Exchange Matters / June 24, 2020

CBMs Respond to COVID-19

Community-Based Members across the U.S. are giving back to their local communities and staying connected to their global ones to help defeat COVID-19. The following is just a snapshot of what CBMs around the country are doing to support their communities and stay engaged, even in the midst of their own challenges.

Rochester Global Connections Executive Director Robert Grau and board member Bonney Bennet pack masks for delivery. Credit: Robert Grau


In place of their annual gala, Rochester Global Connections (RGC) partnered with a local engineering and manufacturing company to secure, safely package, and distribute 5,000 surgical masks to the members, students, friendship volunteers, and the community at large.

Global Ties Arkansas secured a charitable donation for an organization supporting the homeless in Little Rock that they often visit with international visitors interested in participating in a volunteer activity.

The International Institute of Buffalo’s teams are supporting the Buffalo community in a variety of ways. Their Refugee Integration and Global Education teams are contacting refugee clients in their native language regarding COVID-19, social distancing, and hand-washing while the Interpreting and Translation department is working with the local Department of Heath to translate mental health materials related to the COVID-19 crisis into a variety of languages. The Employment team has enrolled many refugee clients into an unemployment database to connect them with unemployment benefits and the Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence team have responded to 15 newly-referred clients and the Specialized Housing team secured two apartments for new clients remotely.

World Affairs Council – Seattle staff are volunteering with local organizations responding to the challenges COVID-19 presents. Some staff are providing hot, nutritious meals, and survival services to those experiencing homelessness and low-income people through the Community Lunch program on Capitol Hill or volunteering alongside Washington State National Guard and other community members at the Salvation Army Food bank. Others are donating blood for the first time and helping other nonprofits pivot their in-person fundraisers to virtual fundraisers.

Credit: Susannah Coolidge

New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council Board Member Alexandra “Sascha” Mora (left) is delivering food to those in need through the GNO Caring Collective, a volunteer-run group caring for New Orleans residents. She finds the work rewarding. As one recipient told her, “So glad you’re here, I was just wondering how we’d make it this week.”

WAC Central Florida’s small staff is keeping Orlando connected through social media, sharing resources and stories of organizations that are supporting the community, including International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) community resource hosts:

  • LightHouse Works, a frequent host of IVLP participants who enjoy learning about their innovative social enterprise business model, is currently hiring call center agents to aid Florida’s overwhelmed unemployment system.
  • The Islamic Society of Central Florida (ISCF), another frequent host of IVLP participants, has been serving as a mobile drop spot for Second Harvest Food Bank. ISCF volunteers have distributed free food to the community using a drive-thru system in their parking lot.

World Affairs Council – Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky
 board member Dale Dean, owner and founder of DeanHouston, Inc., transitioned his business to making face masks, donating them to local students and families in the region, as well as preparing masks for when international delegations and volunteers start up again.


The Charleston Council for International Visitors launched Charleston Global Connect to host virtual meetings between international visitors with a tourism or hospitality background and representatives from tourism and hospitality in South Carolina’s Lowcountry (where tourism is the major industry) to share business mitigation strategies during the pandemic. They teamed up with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (and its 1,700 member organizations) and the World Affairs Council Charleston (and its 350 members) to share the videos.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, is reminding their community of the importance and value of international exchange and international engagement. They launched an “impact stories” series featuring exchange alumni from Cleveland, reminding audiences about how transformative the exchange experience can be. Initial stories focused on a student cultural exchange with Taiwan and a professional fellows program in India.

The Presidential Precinct built a new format for virtual program opportunities to engage their alumni network around sharing ideas and building new connections. A recent “Campfire Conversation” brought together advocates for marginalized communities in the Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Nepal to discuss local impacts of the pandemic. They were also inspired by Nigerian Alumna Grace Jerry, who wrote and recorded an original song called “Take Responsibility” to advocate for social distancing in her community.

Credit: Destiny Logan, Global Ties ABQ

Global Ties ABQ has enjoyed finding new ways to keep their members, volunteers, and network engaged in the virtual world. A series of “community conversations” and “cultural cuisine” discussions through Zoom keep them connected to international life and culture. Through partnerships with local experts, past international exchange alumni, and small businesses to highlight culture at home and abroad, Global Ties ABQ looks forward to continuing to support our global community and connect with the rest of the world. They encourage anyone across the network to reach out, connect, and find new ways for us all to thrive.

The World Affairs Council – Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky started a weekly #MemoriesofExchange campaign to highlight the international connections made through exchanges. In just one example, meet Rubinson Dorce from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who visited Cincinnati to discuss NGO management. In addition, they offer art and culture programs for free, at-home learning.

WorldBoston pivoted to deliver a new kind of citizen diplomacy experience: a virtual series, International Exchange in a Time of Isolation to engage members, dinner diplomats, local resources, and program alumni.

IVLP Alumna Beatriz Perez teaching viewers how to make Spanish tortilla. Credit: Sarah Sibley, WorldBoston

The World Affairs Council Seattle is staying globally engaged with their incredible network of volunteer dinner and overnight hosts by organizing monthly virtual happy hours. Recently, an IVLP alumni from Mongolia joined the happy hour to share his memorable home hospitality experience he had in Seattle! They have been thrilled with the excitement their volunteers have for hosting and sharing their experiences hosting visitors from around the world with each other.

Additionally, WAC Seattle is offering an online Global Competence Certificate for students through their Global Classroom Program. Created in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, the program tracks students’ development of competencies critical to becoming successful global citizens. The Washington State Coalition for International Education is partnering with the World Affairs Council Global Classroom and the Seattle Public Schools International Schools Leadership Team to provide resources for students to pursue developing their Global Competence Certificate Portfolio while schools are closed due to the pandemic.

Staying globally connected is paramount for the International Visitor Council of Los Angeles’ COVID-19 outreach plans. They contacted IVLP alumni to share the situation in L.A. and asked them to share their stories and insights about pandemic issues in their home communities. Recently they shared how alumnus Miztle Mejía, a journalist and social entrepreneur from Nicaragua, is using his digital platform, originally designed to promote entrepreneurship and civic engagement, to provide communities throughout Central America with critical information on COVID-19.

Gulf Coast Diplomacy started Small World Cafe to help their community remain globally engaged. They invite international exchange alumni to share their stories and how their communities are responding to COVID-19 with members.

They’ve also taken their Youth Diplomats program online, holding a joint session with the Youth Diplomats of Chicago and Kansas City and hosted a digital graduation party for their nine seniors. Next month, the Youth Diplomats will be joined by the Youth Ambassadors of Central America.

Credit: Jena Melancon, Gulf Coast Diplomacy

Global Ties Arkansas has been keeping in touch with alumni to check on their well being and information on how their countries are doing in the pandemic via Facebook, WhatsApp, messenger and email. Their social media staff sends out tweets often reminding their followers of what they are doing during the lull in programming.

International House in Charlotte’s Citizen Diplomacy Team has been working on collecting resources for the international business, immigrant, and general community members and sharing via their weekly newsletter.