Exchange Matters / June 12, 2024

Crafting Community Through Exchange Programs

Compiled by Kathryn Lakin, Communications Intern

The Global Ties Network is dedicated to building inclusive and expansive communities through exchanges like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). From learning about Black history in Tulsa and Native American culture in New Mexico, to discussing police-community relations in Orlando and working with English language learners in Boston, our members introduced IVLP participants to their communities and shared strategies on how to work toward a welcoming environment. 

Global Ties ABQ

IVLP: Promoting Human and Civil Rights of Minorities to Reduce Vulnerability and Improve Integration into Local Communities
NPA: Meridian International

By Christian Finke, Program Officer

Global Ties ABQ hosted in late April an exchange program focused on empowering human rights experts to support marginalized communities effectively. Five esteemed international visitors from Europe engaged with various organizations in New Mexico, including American Indians for Opportunity and the Human Rights Division of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. The visitors enjoyed attending the Gathering of Nations, the largest Native American powwow in the world, and the visitors also joined local community members for dinner.   

One standout moment was a conversation with visitor Constantin, a passionate advocate for disability rights serving in the German state parliament. Constantin’s perspective was invaluable as he shared his journey and insights with the group. He highlighted the resilience he observed in his interactions with the Native American communities, emphasizing the importance of resisting external pressures and shaping one’s future independently.

Human rights experts from Europe visit Global Ties ABQ’s office to meet with the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Human Rights Division. Photo provided by author.

This exchange program underscored the transformative power of international collaboration in advancing human rights and fostering a sense of community and belonging across borders. Global Ties ABQ looks forward to collaborating with partners like World Learning to continue to host more visitors working on critical issues. 

Tulsa Global Alliance

IVLP: Promoting Ethnic Inclusion in Policy Making and Peace Building & Transitional Justice in Africa and the United States

By Bob Lieser, Vice-President of Programming

Tulsa Global Alliance has hosted several International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) projects during the past six months focused on the Trail of Tears, the Tulsa Race Massacre, and how these events continue to impact communities in Oklahoma. In November 2023, seven international visitors from Colombia came to Tulsa to explore “Promoting Ethnic Inclusion in Policy-Making and Peace-Building;” in December, 2023, we hosted a multiregional project with visitors from 20 countries focused on “Human and Civil Rights for Marginalized Communities;” and in April, we welcomed a group from the African Union, Ethiopia, the Gambia, and Liberia learned about “Transitional Justice in Africa and the United States.” 

IVLP participants from the African Union, Ethiopia, The Gambia, and Liberia focused on “Transitional Justice in Africa and the United States” visited Greenwood Rising in April 2024. Photo provided by author.

During their time in Tulsa, these visitors met with representatives of organizations such as Greenwood Rising, Legal Advocates for Indian Country, the Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, and the Sac and Fox Nation to learn about their roles in promoting human rights, reconciliation, and social justice. The April IVLP, “Transitional Justice in Africa and the United States,” visitors left Tulsa with new knowledge of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the effects it had on a once-prosperous Black neighborhood in the United States. International visitors heard from Greenwood Rising Executive Director Raymond Doswell, Ed.D, about the importance of truth-telling and teaching about the event in local schools. Said Raymond, “Many look to the United States as a beacon for social change but understand how fraught its history is on such issues. I see these exchanges and visits as vital to preserving history and contextualizing our modern problems.”Coincidentally, there was a group of students touring the museum at the same time, so the visitors saw firsthand how the museum collaborates with schools to enrich learning.

The Oklahoma-based organizations that met with visiting groups also gained from their experiences with the IVLP participants. Raymond said, “I am routinely energized by the groups hosted through Tulsa Global Alliance when they visit our history center. I am especially interested in those groups doing the hard work of social justice around the world. These groups always have great questions and provide clarifying perspectives on how we teach and talk about these issues. Parallels in global history are easily made and the insight of these groups strengthens our understanding of race relations. We are learning from our pasts in hopes that we don’t repeat mistakes from them.” 


IVLP: Policing and Leadership in Multifaceted and Multicultural Communities
NPA: Meridian International

By Richard Alleyne, Communications Manager

Last month, WorldOrlando had the opportunity to work with Meridian International Center (MIC) to host an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled “Policing and Leadership in Multifaceted and Multicultural Communities.” The program was a single-country project (SCP) for Brazil composed of six high-level law enforcement and corrections officials representing several Brazilian states and Brazil’s federal government.  

According to recent census statistics, Central Florida is home to a large Brazilian community, numbering an estimated 200,000 people. The region is a popular, longtime destination for Brazilian tourists, and visitors commonly hear Portuguese around town at restaurants, stores, and area attractions.  

Portuguese Speaking Citizen Police Academy 

Programming for this group sought to illustrate elements of the deep cultural connection between Central Florida and Brazil. On Wednesday, May 1, the international visitors kicked off their programming with the Orlando Police Department’s (OPD) community relations division. Here, they met Detective Fabio Azevedoa 10-year veteran of the force who is also Brazilianand learned how he works with Police Chief Eric Smith to make sure Orlando police are connecting with the Brazilian community. 

From left: Det. Fabio Azevedo and Chief Eric Smith, Orlando Police Department, welcome IVLP visitors at OPD headquarters. Credit: OPD

Last year, Det. Azevedo helped launch the OPD’s Portuguese Speaking Citizen Police Academy. This five-week program is taught in Portuguese and covers topics such as, crime prevention, firearms demonstrations, and crime scenarios. 

The OPD also offers these community-specific citizen police academies to Spanish and Haitian Creole speakers. Det. Azevedo believes these efforts build bridges and strengthen trust between the police and immigrant communities.  

LGBTQ+ Sensitivity Training 

Over the course of three program days, international visitors met with representatives from different divisions at OPD, including Sargent Amanda White, liaison officer to the LGBTQ+ community. Sgt. White designed a curriculum for incoming recruits stressing core competency training on LGBTQ+ issues. The training is meant to build awareness and help new recruits learn ways to foster respectful conversation when dealing with fellow officers and the wider community. 

These efforts resonated with Augusto Barros Neto, an IVLP participant who serves as police chief for the Civil Police in Maranhão, a large state on Brazil’s northeast coast. Chief Barros Neto has also prioritized sensitivity training among his officers to promote values like inclusivityparticularly when serving the state’s LGBTQ+ communities and Afro-descendant groups like the Quilombo. 

Trayvon Martin as Case Study  

The visitors also met with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) in the city of Sanford, just north of Orlando. Here, they spoke with Kenneth Bentley, a longtime resident of Seminole County’s Goldsboro neighborhooda historically Black community with the distinction of being the second Black-incorporated city in the United States.  

Kenneth Bentley, Community Outreach Administrator, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, meets with visitors at a training center. Credit: R. Alleyne

Kenneth serves as community outreach administrator for the Sheriff’s office. He focused his remarks on the Trayvon Martin case of 2012, which catapulted Sanford into national and international headlines when a white neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, shot and killed Martinan unarmed 17-year-old African American male. Failure to arrest and charge Zimmerman in the incident led to a rise in community tension and widespread demonstrations throughout the city, region, and nation. 

Kenneth, who was a community leader and school district official at that time, outlined how Sanford’s African American community worked with the county government and the sheriff’s office to keep lines of communication open to ensure the community could voice its concerns and advance toward justice.  

These efforts kept demonstrations peaceful, leading to the eventual arrest of Zimmerman and the replacement of the then sheriffwhose failure to arrest Zimmerman had eroded the confidence of the community.  

Kenneth asserted that inroads created in the aftermath of this tragic event led to his decision to join the sheriff’s office and ensure that leadership always held space for authentic community dialogue.  

Compassionate Corrections  

Group photo outside Orange County Corrections Female Detention facility with IVLP visitors and Dep. Chief E. Keith Neely [center] Credit: Orange County Corrections.

Graciele Sonegheti Fraga, who serves as director of the Female Prison Center of Cariacica City in the eastern state of Espírito Santo, was the only female official traveling with the group. Her work in female corrections has been recognized and celebrated throughout Brazil.

Graciele initiated a program titled Imprisoned Nursing Mothers, which promotes improved conditions within the state’s prisons, providing structured maternal facilities, opportunities, and primary care for imprisoned mothers and their children. The program serves as a model for other prison systems throughout the country. 

While touring the Orange County Corrections Female Detention facility, Graciele and the other IVLP visitors met with Deputy Chief E. Keith Neelywho congratulated Graciele on her innovative work in corrections and said her policies contained elements worth replicating in the United States. 

Credible Messengers: Youth Violence Prevention 

Group photo at The Yard, a training facility for Credible Messengers; Pictured here are visitors, executive director, Ruben Saldaña, and five of the program’s youth participants. Credit: Ruth Weinfeld

One experience that seemed to leave an indelible impression on the IVLP visitors was Credible Messengers, an after-school youth violence prevention program run by former gang leader, Ruben Saldaña. The group interacted with at-risk youth from Orange County neighborhoods with elevated levels of crime, poverty, and unemployment.

Ruben describes his organization as a first-of-its-kind public safety focused community-based organization that uses lived experiences, mixed martial arts training (including jiu jitsu), and dance to prevent youth crime.  

IVLP visitors explained that Brazilian jiu jitsu was a popular form of self-defense back home and commonly used for police training and as a path out of poverty for disadvantaged Brazilians. Local youth spoke with the visitor and shared personal anecdotes about how the program helps them make positive choices throughout their days.  

Credible Messengers receives county funding to help identify, train, and certify community residents to serve as mentors to troubled youth in Orange County. Ruben was recently recognized by the Orlando Sentinel as a finalist for Central Floridian of the Year for his organization’s work with young people. 

World Boston

IVLP: Promoting Human and Civil Rights of Minorities to Reduce Vulnerability and Improve Integration into Local Communities
NPA: Meridian International

By Sarah Sibley, Vice President for Citizen Diplomacy

From March 12 to March 18, WorldBoston hosted the multiregional “American Language and Multicultural Diversity” International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP was implemented in collaboration with the American Councils for International Education and included a day trip to Western Massachusetts with neighboring Community-Based Member, World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts. This program featured a total of 22 visitors from 22 countries, representing a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds.  

While in the Greater Boston area, the group’s main focuses were the government’s role in K-12 education; how to best welcome and assess English language learners in large school systems; and U.S.produced English language teaching materials. The visitors were met with FLS International, Boston International Newcomers School, National Geographic Learning, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The visitors also got to have some educational fun with private tours of the Massachusetts State House and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. 

WorldBoston was greatly impressed by the constant enthusiasm shown by both its community members and the visitors. It is only by meeting people from different backgrounds and perspectives and coming together to have meaningful discussions that people can exchange ideas and make connections. The headmaster of the Boston International Newcomers School summed the importance of these exchanges up when he thanked WorldBoston for the opportunity to host the group for a visit and said, “Please also let me know if there are ever opportunities for our staff to get to know other places.”