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Feed the Fight Kalamazoo Honored by Family Health Center; Virtual Exchanges Underway with the World

We hope that you are enjoying the peak Autumn color that we are experiencing in and around Kalamazoo this week. With all of the challenges and crises of 2020, majestic moments of nature’s seasonal transformations provide some inspiration and comfort. Today, we would like to share with you a few updates about our work and projects to come.

Feed the Fight Kalamazoo to be honored by the Family Health Center 

First, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been our honor at Colleagues to serve as the fiscal sponsor of Feed the Fight Kalamazoo (FTFK). Housing this 100% volunteer initiative to help frontline healthcare workers meet the crisis head on - knowing that the Kalamazoo community has their back - has also created wonderful opportunities for our network of citizen diplomats to volunteer in strengthening our local community during a global crisis. You can read more about Feed the Fight Kalamazoo in last quarter’s ‘ExchangeMatters’ published by Global Ties U.S..

With more than $60,000 dollars raised, from 250 individual donors, FTFK volunteers (70 people) have delivered 5400+ meals from 76 distinct local restaurants (including a delivery today to staff at an isolation dorm on WMU’s campus).

This coming week, the Family Health Center (FHC) will award Feed the Fight Kalamazoo as one of their ‘Healthcare Heroes’ at a Virtual Gala on Tuesday, October 20th, 4-5 pm (Photos above). You can sign up to attend here. And you can share the event with your friends on Facebook here. The event is free and has incredible hosts and local artists participating! WE RISE 2020, with Family Health Center in Kalamazoo, is a virtual gathering to celebrate our community rising to meet the challenges of 2020, and there have been so very many.

In telling FTFK of the award, Denise Crawford, CEO of the FHC wrote, in part: 

"With very little known at the time about how the virus spread, Feed the Fight volunteers unhesitatingly threw yourselves into the fray to bring hope to those on the front lines seeking to provide healthcare for our community. The meals you brought [FHC] staff sustained them in body and soul throughout the chaotic early days of the pandemic when so much was uncertain in the world. Your work played a sustaining role in FHC’s ability to live out its mission “to ensure all members of our community have access to quality, comprehensive, patient-centered health care” …even in the face of a totally novel coronavirus pandemic." 

This award recognizes all FTFK volunteers and donors. Also being honored as Healthcare Heroes are Dr. Rebecca Busk-Sutton, a practitioner at Family Health Center, and Dr. Parth Amin a vascular surgeon with Bronson Hospital. Congratulations all!

International visitor programs in the time of COVID-19

It is not a time to bring people together in real life, and, here in Michigan, yesterday we had our highest single day case total (2030) since the pandemic began - the end is not yet in sight. Officially, all in-person international visitor programs through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State are ‘paused’ through March 31, 2021. That said, we are delighting in the potential of virtual exchange and finding common ground in these times. Since hosting our first virtual IVLP in August, we also hosted a ‘reunion’ in September (pictured above), welcoming back European IVLP visitors who had come to Kalamazoo in 2018 to explore American Pluralism. We shared how our communities are confronting the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism. 

#FacesOfExchange as #IVLP celebrates 80 years 

We have also continued to celebrate the #FacesOfExchange as the International Visitor Leadership Program marks 80 years. Throughout 2020, the #FacesOfExchange initiative is showcasing 80 of the program’s 225,000 accomplished alumni, their lives and leadership, and the continued impact of U.S. exchange programs on the global community.

Earlier in October, Amine Zariat, who came to Kalamazoo as part of his 2013 IVLP focused on American Youth, was featured in a virtual “Faces of Exchange Connection”. He is an inspiration, channeling LeBron James in his home community of Morocco, empowering countless at-risk Moroccan youth to become community leaders, drawing on his basketball experience to change the world. It was wonderful to participate in this event and to be reminded just how profound a ripple effect international exchanges, in communities like ours, can have. On October 29, The IVLP’s Faces of Exchange initiative will hold another event, looking at ‘Building Strategic Power through Exchanges’. Please read about it and register to attend here. It will be of special interest to students of international relations (of all ages)! 

25 visitors from 21 countries to virtually explore NGO Management in Kalamazoo 

In November, we will host a virtual IVLP on NGO Management, with visitors from Albania, Armenia, Bahrain, Burma, Egypt, Fiji, Guyana, Hungary, Jamaica, Malta, Nepal, People’s Republic of China, Serbia, South Sudan, Suriname, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine and Vietnam. While it would be incredible to host all of these passionate leaders in the real world, zoom, across too many time zones to count, will have to do. As part of this project, we will also host a smaller group in a ‘Citizen Exchange Circle’ focused on trauma-informed programming. It is a privilege that, even though our borders are mostly closed and the need to isolate is back up, we can still engage in critical conversations and learn from one another.

More upcoming projects to get involved in!! 

In our September update, we mentioned our hybrid virtual/in-person exchange to support work in Kalamazoo County around youth development, most specifically career readiness. The work continues and we are very excited about our community collaborations. We will update you more on this next month. In the meantime, if you know young people (14-22) who might be interested in 'Teen Talks' with their peers around the world, please share this sign up link with them!! Also last month, we put out a couple of requests regarding engaging in our 50th anniversary planning, and in virtual programming in general. These are repeated here below and we do very much hope to hear from you.

We will be hosting more virtual programs for the foreseeable future (including an Open World reunion in December).

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 we gear 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. Please consider providing financial support to help us build meaningful exchanges for our community well into the future

Best regards,

All of us at Colleagues International

p.s. You can also text CIKZOO to 44-321 to make a gift.

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