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Giving Thanks - one day in November over four years...

On November 13th my phone did what many of our phones do – it showed off its ‘artificial intelligence’, sharing photos from ‘on this day’ in prior years. It started with a photo from two years ago. Laurence Bézy, a Program Officer at our Washington DC-based partner World Learning had come to Kalamazoo on a professional exchange. This was a follow on to the week I spent in the World Learning offices earlier that year on a ‘CBM Exchange’. Laurence (on the right) is pictured with me, and with board member (then-president) Jill Manske (on the left) toward the end of our farewell dinner at O’Duffy’s. She had shadowed us during an IVLP program, had a homestay experience with Mary Baggerman and Phil Johnson (Mary was chairing our hospitality committee at the time), and, all in all, came to see first hand how we operate our small nonprofit, while implementing top quality, in-person visitor programs.

Then came a snapshot from three years ago. A reception at the home of Judy and Ed Huth. Judy has served Colleagues International in too many ways to count through the years. This organization has had several names in its nearly 50 year history but one thing has been a constant – hosting youth workers, social workers, each year for extended months’-long job shadow experiences through CIPUSA. This reception was for the social workers from Germany (Katja, Didem, Nevzat and Yvonne) who were spending three months in the Fall with us, job shadowing with Judge Bell at the Kalamazoo County Probate Court, at KDHHS in each of Child Protection and Foster Care, and with the Ark of Catholic Charities. For obvious reasons, this Fall we have not hosted German youth workers in Kalamazoo, but we have been connecting with our alumni over zoom to plan a program together…

Next was a photo from last year – Melody Daacon, our program manager until a couple of weeks ago, had brought her young son Kai into the office (we actually worked in the office back then!) We accomplished a lot together, growing our programs, which put us in decent shape to weather the storm that is COVID-19. We wish Melody great success in her new role with the City of Kalamazoo and we invite you to help us find a new team member to help us continue to grow and build even greater local impact.

Finally, we come to this year. It is different but we are still as deeply committed as ever to our mission: enriching local community with global diversity right here in Kalamazoo. We have been implementing virtual IVLP programs in recent months, and on November 13th, we hosted a dynamic and super engaging zoom session on ‘Strategic Planning during the Pandemic’.Takisha Johnson, of Young Kings and Queens, here on the Northside of Kalamazoo, shared meaningful insight on how to hold true to your mission, live it even more intensely, and even continue to get stronger in this deeply challenging time. And the dedicated staff of ONEplace, Matt and Ragan, shared their work helping the nonprofit sector in Kalamazoo build resilience in this year of pandemics. Our visitors from 21 countries, exploring NGO management, provided their own insights and, although we couldn't come together in real life, we were able to learn from and engage with one another.

This Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for. This year is different and calls upon us to find new ways to support and engage with one another to make the world better for all of us. Please virtually hug your loved ones, from near and far, and stay healthy.

We will be participating in #GivingTuesday next week. Please consider making a gift to support our mission.

Best regards,

Jodi Hope Michaels Executive Director

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

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