‘YOU don’t go to war with your friends’ is the raison d’être of Rotary International’s Friendship Exchange.

So we can surely bank on harmony between Hexham and Philadelphia from now on, following a visit by five members of three different ‘Philly’ clubs.

Lou and Barb Bottitta, Mike Seidner, Gary Rohrbach and Dee Eng were part of an 11-strong task force that came over to visit Rotary clubs across the region.

They stayed with members of Tynedale and Hexham Rotary Clubs, who took them on a number of cultural trips to places such as Cragside, Alnwick Gardens and Vindolanda.

They also got a taste of home when they visited Hexham Abbey, the proud owner of a prestigious Phelps organ, made to order for the Abbey by the renowned Lawrence Phelps firm based in Pennsylvania.

Mike Seidner said: “It’s amazing how small the world is and how often you run across people you don’t know, but have commonality with.

“Blyth Rotary Club has a Romanian member and when I was on my first Friendship Exchange, in Romania, two years ago, I happened to visit her home town.”

This particular trip was seventh time around for Dee, who is chairman of her Rotary district’s Friendship Exchange, and her husband, Gary. They have visited Sweden, Turkey, Argentina and New Zealand, among other places.

“The Friendship Exchange was started by Rotary so people would go and experience other cultures and in the end create world peace,” said Dee, “because if they are your friends, you can’t go to war with them.”

The bonds had been strengthened by the advent of social media too. “We do keep in touch with people, thanks to Facebook and Twitter,” she said.