Happy Holidays from Fort Worth Sister Cities

Christmas is just around the corner and Santa and his elves have been working tirelessly at the North Pole – using proper protocols for social distancing, of course. While our traditions may be a little different this year due to the pandemic, let’s look back to those days when we were kids when we took making that Christmas wish list seriously.

Do you remember the Sears Catalog? It was huge!!! Must have been 20 lbs. My sisters and I would look through it for weeks trying to pick out the toys we wanted. We would make our lists over and over and over (because Mama said we shouldn’t be greedy ‘cause other kids wanted something, too). We would seal the lists in a special envelope for Santa, put it in the mailbox and watch anxiously to be sure the mailman got our letters. And then, miraculously on Christmas morning, the gifts we wanted so badly were in front of the fireplace just waiting for us. Now, we never got everything we wanted but, by the time Christmas arrived, we were so happy – I think we just forgot.

So, to get you in the spirit (if you’re not already there), and to help you get started with your list, here’s a few we came up with – let’s get the serious ones out of the way first:

  • We want this pandemic to end!
  • We want to gather safely and celebrate.
  • We want to see our friends here and around the world.
  • We want to feel the excitement of greeting our friends at the airport.
  • We want to experience the butterflies of traveling to a new place and making new friends.
  • We want peace in the world!

The excitement on Christmas morning, the long days leading up to Christmas, and the smell of cookies baking are memories many of us share. This year, we’re a little older (okay, maybe some of us a lot) but we’ll still anticipate this wonderful time of the year. 2020 may be a little different for many though and our wish is for all those who have personally borne the brunt of this awful disease, who have lost so much – loved ones, jobs, financial security – to receive the peace brought to us on this day so many years ago.

Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season,

Mae Ferguson
President/CEO

Thank you to our supporters!

The ever-present “things we are thankful for” lists are everywhere this month, especially during these challenging times and the Fort Worth Sister Cities staff is grateful for many things this Thanksgiving. Our lean and mean team of four are immensely grateful to the people who continue to believe in our mission and serve in various ways to strengthen this organization.

  • YOU are the reason we have the number one sister cities program in the nation!
  • YOU are the reason for our ability to reach so many youth and involve them in our international education programs.
  • YOU are the reason we were able to continue our robust programming virtually in a time when in-person programs and travel were not possible.

Our family of committed and dedicated volunteers, board members, Global Academic Fellows, educators, members and supporters keep us going. We mean it when we say we can’t do it without you.

So, please accept our sincere THANK YOU! We are so thankful to have YOU on our team!

Sincerely,

Your Staff – Mae, Joe, Beth and Danielle

Fort Worth Celebrates 35th Anniversary with Reggio Emilia, Italy

October 29, 2020 marked a cold evening in Fort Worth, Texas, as residents bundled up in cars parked throughout the Coyote Drive-In Theater to celebrate Fort Worth’s 35-year anniversary with Reggio Emilia, Italy. The evening began with a special video message from Mayor Betsy Price and Reggio’s Mayor Luca Vecchi shown on the big screen. To cap off the evening, the crowd was then treated to pizza and the 2003 film – The Italian Job.

Our friends in Reggio also held a celebration of their own in Italy for this long and fruitful relationship. In a recent letter from Mayor Vecchi to Mayor Price, Vecchi made these comments:

“In a challenging period like this, we strongly believe that international exchanges and collaborations are an important lever for the relaunch of our community, economy and the values we believe in. I wish you a happy anniversary to you hoping to see you next year.”

35 years ago, Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen and Reggio Emilia Mayor Ugo Benassi signed the official documents to establish Fort Worth’s first sister city relationship with Reggio Emilia. The Reggio City Chair at that time, Mary Palko, then took the reigns and the first inbound exchange took place when 135 runners from Reggio Emilia participated in the Cowtown Marathon. Later that year Fort Worth Sister Cities received its first national recognition – the Readers Digest award for Best New Program – and that’s how it all began.

As our very first sister city, Reggio Emilia holds a special place in our hearts. Originally a Roman fortress situated in the Apennine foothills of Northern Italy, this historic city is home to spectacular cathedrals and palazzos dating back to the 12th century, the Municipal Theater and the famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory.

Our relationship with this amazing city offers equally amazing opportunities for Fort Worth’s citizen diplomats. In addition to exchanges featuring the daily life and culture of Italy, Italian cooking and language classes and visits to the nearby city of Florence, the program is recognized for developing unique first-ever exchanges, including:

  • Tricolore Youth Sports Games, a youth-based version of the Olympics for which Fort Worth is the sole United States participant
  • A Handicap Life Skills Symposium
  • International Wheelchair Basketball Tournaments
  • Annual student exchanges
  • Smithsonian’s U.S. Tour of Reggio Emilia’s education model
  • Cutting and quarter horse training, breeding and competition
  • Stage, craft and performance arts training programs
  • Marathons
  • Culinary, hotel, and professional internships
  • Fashion and artisan industry programs

You can view a compilation of several short videos from participants and leaders of many exchanges and programs over the last 35 years between these two cities here.

Congratulations to Trivia Night Winners

If you missed last week’s trivia competition, you missed a lot of fun and a lot of smart people who were engaged in this internationally-focused game. Dr. Michael Roemer led 16 teams through three rounds of challenging questions ranging from flag trivia to general geography. Congratulations to our winners!

  • 1st Place – Will Lourcey
  • 2nd Place – Saanvi Pathikonda and family
  • 3rd Place – Elizabeth Duque and Nyasha Muwalo

Will is currently President of our youth organization Fort Worth Youth International and is a senior at Paschal High School. Saanvi is a student at Trinity Valley School, and Elizabeth Duque and Nyasha Muwalo, who attend Chisholm Trail High School, are also on our youth board. Did you notice? All three winners are students. We must be doing something right because we’ve got some very smart kids involved in our programs!

John Wells won the prize for having the most interesting international item to share. John showed us a wood carving of “The Thinking Man” he picked up on his travels to Madagascar. There were many more very interesting items seen including a beautiful crystal-etched bell made in Hungary brought by Eva Baluska and an ostrich egg with Egyptian hieroglyphics displayed by Mary Palko.

As far as interesting travel stories, you had to be there to appreciate it but, a few included a Fort Worth mayor’s feet being tickled by a Japanese gentleman during the night when she slept, and a former Chairwoman standing on her head in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, in a glass elevator in Hong Kong, and on top of a sand dune in the Arabian desert near Wadi Rum.

Many thanks to all who helped gather prizes and suggestions for questions. It was a lot of fun and educational at the same time. A special thank you to Libby Watson, Shanna Granger, and Nyja and Richard Roby for their donation of prizes.

Stay tuned for more trivia night opportunities in the future!

Thank you 2020 Members Circle of Giving

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and, for all of us at Fort Worth Sister Cities, we are grateful for the donors to the Members Circle of Giving who gave generously to help us weather a difficult time. We not only survived but thrived adapting to a new reality.

While travel and in-person gatherings are restricted, we have focused a great deal of our time creating virtual programming. Just this summer we created a curriculum designed to engage students virtually teaching them our core concepts of cultural competency and civic participation. A student who graduated from this seven-week course said, “It was a truly eye-opening and magical experience helping me understand others different from me”.

The pandemic has caused us to rethink how we do things and we have met that challenge providing programs for youth and adults alike. With your help we will continue to provide these services to the people of Fort Worth for another 35 years.

Thank you for your commitment to helping us continue to focus on teaching respect and understanding of other cultures.

Click here to see the full list.

Recognition of Sister Cities Leadership

In just a few days, we hope you will join us at our first virtual 2020 Annual Meeting: 35 Years of Excellence, where you will be introduced to the 2020/21 leadership – but, before that happens, we want to recognize the outstanding work of our current Board of Directors and thank Chairwoman Veronica Chavez Law.

Veronica has led the Board of Directors for two years and before that, chaired the Reggio Emilia, Italy committee. During her time as Chairwoman, Fort Worth Sister Cities has won two national awards: Best Overall Program in the Nation and Innovation in Business and Trade. Also under her leadership we saw an increase in our family of partner cities by adding Nimes, France, conducted our first Open World program with Kazakhstan and pivoted to virtual programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. We are fortunate to have had her at the helm along with a dedicated Board of Directors.

On Sept. 9, the day before our Annual Meeting, the new Board of Directors will be elected. Click here for a full list. Becky Renfro Borbolla will assume the role of Chairman of the Board. She and her team of 48 board members are ready to position Sister Cities for another 35 years of excellence. This board, along with our members, volunteers and staff, believe we can make a difference in our world and are ready to make that happen.

Sister Cities Youth Board Elected for 2020-2021 School Year

Last weekend, the Fort Worth Youth International youth board met to elect new officers for the 2020-2021 school year. Stay tuned to hear about their new and innovative plans to engage the Fort Worth youth community as we restructure the way we connect with other during these times.

We also thanked and celebrated the outgoing board for their accomplishments during the 2019-2020 school year. Led by President Solana Adedokun, the youth board participated in two impactful service projects and educated their peers about our sister city relationships. They also helped us raise nearly $90,000 volunteering for our Sundance Santa fundraiser.

Congratulations to the new board!

President: Will Lourcey, R.L. Paschal High School

Vice President, Erin Fishman, Fort Worth Country Day School

Secretary, Reshma Niraula, Fort Worth Country Day School

Public Relations Officer: Nyasha Muwalo, Chisholm Trail High School

Community Outreach Officer: Bela Gomez, Nolan Catholic High School

Fundraising Officer: Elizabeth Duque, Chisholm Trail High School

Fundraising Deputy: Rob Lourcey, R.L. Paschal High School

Cultural Orientations Officer, Rowen Kleithermes, Trinity Valley School

AT-LARGE MEMBERS:

Karen Ayala, Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences

Jameson Bauer, Westlake Academy

Jude Butler, Westlake Academy

Katherine Gallardo, Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences

Valdemar Gomez, Nolan Catholic High School

Nicole Helms, Westlake Academy

Garin Kelly, I.M. Terrell Academy

Girah Lundy-Joseph, McArthur High School

Noah Reyes, North Crowley High School

Fort Worth Has Best Sister Cities Program in Nation

Fort Worth, Texas – 10th time to be recognized with award

At the 2020 Sister Cities International annual conference attended by over 1,200 people from around the world, Fort Worth was recognized as having the “Best Sister Cities Program in the Nation” for the 10th time in its 35-year history.

Will Lourcey who is a member of our youth board Fort Worth Youth International graciously accepted the award on our behalf. Furthermore, Will was recognized with the Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Award for his outstanding contributions to our community

“We recognize the significance of the international relations established for our city and its citizens through Fort Worth Sister Cities International and are proud to once again accept this award. We have an amazing network of members and volunteers that work tirelessly to bring impactful programs to Fort Worth for students, adults and businesses,” said Veronica Chavez Law, Chairwoman.

Established 35 years ago, Fort Worth Sister Cities has brought international attention to Fort Worth through its nine sister city relationships in China, Eswatini, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, and Mexico in an effort to create respect of and better understanding between cultures.

With a major focus on youth programming, Sister Cities serves a diverse group of students creating culturally competent youth who are prepared for the challenges of a global community. These programs help decrease violence, racism and stereotypes in Fort Worth and abroad. They focus on international understanding and leadership training which can change the trajectory of a student’s life.

Sister Cities June Update

While in-person relationship building and international travel are curtailed right now, the exchanges and outreach of Fort Worth Sister Cities are still just as vibrant as ever due to the commitment and dedication of our many partners, members and volunteers. They understand this work is important – now more than ever before.

Our youth have been conducting virtual meetings with students in Budapest, Hungry; Nîmes, France; Reggio Emilia, Italy; and Trier, Germany this spring and have shown that we can still create relationships – only in a different way. Students from these cities have been able to connect with Fort Worth youth exchanging information about what life is like in their communities during this quarantine era. Their voices were enthusiastic and attitudes eager to continue virtual connections, despite zoom fatigue they experienced from their online classwork.

Even our Fort Worth Youth International local group are meeting virtually and have created a community service project that they could participate in from their own living rooms. They are making cards with original artwork and messages of inspiration for families who are part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County.

The premier high school International Leadership Academy and Jr. Academy are also going virtual with students organizing weekly games like charades, scavenger hunts, and leadership building activities throughout the summer with students from Fort Worth’s nine sister cities. And, we’ve created adult virtual dinners and entertainment with some of our sister cities to provide cultural insights.

Fort Worth and its nine sister cities are also helping each other on how to best reopen our communities and energize our economies. Recently we coordinated a virtual economic relations meeting with officials in Toluca, Mexico with participation from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, City of Fort Worth Economic Development Department, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce arranged by Councilman Carlos Flores. We can always learn from each other and these longtime partnerships are proving to be valuable during this time.

It is a different time for us for sure, but we are determined to press on and continue to connect globally. We may not be experiencing the usual exciting greetings and departures at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport but we are traveling through the skies in a different way – via Zoom. We’ll pick right back up in 2021 to renew and create even more connections here in Fort Worth and around the world.

Fort Worth Sister Cities Celebrates 35th Anniversary

Fort Worth Sister Cities International was established on June 26, 1985, 35 years ago, after a group of dedicated volunteers with a goal to create a nonprofit, citizen diplomacy organization, focused on understanding and respect of other cultures, came to life in the City of Fort Worth.

As stated in this year’s annual report by Veronica Chavez Law, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, “Sister Cities has played a major role in Fort Worth and around the world creating culturally competent individuals who accept and respect others.” Today our mission is more important than ever to help close the divide we are experiencing right now here in our own communities.

Understanding and respect of others is needed universally and as we celebrate our 35th anniversary let us live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

While we can’t meet in person to celebrate, we hope you have been celebrating virtually with us on Facebook through our 35 Things in 35 Days campaign. You can found out more here.