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Our January 2021 Update


While COVID-19 has constrained our ability to craft high quality in-person visits, we continue to create virtual experiences that allow us to bring Kalamazoo to the world and vice-versa. We are all experiencing pandemic fatigue and longing for that time when we can come together again, break bread in one another's homes again. In the meantime, opening pathways to meaningfully engage with one another, in the online sphere, makes space for vital dialogue and exchange. We have two virtual programs in February, with more to follow. We would love to have you get involved!


For today, we are delighted to share with you a few updates on new staff and board members, as well as milestones to come.


You may click the links below to jump to the content.

Virtual Programming Continues


Current U.S. Social, Political, and Economic Issues for Young European Leaders


This IVLP project, with visitors from Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Malta, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey, will be explore exploring topics of domestic and foreign U.S. policy and how they interrelate. Their virtual visit to Kalamazoo will include a dialogue with local leaders on systemic racism against African Americans and the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement within the United States. This will be followed by virtual home hospitality gatherings in Kalamazoo.


Empowering Youth through Workforce Development


Later in February, visitors from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe will explore the U.S. vocational and technical education system, and the ways it seeks to innovate in order to attract talent and meet the needs of niche employment sectors. Through visits to Kalamazoo Valley Community College and KRESA, they will have a chance to explore, with local leaders, best practices in engaging young people and preparing them to thrive in adulthood.


Global Ties U.S. *Virtual* National Meeting - Exchange Matters

The Global Ties U.S. National Meeting is the premier gathering of organizations, U.S. government agencies, advocates, and leaders in the international exchange field. The week-long event, from March 22-26 will feature a variety of live-stream sessions as well as on-demand content. As a Community-Based Member of Global Ties U.S. we are delighted to participate in this conference celebrating our Network's collective resilience and unwavering dedication to forging connections without boundaries...because, Exchange Matters. Registration opens the week of February 8th. Learn more here.


CI Prepares for its 50th Anniversary


This year we celebrate half a century of service! Getting our start as a summer exchange program within the WMU School of Social Work in 1971, we have evolved to our current state, as an independent, volunteer-driven, professionally-run citizen diplomacy organization, based in downtown Kalamazoo. One of our overarching goals is to leverage international networks for the greatest local impact, doing our utmost to reach members of our community with the least access to international experiences. As we build toward our birthday later in the year, we will share monthly highlights of our work, our passionate volunteers, and of course, our alumni from around the world. Stay tuned for updates and to celebrate with us later in the year, virtually or in person, depending upon whether we find a way out of Covid…


Happy Birthday to Betty Lee Ongley


Wishing Betty Lee Ongley a fabulous 95th birthday (earlier this week)!! Did you know that Betty Lee served as Executive Director of CI, and has volunteered with us in many capacities for years? What has she not done to lead and support our community!! A true trailblazer. Happy birthday from all of us at Colleagues International!! If you haven’t seen it, find coverage on her birthday bash and 70+ years of service to the American Red Cross here.



Feed the Fight Kalamazoo feeds the vaccinators


Colleagues International is honored to serve as the fiscal sponsor of the Feed the Fight Kalamazoo project. As reported in a recent WMU News article: "According to co-founder Dr. Sally Hadden, "the premise was a pretty easy one. Raise money, buy meals, deliver them to front-line health care responders". In other words, Feed the Fight Kalamazoo has been supporting those who are working tirelessly to keep Kalamazoo healthy amidst the worst pandemic in a century. Its footprint has also provided a much-needed cushion for area restaurants struggling to stay open while their dining rooms are closed." (Pictured above, FTFK co-founder Adam Strong-Morse delivers food to staff at Sindecuse Health Center at WMU)


Building upon the more than 6,000 meals delivered during 2020, Feed the Fight Kalamazoo has already delivered more than 900 meals from 30 distinct restaurants in January 2021. According to fellow co-founder and Colleagues International Executive Director, Jodi Michaels, the group is on target to have purchased meals from "100 distinct area restaurants with its next delivery".


In the past week, meals have been provided to the Family Health Center’s Northside Vaccination Event, as well as two Bronson vaccine clinics. You can read more about Feed the Fight Kalamazoo here. And see a cool shout out here below :)


FTFK is seeking volunteers to help distribute meals and spread the word. You can sign-up here.



Colleagues International Welcomes Three New Board Members, and New Staff!


Shabaka Gibson


Shabaka is a well-travelled expert in economic development and has lived abroad in multiple roles, including experience in the U.S. military and the corporate world. He is passionate about building a better world and is currently doing so as Vice President of Battle Creek Unlimited, the city's primary economic development agency. Shabaka's global experience, local connections, and passion for international exchange will surely be an asset to the board and we are excited to have him join us this year.


"I appreciate the work of Colleagues International and look forward to being a part of its efforts. I think the world is better off when we share ideas, experiences, and perspectives."

Kevin Wordelman


Kevin brings nonprofit and leadership experience to the board as one of its newest members. He recently served as the operations director of Open Doors, a non-profit supportive housing organization with more than 140 residents. He also successfully led the local Homes for All campaign in 2020 as the campaign manager. Kevin has previously been involved with Colleagues International as a home host and attendee of various events, including Taste of the World.




Sarah Mansberger


Sarah joins the board with a wealth of local experience in talent and business development. She is currently the Business and Community Relations Lead at the Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency (KRESA). She is passionate about building on her experience meeting and working with people from around the world and is particularly interested in connecting more youth to the world through virtual and in-person exchange. She will undoubtedly be a critical resource in helping foster the development of our youth technical education exchange program and we are happy she has joined the board.


"I value cross-cultural learning and the experience of finding common humanity across contexts."

CI Welcomes New Staff - Ian Magnuson


Ian Magnuson joined us in January 2021 as our new Communications and Program Associate. He has a passion for international education and has been active in promoting citizen diplomacy for a decade. While studying at Western Michigan University, Ian co-founded the German Club and Western Model United Nations student organizations. He also holds an MPP degree from Michigan State University where he co-resurrected the Public Policy Student Association and interned for the State of Michigan. Ian is from Battle Creek and has since lived in Kalamazoo, Detroit, and Lansing. He also studied in Bonn and later completed a life-changing Fulbright assistantship in Leipzig, Germany. In his free time, he enjoys writing, video games, paddle boarding, advocating for climate and racial justice, and making pizza from scratch.



Welcome to Sarah, Kevin, Shabaka and Ian!!


We hope everyone is keeping well and safe as we continue our quest to flatten the curve while getting those vaccines in arms!

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