The history of the Society for International Understanding and Friendship (Preetz and Blandford Friendship Society) began in the autumn of the year 1961. The choir of the town church of Preetz with their leader Church Musical Director Alfred Dressel travelled to England, i.e. to Blandford Forum in Dorset, about 130 miles southwest of London for an appearance.
The first group to start the exchange consisted of 30 students from Preetz. In July 1962, they spent a fortnight with their host families at Blandford Forum. The relationship between Blandford Forum and Preetz has existed ever since. Nowadays, every other year 10 to 20 mostly adults from both towns visit each other alternately.
In 1979, Blandford Forum and Preetz officially became twin towns.
In 1986, the student exchange with France was added to the activities of the society. The staff of the Theodor-Heuss-Gemeinschaftsschule, with Marie-France Schumann and Kristina Kraft in particular, are the moving spirit behind the exchange with schools in Gif-sur Yvette at the start and today with schools in Meaux (25 miles east of Paris and Othis (35 miles north of Paris). Every year about 15 students of the 9th grade travel to those two towns to spend a fortnight with their French host families and the French students visit Preetz respectively.
As early as in 1962, the student exchange programme with the USA started. Two or three students from Friedrich-Schiller-Gymnasium used to spend a year at Redwood High School in Larkspur/California north of San Francisco. They stayed with host families for a year. At the same time the American students went to school at Friedrich-Schiller-Gymnasium. Unfortunately, this programme ceased to exist in 2001.
Again and again during those 60 years of its existence, there have been changes with regard to the activities of the society. School partnerships have changed, new programmes have been established or a student exchange had to be given up, such as the exchange with Redwood High School in the USA or with Tarbes in France.
However, the endeavour to promote understanding and friendship among nations as our leitmotif has always remained.
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