Exchange Matters / September 29, 2020

Global Ties Network Citizen Diplomacy Map

By Aly Hill and Felecia Maxfield-Barrett, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

COVID-19 has presented unique challenges to the exchange field and our ability to meet international visitors in person. What was once diplomacy “one handshake at a time,” has become diplomacy one email message, one phone call, and one ZOOM meeting at a time. While the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (UCCD) remains committed to our mission: to promote respect and understanding between the people of Utah and the international community other nations, we had to get creative.

In our journey to foster understanding, strengthen international relations, and learn from those dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic a world away, the UCCD and other Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Members launched the Citizen Diplomacy Map: A Journey Of International Friendships.

The interactive map tells the stories of International Visitor Leadership Program and other U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange alumni. We received more than 45 submissions from Community-Based Members across the U.S., representing alumni stories from 36 countries. The stories collected are impactful and humbling, and demonstrate how exchange alumni are applying the knowledge, skills, and resources from their U.S. exchange programs back in their home countries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is our hope that by utilizing the transformative power of storytelling, the Citizen Diplomacy Map can be used as an advocacy tool to share with donors, stakeholders, and elected officials in a meaningful way. Storytelling helps us make sense of the world we live in, motivate change, and stay connected even when we’re worlds apart.


Josephine Kaola, Papua New Guinea
2019 IVLP Alum: NGO Management with Meridian International Center

After experiencing the nonprofit sector in Utah, which she shared “inspired and challenged her,” Josephine began advocating for volunteerism in nonprofits through social media, one-on-one conversations, and her personal commitment to volunteer. She additionally has conducted leadership seminar projects called “Giving Back to our Communities,” which promote volunteerism while emphasizing the role of leadership. Josephine’s appreciation for how deeply U.S. citizens value volunteerism inspired her to instill this same veneration in Papua New Guinea. “Everyone wants to give back to the community, whether they are children, university students, or adults,” she said. 


Dr. Anupam Sarker, Bangladesh
2018 IVLP Alum: Strengthening a One Health Response to a Potential Pandemic with Graduate School USA

As I am an epidemiologist and working in IEDCR (the CDC of Bangladesh), I have been in the thick of the action from the beginning. I was part of the team which investigated and did contact tracing of the first-ever detected COVID-19 patient in our country. Since then, we are helping the local health authorities of different parts of the country regarding COVID-19 case investigation and has been a very difficult time for our country and the rest of the world. For an epidemiologist like me, this [IVLP and COVID-19] has also been a tremendous learning experience.”


Sebastián Homps, Argentina
2016 IVLP Alum: NGO Management with FHI 360

“I have been called the ‘Denver lover’ in my IVLP group. I was amazed by Rocky Mountain National Park and the Botanic Gardens, the art of 16th Street, and the work of the Children’s Hospital and other local NGOs. I loved everything. As executive director of the NGO Amigos de la Patagonia, my biggest challenge is motivating my team to work remotely and to continue carrying out our mission. Many sponsors are cutting budgets and no longer making donations to NGOs. It is a new challenge to reinvent ourselves. We will get out of this storm! And we will come out strengthened.”


Nada Al Toufaily, Lebanon
2020 IVLP Alum: Volunteerism and Civil Action, with World Learning

”The world is going to change into a better place [after the pandemic] because people know their priorities. Now is the time to take care of each other and spend time … helping others. As we commit to social distancing and other best practices to stop COVID-19, we can stretch our muscles of services to one another.”





John Sam-Arthur, Ghana
2017 IVLP Alum: Edward Murrow Program for Journalists with Graduate School USA

“[COVID-19] is a lesson to Ghana that we need more access to running water. Thanks to COVID-19, there has been a push to install more Veronica Buckets in public areas to encourage hand washing. This is a plastic bucket with a tap near the bottom so people can wash their hands under flowing water. Sanitation is my passion, and I use photos from my travels to the U.S. when educating people about how and why we need to do a better job with waste management. Every problem can be an opportunity, and I see COVID as a challenge and an opportunity for us to get our act together around sanitation.”


Nandan Sinha, India

2018 IVLP Alum: U.S.-India Space Cooperation, with Cultural Vistas

“Still fresh in our memories are the tours of SpaceX in LA and the Kennedy Space Center, where Falcon took off carrying the capsule of astronauts. We cannot thank you enough for these opportunities. IVLP provided us with an amazing set of hosts who made our visits so memorable. Back here, the U.S. embassy has been regularly in touch with us for various events they conduct locally. Last year, they celebrated 50 years of Apollo landing on the Moon. I was a speaker at one of the events. I wish the U.S.A. a return to peace soon and speedy recovery from the pandemic.”


These are just some of the stories and updates from exchange alumni. To see more, visit