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Wednesday, 10 October 2007
In 1956, President Eisenhower supported the formation of Sister Cities International. President Eisenhower's intention was to involve individuals and organized groups at all levels of society in citizen diplomacy, with the hope that personal relationships, fostered through sister city, county, and state affiliations, would lessen the chance of future world conflicts. The working premise of the Sister-City concept was that if people could develop relationships on �a person-to-person level' eventually countries would be able to rise above their internal politics and biases. In order to make this bond as strong as possible, Sister Cities International rules now restrict each sister city relationship to one pairing -- no two U.S. cities can have the same foreign city as its sister city.

The mission of New Haven Sister Cities is to promote an awareness of the cultures and customs of those foreign cities designated by New Haven as a sister city. In fulfillment of its mission, for the past twenty years New Haven Sister Cities has endeavored to promote an awareness of these cities' cultures and customs. New Haven's current and active sister-city relationships are with the cities of Afula-Gilboa, Israel; Amalfi, Italy; Avignon, France; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Hue, Vietnam and Leon, Nicaragua.

New Haven's ties to its first two sister cities of Amalfi, Italy and Avignon, France trace back to the administration of Mayor Frank Logue. Mayor Logue visited Amalfi in 1976 and later hosted the Mayor of Amalfi at his home thus "officializing" the longstanding ties between the people of New Haven and Amalfi. In 1979, Mayor Logue hosted the Mayor of Avignon thereby starting that relationship.

In 1980, Mayor Biagio DiLieto convened a community wide meeting of a "Sister Cities Committee." Mayor DiLieto's hope was to unite under one international organization New Haven's sister city relationships in order to establish cultural and visitor exchange programs with these cities.

The initial meetings of the "Sister Cities Committee" provided the forum upon which New Haven Sister Cities eventually was formed. The Organization incorporated in July 1981 under the title of New Haven Sister Cities, Inc. Roseline Crowley, Bernard Saint-Donat and J. Drake Turrentine represented the founders of the organization on its papers of incorporation. The Board of Directors became comprised of both elected and designated members. The designated seats represented the New Haven area universities, the Board of Aldermen, the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Education, the Visitors and Convention Bureau and various international groups.

In May 1983, the Board restated its purpose in its Certificate of Incorporation to read: to engage in educational activities directing towards increasing knowledge and appreciation of cities in foreign countries designated by the corporation as "sister" cities and to develop and maintain educational, cultural, economic, and other relations between the residents of greater New Haven and the residents of such cities.

In 1984, the Board of Aldermen established Leon, Nicaragua as a new sister city. The Leon affiliation incorporated as the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project. The Leon Committee becomes represented on the New Haven Sister City Board of Directors.

In 1994, with the support of Mayor John C. Daniels, Hue, Vietnam and New Haven established an official Sister City relationship - the first United States sister city relationship with Vietnam.

In March 1995, with the support and assistance of Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., Afula-Gilboa, Israel was established as an official sister city.

On September 17, 1996, the Board of Directors of New Haven Sister Cities approved the official sister city relationship between New Haven and Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Through New Haven Sister Cities, New Haven has hosted and supported delegations of artists, musicians, business and governmental representatives to and from our sister cities. Of course the most notable of New Haven's ambassadors has been its young people. From its inception, New Haven Sister Cities has promoted student exchanges between New Haven and Avignon, Amalfi and Leon as well as Ramat Gan, Nice, France and Sienna, Italy. Over 350 New Haven high school students, meeting the language requirements, have been able to travel to these sister cities. These students, many of whom otherwise would not have had the opportunity to travel, were hosted by families in New Haven's sister cities, met students of their same age, and experienced first-hand the excitement of different customs and backgrounds. In many cases, New Haven students reciprocated and hosted their foreign counterparts in their homes here in New Haven -- thus opening the doors to New Haven's lifestyles and customs to these visitors.

In addition to student exchanges, New Haven Sister Cities has been a major proponent of New Haven's artistic community. In 1988, New Haven sent a delegation of artists to Avignon to participate in a cultural exchange. One of those artists representing New Haven and New Haven Sister Cities was renowned artist Tony Falcone. In 2001, New Haven Sister Cities commissioned Tony to create an original image of New Haven Sister Cities to commemorate its 20th Anniversary Celebration. The image has been transformed into a limited-edition print, signed by Tony, and reproduced onto blank note cards. The prints and note cards are available for sale. The proceeds from the sales will support our future programming.
We end with a retrospective of some of the things the New Haven Sister Cities' Committees have sponsored/initiated in New Haven these past 20 years: "Avignon Week in New Haven" -- a week long celebration of Avignon with 20 artists and craftsmen ° a practical trainee program with Ramat Gan and Avignon ° a Neapolitan musicale and reception sponsored by the Amalfi Committee ° a police officer exchange ° "New Haven Week in Avignon" - with 16 local artist spending a week in Avignon ° a pastry cart at the Molson Street Festival ° a basketball exchange with Amalfi ° celebrity wine tastings with guest chefs Jacques Pepin (1992), (1998); Carol Peck (1997); and Mark Bittman (1995), (2001) ° participation in the Avignon Expo ° a chef and musician exchange with chefs and musicians coming to New Haven from Amalfi, Avignon and Ramat Gan ° a music exchange between the Neighborhood Music School and the Avignon Conservatory ° a gymnastic exchange between Avignon and Nelson's Gymnastic Center ° a luncheon co-sponsored with the International Center honoring Phyllis and Fenmore Seton and Wiggin & Dana ° participation in the International Festival of Arts & Ideas and the production of post cards featuring our sister cities of Afula-Gilboa; Amalfi; Avignon; Freetown; Hue; and Leon ° sending medical, school and clothing supplies to Leon, Freetown, Hue and Afula ° sending $1800.00 to repair the war torn roof of St. Joseph Convent School in Freetown ° participation in the Festival of the Tropics by the Freetown, Hue and Leon Committees ° four-course dinners at Le Petite Caf� sponsored by the Avignon Committee ° hosting of the Saigon Water Puppet Troupe ° hosting the President of Sierra Leone ° initiation of agricultural and environmental projects with Hue and Leon at the New Haven Agricultural Station and Yale School of Forestry ° establishment by Leon of the SosteNica Loan revolving fund ° hosting the Honorable Mayors of Afula-Gilboa; Avignon; Amalfi; Freetown; Hue; and Leon.
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