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Fall 2020 Update

Wishing you a safe return to the Fall season, whether that means school in person or on a screen, working in a place outside your home or in the basement, and/or coming together in the streets, calling for justice. Please take good care of yourselves!

This week last year, as in many prior years, we were busy welcoming German youth workers to start three month placements in Kalamazoo, staying with host families and doing job shadowing and other cultural and educational programming at nonprofits and social service agencies. (2019 cohort pictured at our office).  This is not a normal year. As you may have heard, during this devastating COVID-19 pandemic, a Presidential Proclamation earlier this summer canceled many J-1 visa categories, which includes interns and our longstanding German social work program, among many others. You can read more about this here, at the Alliance for International Exchange, including advocacy opportunities. At present, our German program in Kalamazoo is postponed until early 2021. Stay tuned... While we do not have Germans coming to town, we had a very productive summer of Zoom conversations with German alumni of our programs, jointly planning (together with local partners) a hybrid (virtual and in-person) exchange focused on workforce development, which will see a series of virtual meetings, of both youth and adults, culminating in an outbound exchange from Kalamazoo to Germany toward the end of next year - if we get our collective, global act together and this is something safe to do.

Last week, we hosted our first virtual International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in Kalamazoo, with beautiful creative minds from South Africa. Our ‘visitors’ who run a music school (Tshwane School of Music) and a creative industries incubator (South African Creative Industries Incubator), are doing amazing things in education and skills training, through music, musical theatre and so much more, uplifting local youth. We give thanks to Orchestra Rouh and the Merze Tate Explorers (meeting with Sonya Hollins pictured above) for sharing the inspiring work they do with young Kalamazooans! We look forward to the peer-to-peer teen engagement opportunities these conversations have opened up (not to mention continued collaboration among the adults). We also thank the Mississippi Consortium for International Development for sending this group to Kalamazoo!

All IVLP programs, and U.S. Department of State ECA programs in general, will be virtual through the end of the calendar year. It is our hope that at some point in 2021, as we celebrate 50 years, in-person programming will return, in a safe manner.  We will be hosting more virtual programs as the Fall progresses. Are you interested in virtual hospitality and international engagement as we await our ability to come together again? Let us know by sending us an email ( or giving us a call (+1-269-341-9494). We would love to hear from you and would love to include you in our virtual programming. As mentioned above, we are gearing up to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year. Do you have stories to share from ‘back in the day’? Would you like to get involved in our virtual planning for this milestone? Fill out this short form if you answered yes to either of the above questions… Thank you so much for supporting what we do and for being a part of the Colleagues family. For all of us, this has been a challenging year. Please consider providing financial support to help us build our strength for the future. Learning from one another, and connecting with one another across communities, in our own city and with our fellow humans around the world, is as important as it has ever been.  Wishing you a healthy and safe Fall season, as we all do our part to build a more just and equitable society, All of us at Colleagues International p.s. You can also text CIKZOO to 44-321 to make a gift.

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