”

In 2013 Benedict was included in the Daily Telegraph’s list of Britain’s “Great Explorers” – the only other living adventurer being Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Phil Holt

After-Dinner Speaker, "Gala Banquet In the Sky", August 26

Phil joined National Air Traffic Services in 1972 as an Air Traffic Controller, a career spanning almost 40 years serving at seven locations, including London's Heathrow airport - the busiest airport in the world. He was also a reservist in the R.A.F. as a flying instructor and in Maritime Air Region operations.

Phil continues as an active pilot and is proud to be counted among the top speakers aboard P&O cruise ships. Recently he has become a volunteer guide at the RNLI College in Poole as well as an educational lecturer for the Institute.

Since the start of his career Phil has given over five hundred presentations, often to raise money for charity, organizing events including a special luncheon at the Bournemouth Air Festival.

His educational and humorous after-dinner presentation at our gala banquet is entitled "Keep Calm – I'm an Air Traffic Controller".

Stefanie Powers

Keynote Speaker, Closing Session, August 28

Stefanie Powers’ acting career on stage and screen spans almost 60 years. She became known globally for her role opposite Robert Wagner in the 1979–84 TV series Hart to Hart, for which she received several award nominations.

Stefanie is very much involved with wildlife conservation, particularly with the William Holden Wildlife Foundation (WHWF) in Kenya which she considers to be her second home. Today, the Foundation offers conservation programs to the local population and serves well over 10,000 students per year. It also operates a rural outreach program providing libraries and field installations at rural schools involving over 2,000 students and their families.
She believes strongly that by being global citizens and building international relationships, we can all make a difference. She has received many awards for her work with WHWF and other organizations. She is a frequent keynote speaker for causes that are dear to her heart such as the humane treatment for farmed animals and the effects of over-exploitation of African forests. She has been honored by the Explorers Club for her conservation efforts and received a Fellowship to the Royal Geographic Society.

Stefanie has traveled extensively and speaks seven languages – English, French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Polish and Swahili.