International Programs, by Sewell Gelberd

Busy times at CIV. The Committee for International Visitors currently has four scheduled upcoming programs; one in June and one in July. The programs for two of these delegations will be focused on the topic of Domestic Violence and one on Cybersecurity, bringing the total number of groups we have received so far in 2023 to nine. Later, in August, a social activist from Scotland will be in Columbia for a week on a unique project sponsored by Cultural Vistas.

Downtown Columbia, SCIn addition, CIV has applied to host a UK group of young apprentices that would bring a group to Columbia for the second year in a row. CIV is also awaiting approval on another twelve visitor proposals that have been applied for and are being considered. This year our ratio of proposals approved versus submitted is running about fifty percent. On another front, CIV has submitted a proposal to improve our administration and promotion operations with a grant to increase the visibility of CCFI in the Midlands. If approved, more information will be available soon.

A significant activity with almost all international visitor programs is arranging an event in the home of one of our CCFI volunteers. These home hospitality events are greatly valued because they allow the guests to visit a local family’s home and meet other volunteers. CIV is currently seeking hosts for upcoming home hospitality events tentatively scheduled for June 12, June 20, and July 15. If you or anyone you know would be willing to host a hospitality event in your home, please contact the Columbia Council for Internationals at:

Since the covid era, one of CIV’s principal objectives has been to grow the number and diversity of international programs CIV receives in Columbia and the Midlands. With that growth, CIV will not only be able to improve the quality of the local programs offered but also increase the number and diversity of international visitors visiting the area. Participating in more programs will inevitably allow CCFI to reach higher funding tiers over time.

Recently, I referred a high school student, Zoe Partin, to participate in a particular Global Ties (GT) youth program. Zoe is an amazing young woman who speaks three languages and is a rising senior at Brookland-Cayce High School who wants to pursue a career in foreign service. Zoe was accepted into GT’s Merge Program after she submitted an essay on her interests. Last week she successfully completed that program.

The MERGE program encompasses a series of eight-week open-enrollment, virtual exchanges for 15 to 19-year-old girls from the United States and the Middle East/North Africa. Participants explore, learn, and share practical approaches to building resilience within themselves and their communities in the first week. Participants and their group facilitators are introduced to each other through various cultural exchange activities. The following five weeks are devoted to introducing stress relief and coping techniques, which the participants experiment with individually and in small groups. Specific techniques include journaling, exercise, meditation, positive thoughts with affirmations, and nutrition. Participants learn the science behind each strategy and why building these skills within themselves and their communities is beneficial. During the final two weeks of the program, participants work in five-person teams, with guidance from their facilitator, to showcase their newfound knowledge. Finally, that knowledge will enter the program’s culminating mental resilience strategies website. CIV has arranged for Zoe to shadow this organization’s program director for a few weeks this summer.

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