In Japanese, YOKOSO means welcome, and just recently Miami Beach Sister Cities International Committee welcomed and hosted a student exchange from the City of Fujisawa, Japan, from August 31 to September 4th, 2010.
The purpose of the exchange was for the 5 selected students to learn the value of cultural diversity, as well as the importance of community service, global learning and leadership.
The City of Miami Beach Sister Cities International Committee, administered by the Office of the Mayor, engages the people of Miami Beach and its sister cities abroad in partnerships and exchanges that promote trade, economic development, cultural awareness and educational opportunities. The City of Miami Beach has been sister city with the City of Fujisawa, Japan for 51 years, since Mars 1959—more than half a century!
Within the Sister Cities, Japan has the most sister city programs of all the Sister Cities International members with 228 communities and 239 partnerships.
The creation of Sister Cities International goes back to September 1956 when President Dwight D Eisenhower initiated the U.S. sister city program as a major people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative during an historic White House conference on citizen diplomacy.
Today Sister Cities International through a non-profit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between the United States and international communities represents 694 communities in the United States, with 1,992 partnerships and 1,749 international communities in 136 nations around the globe.
Our recent visitors were Japanese students, from the ages of 18 years old to 21 years old, Tomoni Hayasaka, Yuki Ochiai, Akira Suematsu, Manami Suzuki, and Mizuki Takahashi found host families among Sister Cities International Committee Chairman George Neary and Committee members Ray Breslin and Gary Twist. Two of the students also shared the home of Commissioner Jerry Libbin and his family, and last but not least Sara Grassi a nice Miami resident generously welcomed one of them.
During a six week period, it was a team effort under the supervision of Michael McNamee, Miami Beach Sister City representative of Fujisawa, to organize the itinerary and ensure an interesting stay for the students.
A tour of the City Hall was conducted by Michael Aller, followed by a welcome ceremony at the Bass Museum, which was attended by the Honorable Consul General of Japan in Miami Yoshiharu Namiki. Certificates of recognition were handed out to the students by Commissioner Michael Gongora. They spent the following days touring the city with Sister Cities International Committee members Veronika Pozmentier and Antwon Tomas. From an introduction to the role and goal of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce to the Japanese garden at the Botanical Garden, the Holocaust Memorial, the Art Deco district, Lincoln Road and Miami Dade College, they were able to learn, discover and enjoy a little of everything Miami Beach has to offer in a very short time.
At the farewell party, a letter on behalf of the City of Fujisawa was officially handed by the students to Commissioner Jerry Libbin, in his capacity of representative of Mayor Matti Bower and the City of Miami Beach. Every one expressed how interesting and rewarding it was to learn more about two different cultures.
In only 5 days, strong links were made between the participants fulfilling the Sister Cities International ‘s mission to, “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.”
To learn more go to: http://www.sister-cities.org/