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A fitting 2020 bookend

Our final program of December 2020 (virtual) and our final program of March 2020 (in person) were one and the same.

How fitting.

Last Thursday, December 17th, we hosted a zoom reunion of Women Entrepreneurs from Russia, who came to Kalamazoo through Open World in early March of this year. While we had 3 groups with us that week of the pandemic declaration, theirs was the last to leave, on Friday, March 13th. Everyone involved in that program has a special bond: from the visitors, to the host families, to everyone they met with, to fellow Kalamazoo Nature Center volunteers, where they served pancakes at the Maple Sugar Festival (one of the last in person festivals to have taken place here in Kalamazoo).

We shared our last hugs, our last gatherings in one another’s homes, our last handshakes, our last clinking toasts, and our last direct peer-to-peer intercultural magical experience, pre-COVID-19.

What a lovely opportunity, to come together and to share our experiences of the past several months, with language interpretation so that we could all understand one another, and with tears and smiles and genuine connection. A fitting programmatic close to 2020 for all of us at Colleagues International, and a reminder of the power of human connection in making all of us better and stronger.

We look to 2021 with hope. And with purpose. We want to play a role in making our community better and stronger, right here in Kalamazoo. We want to work with our peers to make our city and country more equitable, of more of the people, and a place that we are proud to share with the world for more and more reasons every day.

Thank you all for partnering with us in your own way, for making our community welcoming, for sharing your cultures, ideas and visions with people of difference from around the world.

Next year we will celebrate a milestone - 50 years. We look forward to coming together to shape what the next 50 years of meaningful international engagement might look like.

Wishing you all good things in 2021, with health and a world that we take better care of - together.

All of us at Colleagues International

*Pictured at top: Zoom reunion of Women in Entrepreneurship Open World group, with host families and professional hosts, together with American Councils and CIPUSA, December 17, 2020. At bottom: Last meeting of this group in Kalamazoo, March 12, 2020, with Tirrea Billings of Reflct Media, on 'Storytelling for social change'.

You can click here or text CIKZOO to 44-321 to make a year end gift.

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