Dear SACIV members & friends,
Although this year has brought many challenges, we have enjoyed the opportunity to work with our local community and global network to expand our connections virtually. We are continuously striving to provide innovate ways of engaging internationally through our programs.
While early 2020 got off to a very busy start, things quickly came to a halt as State Department in-person programs, including the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), were postponed indefinitely due to the global pandemic. Despite this, we remained committed to continue cultivating valuable global relationships and provide opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue in the virtual world. I am very proud of the work our staff, Board, members, local resources, and national partners to quickly adapted to the virtual environment and bring citizen diplomacy to life through online platforms.
We have been very fortunate to have the support of Global Ties US, the umbrella organization of over 80 organizations like ours who facilitate the IVLP. This network has shown tremendous resiliency and strength as we have come together to collaborate and support each other during this challenging time, helping us to collectively adapt and creatively implement innovate initiatives, despite much uncertainty over the course of the past year.
There are many recent successes to celebrate. In 2020, we created new opportunities for our members to stay engaged. Through weekly e-blasts listing recommendations for virtual events addressing international topics, we provided ways to stay informed remotely. With our “Community Spotlight Series”, we shared our gratitude and appreciation to the many local organizations who continuously meet with our international visitors by highlighting their important work and value to our city.
Through virtual events, we facilitated global connection building. For example, our “Member Global Engagement” event in the fall featured conversations with IVLP alumni from Saudi Arabia and Finland who visited San Antonio in February of 2020. We also found a way to replicate the “home hospitality” experience, a crucial component of our visitors’ programs while in San Antonio and a wonderful opportunity enjoyed by our members, through our virtual “Coffee & Conversation” event this past February.
In October, we hosted our first ever virtual anniversary event. The “Annual Citizen Diplomacy Celebration” was a resounding success! We surpassed our fundraising goals, ensuring we are able to continue our important work, as well as fully fund next year’s “Irma Reyes Citizen Diplomacy Scholarship” award. We were very pleased that over 100 attendees joined the event live, locally as well as from around the world. If you were unable to attend, you can view the event recording on our website.
In 2020, we hosted seven Virtual IVLP programs. We quickly saw that virtual international exchanges are still incredibly impactful and have hosted eight delegations so far this year, with many more to come. The learning process is ongoing as we continue to navigate these previously uncharted waters, but I am proud of our ability to embrace this new challenge.
During this period of particular international solidarity, we’ve been able to reflect on the shared human dynamic and experience of the time, which is a significant aspect of our mission and now as important as ever. We are grateful that you – our members and community partners – know the value of international connectivity and the importance of building connections to the people, ideas, and issues shaping our shared future. Understanding how international exchanges benefit the entire global community furthers our common goal of creating a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Thanks to the ongoing support from our valued community of citizen diplomats such as yourself, we are able to further our work to build international friendships, foster cultural understanding, and promote San Antonio as an international city - and we look forward to continuing doing so this year!
All my best,