Saturday, April 25, 2015

International Exchange Brings Hope for the World


The Hungarian Club hosted Professional Fellows from Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.  A silent auction raised funds for the Great Lakes Consortium (www:gl-consortium.org and also on facebook). I bid on and came home with home-made wine from Slovakia (made by delegation member Monika Jurikova's sister's husband, Andrej Miklusicak) and a popular apricot wine from Hungary called Hiros' Barack Palinka.  
"I hope to learn new ways to help minorities and Roma in my country," said Szilvia Suri, a reporter and activist from Budapest, Hungary.  Cristinela Ionescu, a multi-talented NGO director, journalist and cultural organizer from Petrosani, Romania, and of Roma heritage, repeated this goal in eloquent fashion. Kirilka Angelova, a group dynamics and human rights trainer from Yakoruda, Bulgaria, wants to improve her work with special needs and minority groups. The three women spoke fluent English and drew us into their dreams for the future. They are here to learn about best practices in community organizing, civic participation and advocacy that supports diverse minorities in their countries.

Cristinela, Szilvia, and Kirilka are part of a talented 22-member Professional Fellows delegation from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.  This international leadership project, "Sustaining Civic Participation in Minority Communities," is funded by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.   The Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development, GLC for short, and its dedicated program director Elizabeth Balint, are local sponsors and have organized a comprehensive training program. The delegation will be in the Toledo area, Detroit, Chicago and other cities, and end its visit in Washington, DC.  The six-week program features close collaboration between GLC and NGOs in the east European countries, as well as many US partner organizations that have developed tailored internships and follow-up mentoring activities.  This seems like the best groundwork for creating a powerful network and ensuring positive outcomes.

It's an impressive group, all the more so because each delegate is open to fresh approaches and new ideas and represents the diversity of their countries. They are professional journalists, teachers, NGO workers and volunteers, community development trainers, human rights educators, a college professor, a graphic designer and a program coordinator for LGBT organizations, lawyers and writers.   We have a lot to learn from them.

For most of the delegates, this is their first time in the US, and they are excited to be here. They are enthusiastic learners, open to exploring, adventurous, and wise beyond their years.  I learned so much from them in one evening, as did everyone who shared in this international fellowship.

I spoke with most everyone in the delegation.  They all spoke English, and delighted in doing so, so we were able to have meaningful exchanges, to ask questions, to hear about their work and their countries.  It's such a rare privilege.

I left the Hungarian Club feeling more optimistic than ever about the future of our world for having met these young, articulate and knowledgable leaders from eastern Europe. They enthused and instilled confidence that their visit to America would make a difference in their lives and in the lives of their communities.  They certainly will make a difference in our lives and in our awareness of the changing world.
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