Girl Scouts, high school students and university professors are among the people changing lives in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, and Gondar, Ethiopia, through Corvallis' two active sister cities relationships.
Now the international award-winning organization is hoping more people will join their efforts and learn about the different outreach projects during Corvallis Sister Cities Week, May 1-8.
There will be two presentations, on Uzhgorod, Corvallis' long-standing sister city, on Tuesday and on the newest sister city, Gondar, on Thursday. Both events are from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
Through a project called Touch n Take One Ukrainian Child's Hand n Corvallis Sister Cities Association has been able to sponsor more than 300 orphaned or in-need children, said Touch co-chair Sabra Killen. Touch started in 2000, when Killen and Alice Rampton visited orphanages while delivering a shipment of humanitarian aid to Uzhgorod.
The women created a program where with a $60 annual sponsorship, individuals, businesses and organizations could provide clothes, excursions, school supplies, glasses, toys and other needs to a child. These donations have been hand-delivered by volunteers, who also spend time with the recipients.
In addition to the Touch Project, the sister cities association's mission is to foster understanding and friendships, provide and expand cultural experiences, develop and support citizen leadership, and enhance social and economic conditions for the citizens, families, organizations, businesses, and the governments of the two cities.
For its efforts, the Corvallis Sister Cities Association has been the recipient of the best overall program award for cities between 50,000 and 100,000 by Sister Cities International.
Last year, a group of people decided to expand on the success of Corvallis Sister Cities, by starting a new outreach with a city in west Ethiopia. Robel Tadesse, Corvallis' information systems manager, was born in Gondar and came to the United States to study. The idea for a new Corvallis sister city started with Tadesse and earlier this year, bylaws creating the Gondar subcommittee of the Corvallis Sister City Association were adopted.
An inaugural visit to Gondar by Corvallis City Councilor Rob Gandara was made in January. Gandara compiled a list of more than a dozen projects, and as new members joined, the Gondar group has begun work on three of the projects: education, water and health, Tadesse said.
Organizers didn't expect such a quick response from the community.
"We've grown so big so fast," he said.
The work groups meet regularly and are accepting new members, said Lee March. He said a class of students from Corvallis High School is involved with the school work group. They've coordinated a letter exchange between children in Gondar and Corvallis.
The drinking water group is researching the geology and infrastructure of Gondar's water supply system. The Corvallis group is hoping to facilitate grant writing to secure international aid to provide safe drinking water and a sanitation system to Gondar's 150,000 residents.
Another group is focusing on health issues, including AIDS. Representatives of Oregon State University are working on an exchange between the public university in Gondar and OSU, through which professors from Corvallis could teach public health courses in Gondar, and students from Gondar could travel to OSU.
Although they've focused on these three issues, March said, they hope to be able work on the other initiatives soon.
"As our membership gets bigger, we'll be able to expand in those areas," he said. "Ideally, we'd have 14 working groups."
Corvallis Sister Cities Week events
Displays: Through Sunday, the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library has featured handicraft items of Uzhgorod, Ukraine, in the display case. Through Monday, the display window at the Footwise Birkenstock Store, 301 S.W. Madison Ave., also features items from Uzhgorod, as well as Gondar, Ethiopia.
Uzhgorod, Ukraine Night: 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library community Room, 645 N.W. Monroe Ave. Connie Ash and Ted Gregg will speak about their families' experiences living in Ukraine. A local Girl Scout troop that has sponsored a girl at an orphanage is raising money to visit her. They are accepting donations of refundable cans. For more information, call 929-4130.
Gondar, Ethiopia Night: 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library community room. Robel Tadesse and Rob Gandara will speak about their visits to Gondar and the sister city relationship with that city. Students from Corvallis High School will conduct a silent auction to raise money for the Gondar school children work group.
Flower basket sales: The annual flower basket fund-raiser continues through May 8. Flower baskets will be sold May 7 at the Arts Centrum at Central Park.
Uzhgorod talk: Intern Ashley Brooks recently returned after spending three months in Uzhgorod at an orphanage teaching English to children. Brooks will speak about her experiences at 7 p.m. May 21 in the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
INFORMATION: To learn more about the Corvallis Sister Cities Association, see www.sistercities.corvallis.or.us.