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A Day in the Life of Odir

“It impacted my point of view of the world. All the workshops […] I had opened my eyes about so many things that I don’t even know how to describe it.” – Odir

Visitors from Azerbaijan Explore Louisville’s LGBTQ+ Community

The City of Louisville was chosen by the U.S Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to be a stop for the visitors of Azerbaijan coming to the United States to learn about strengthening the capacity of LGBTQ organizations. Five leaders in the LGBTQ community of Azerbaijan were chosen by the U.S Embassy in Azerbaijan to visit Washington D.C, Louisville, San Francisco, Sacramento, Miami, and New York City. The objectives of the program are below:

Two visitors prepare for Pride Parade!

  • Examine the U.S. legislative framework to ensure LGBT rights in the U.S.;
  • Explore U.S. and international initiatives to promote and protect the human rights of the LGBT community;
  • Observe how organizations monitor, influence, and advocate for LGBT rights policy at the local, state, national, and international levels;
  • Gain insight into approaches, experiences, and challenges of the LGBT community such as healthcare issues; the status of LGBT women; LGBT youth issues; and achieving economic equality;
  • Learn about capacity building in the areas of managing LGBT NGOs; public outreach and communications; government relations; and networking and alliance building

Visitors from Azerbaijan meet with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray – the first openly gay Kentuckian to run for U.S. Senate!

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), ranked Azerbaijan as the worst country in Europe(49th) for LGBTQ rights. Just last year the police force of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, initiated raids targeting the LGBTQ community.  Nearly 100 people were detained, many of whom identify as LGBTQ. Some of those who were arrested also claimed to have been tortured and beaten. The climate of Azerbaijan makes this U.S State Department program much more imperative; the ultimate goal of this program is to help those who are trying to improve the lives of LGBTQ community members in Azerbaijan. The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana was honored to have such courageous men and women come visit us, and hoped that they could learn something new from LGBTQ leaders in a historically conservative American state.

The participants from Azerbaijan had a quick but packed stay in Louisville. In addition to participating in the Kentuckiana Pride Festival and Parade, they met with a variety of organizations and leaders throughout Kentucky who advocate and support the LGBTQ community. These were organizations such as the Louisville Metro Police Department Safe Harbor program and LGBTQ Advisory Council, PFLAG of Central Kentucky, the Fairness Campaign, and the Mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray. These exchanges helped the Azerbaijanis learn about the LGBTQ culture in the United States as well as gain insights as to what they could bring back home to help advocate for the LGBTQ community in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani visitors meet with LMPD’s Safe Harbor program!

Having the chance to meet with an openly gay mayor, given the current administration in the United States, seemed to be a highlight of the trip for the participants. The mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray, and the Lexington LGBTQ Community Liaison, Kenny Bishop, took the time to meet with the group to discuss the mayor’s story as well as the political landscape in Kentucky. The general acceptance that Mayor Gray has received as well as the initiatives that he and his team have brought to fruition in Lexington and Kentucky politics were a source of inspiration for the participants. After the meeting, the group drove over to the rainbow cross walks in downtown Lexington, an artistic as well as activist initiative the Mayor’s team brought to life. Although it was a short meeting, the participants, the interpreters, and myself felt very fortunate to have been able to sit down with such an inspirational and powerful figure in the LGBTQ community.

Additionally, the local leaders that met with the group also learned a great deal about the restrictive political and social landscape in Azerbaijan. As an intern listening in on some of the meetings, I saw how intrigued local leaders were a country they did not know much about, as well as the difficulties these courageous people go through to advocate and support the LGBTQ community. I saw firsthand the value of a cultural exchange as well as the exchange of information and ideas so that the Azerbaijanis and Americans both walked with new knowledge and an awareness of a new perspective.  

We hope that the Azerbaijanis had a great stay in Kentucky, and we wished them safe travels as they left to visit San Francisco. Thank you to everyone who helped made this program successful, and thank you for all that you do to support the LGBTQ community!

 

Written by: Teya Cuellar, Spring 2018 Visitor Program Intern

Wheelchair Basketball, Disability Rights and Inclusion

Fourteen adaptive sports coaches descended on Louisville from Zambia for the 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament! The fourteen coaches represented Special Olympics Zambia, National Paralympic Committee of Zambia, Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Child Development, Baeuleni United Sports Academy, and more. The coaches were invited to the United States on a project of “Disability Rights and Inclusion” sponsored through the U.S. Department of State, Sports Diplomacy. World Affairs Council partnered with FHI360 to provide an unforgettable experience for the coaches and Kentucky counterparts that they met with.

 

Following the tournament, coaches met with several local agencies, individuals, and organizations working for disability rights and inclusion in sports. The group started their local meetings with Louisville Metro Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, the first foreign-born resident to sit on Louisville Metro Council. Councilman Lanshima lost his arms in an accident while living in Nigeria. He shared his personal journey in paralympic sports, which is what ultimately brought him to Louisville through a sports scholarship with Bellarmine University.

Sports was the first thing that taught me that I could be free.

Louisville Metro Councilman, Vitalis Lanshima

Special Olympics Kentucky met with the group afterwards to talk about the organization’s history, work, challenges, and successes. Mr Hunter Brislin, Program Director of Team Sports and Coach Education, and Mr. Justin Harville, Director of Volunteers and Program Services, provided a presentation and answered questions about Special Olympics in Kentucky.

Mr. Greg Fante, Vice President of Sports Development with the Louisville Sports Commission, put together a strong panel of guests and hosted a roundtable on “Sports Tourism, Events, and Accessibility” for the coaches at the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB). The panel included: Ms. Vickie Lincks, Executive Director of Kentucky & Southern Indiana Paralyzed Veterans of America; Ms. BJ Levins, Recreation Administrator for Louisville Metro Parks’ Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program; Mr. Brad Knapp, Destination Services Manager, LCVB; Ms. Gen Howard, Senior Sales Manager (Sports), LCVB; and Mr. Dave Patrone, Vice President of Client Services, Kentucky Venues. Immediately, the roundtable talked about the logistical challenges and successes for hosting the National Wheelchair Bakestball Tournament, including transportation, venue, hotel, and more. The group was greatly impacted by the amount of collaboration and partnerships that it takes to pull a successful event.

 

The group was impressed to see that hosting events such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament requires the entire city’s cooperation.

The following day was spent entirely at the University of Louisville to meet with the Department of Health and Sports Sciences and participate in a sports psychology workshop with 2nd Wind Motivation by Cheryl Hart. The last day of programming, the group visited Churchill Park School which serves students age 5 to 21 who have moderate to severe disabilities and need a specialized program. They were able to view the school’s adaptive recreation and sports, including an adaptive playground, adaptive swimming pool, bowling alley, and gym.

 

As their final meeting, the group spent an afternoon with BJ Levins and Metro Parks staff at the Louisville Metro Parks Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program at Berrytown Recreation Center. The group learned about the history of the park’s involvement in adaptive recreation, the plethora of programs and sports available to the community, and the administration of such programs. Then comes the fun — archery class!

 

If you want to view the group’s Facebook album for more pictures, follow this link

 

International English Teachers Visit Kentucky

From March 21-25, the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana hosted 10 international teachers. The visitors, from Turkey, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, were all English as a Second Language educators studying ESL teacher training programs. Our visitors traveled across the state, first meeting with professors from the Masters in Teaching ESL program at the University of Kentucky. Next, they traveled to Frankfort to tour the state capitol and meet with officials from the Department of Education to discuss Kentucky’s foreign language standards.

Finally, on Friday, the group saw these training programs put into action through a visit to ESL Newcomer Academy at Shawnee High School, a middle and high school that works with students beginning their first year of school in the United States. These students are typically at beginning levels of English proficiency, so instructors help students develop their English skills and provide emotional support during their transition to American life. The visitors sat in on English classes at Newcomer before meeting with officials from the Jefferson County Public Schools system to discuss the hiring of ESL teachers and curriculum development.

Our international visitors’ trip to Louisville concluded with a fun cultural day on Saturday. The group visited the Muhammad Ali Center and Kentucky Derby Museum before finishing the day with a dinner cruise on the Ohio River. From Louisville, the visitors went to Chicago, IL to participate in the TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo. Our visitors enjoyed their visit to Kentucky and will take many valuable skills back to the training centers and universities in their home countries!

Regardless of our experience in the field, there is always so much we can learn from one another. ‘Professional learning’ is endless! | – Bahar, Turkey

 

My strong belief is that people like us, teachers and educators, make the differences and build understanding between countries and nations. We shape and influence young generation’s minds and future and it was great to meet professionals from Kentucky to learn from them! | – Svetlana, Uzbekistan

Visit the group’s Facebook Album!

Real power is locked within us and we are unaware of it. Visiting the Muhammad Ali Center helped me to unleash my vital energy! | – Michel, Gabon

 

This program was funded and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Office of English Language Programs and implemented locally by FHI 360 & World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Area Nonprofit Wants To Help Young People Become Global Citizens

About 11 percent of Kentucky students in grades K-12 were enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15. That’s according to the American Council of International Education. That statistic is one of the reasons a local organization wants to get more high school students in the commonwealth to become more globally competent.

The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana is now taking applications for its new Global Citizenship Certificate Program. Beth Malcom, president and CEO of the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association, served on the education committee that designed the program.

“Global competency is being aware of the world around you and that there are other lenses, perspectives, experiences, traditions that may differ from your own,” Malcom said.

She said the program would complement almost any field of study, including science and high-tech fields that are heralded by some as more lucrative and essential for the future.

Malcom said along with cognitive benefits, having a global mind and being multilingual can be beneficial for college admissions.

“There is a sense that Kentucky is not an international place but if you look at the manufacturing that’s here we have a huge, large number of international companies with plants and factories here,” said Xiao Yin Zhao, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. That includes companies like Toyota, she said.

Zhao said the council — a nonprofit based in the Portland neighborhood — is investing approximately $50,000 into the pilot program.

The Global Citizenship Certificate Program is a free, two-year program for high schoolers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Students complete requirements such as language learning and attend events such as the Model U.N., culminating in a capstone project. The program will accept about 100 students.

Progress is tracked by an online application. Zhao said it is not lost on officials that some students may not be able to complete the program because of inadequate internet access or because some may not have globally-minded events nearby that meet requirements.

“When we did this we wanted to do something that is easily done by students and that’s why we went through a mobile application,” said Zhao. “We are completely aware of that digital divide.”

She said at least in this first year, more remote areas may not be ready for a program but coordinators can gauge interest from the number of applications from those areas and try to help those students in the future.

The application to the Global Citizenship Certificate Program asks for basic information about prospective students, questions about their interest and what they think they’ll get out of the program.

Applications are being accepted until October 15.

This article, written by Roxanne Scott, has been reposted from WFPL News.

Events

Philippines | Sustaining Drug Demand Reduction

August 21 – 27, 2019


Country: Philippines

Project: Sustaining Drug Demand Reduction

No. of Visitors: 8

 

This group of 8 professionals from the Philippines will be in Frankfort, Lexington, London & Louisville, Kentucky on an IVLP project: “Sustaining Drug Demand Reduction.” They will be based in half in Lexington and half in Louisville, as well as travel to Frankfort and London. More details to be announced. 


Welcome international guests into your home for dinner! Invite friends and family to join in the fun and create a memorable American experience! Learn more about hosting!

 


The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Western Hemisphere | U.S. Trade Policy

July 17 –  21, 2019


Countries: Western Hemisphere (Countries TBA)

Project: U.S. Trade Policy

No. of Visitors: 9

Welcome international guests into your home for dinner! Invite friends and family to join in the fun and create a memorable American experience! Learn more about hosting!

Details coming soon…

Multi-regional | Countering Violent Extremism – Community Strategies

June 29 – July 3, 2019


Countries: India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, & Turkey

Project: Countering Violent Extremism – Community Strategies

No. of Visitors: 6

 

This group of 6 professionals from around the globe will be in Louisville on an IVLP project: “Countering Violent Extremism – Community Strategies.” While in Louisville, the group will focus on the following themes:

  • The role of interfaith dialogue in curtailing extremism and intolerance
  • Addressing the needs of at-risk youth and other marginalized communities
  • Academia’s perspective on violence prevention
  • Local law enforcement CVE strategies, approaches, and cooperation

Welcome international guests into your home for dinner! Invite friends and family to join in the fun and create a memorable American experience! Learn more about hosting!

 

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Multi-regional | 21st ChangeMakers: Be Best: Strategies for Combating Cyber-Bullying

June 15 – 20, 2019


Countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, & Uzbekistan

Project: 21st ChangeMakers: Be Best: Strategies for Combating Cyber-Bullying

No. of Visitors: 7

 

This group of 7 professionals from around the globe will be in Louisville on an IVLP project: “21st ChangeMakers: Be Best: Strategies for Combating Cyber-Bullying.” While in Louisville, the group will focus on the following themes:

  • Community responses to bullying and youth wellbeing
  • The role of law enforcement and the legal system
  • School programs to prevent bullying
  • The role of the health system and child mental health
  • Local media and community engagement
  • Conversations with youth

Welcome international guests into your home for dinner! Invite friends and family to join in the fun and create a memorable American experience! Learn more about hosting!

Details coming soon…

African Region | Ending Gender-Based Violence

June 13 – 19, 2019


Countries: African Region (Countries TBA)

Project: Ending Gender-Based Violence

No. of Visitors: 16

 

This group of 16 professionals from around Africa will be in Louisville on an IVLP project: “Ending Gender-Based Violence.” While in Louisville, the group will focus on three themes:

  • Sexual Assault Prevention, Awareness, and Survivor Services on University Campuses
  • Grassroots Mobilization and Coalition Building For-and-By Survivors of Domestic Abuse
  • Volunteerism

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.