On June 16th - June 19th, 2019, we welcomed four international visitors from Ukraine for an IVLP single country program entitled “Promoting National Dialogue Through Civic Engagement." This program was planned to provide participants with insights, strategies, and tools to help community representatives from various regions in Ukraine to overcome mistrust and misunderstanding through dialogue and civic engagement.
On Monday, our visitors met with representatives of the peaceCenter, where they learnt about the organization’s work providing resources and nurturing ever-growing circles of peacemakers. Ukrainian guests were encouraged to hear about the Charter of Compassion and its mission. This conversation continued in a meeting with the representative of the City of San Antonio’s Faith-Based Initiative. The Community Faith-Based Liaison presented the hard work which has been carried out for the past forty years to foster compassion with the support of other public, private, community and faith-based organizations. During the discussion, our guests learned about a variety of programs, meetings and round tables that happened in San Antonio in order to build up relations and learn from each other promoting public-private collaboration around the Charter.
Later on Monday afternoon, they met with a proactive Creative Director of MightGroup who talked about the media’s role in the community to share stories which build trust and promote dialogue within and across diverse communities in San Antonio. He also spoke about DreamWeek, an annual summit of speakers, artists and educators who gathered to promote tolerance, equity and diversity and advanced the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther, Jr.
On Tuesday morning, the visitors had a great time having a tour in the Institute of Texan Culture where they gained a better understanding of ethnic and linguistic minority group integration into American society, namely in San Antonio. They learned about German, Polish, Hungarian, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican migration history, the ways how immigrants were supported at local level.
After lunch, they headed to meet with Texas State Representative Allison who led the discussion about the equality promotion for the minority communities. He also shared his experience in representing and advocating on behalf of these communities.
The visit to San Antonio couldn’t be diverse without a meeting with the Mexican Amercian Legal Defense and Educational Fund. It was an essential part of their experience here in San Antonio to meet with a Legislative Attorney. The Ukrainian group learned about the “law firm of the Latino community” and their programs that were structured to bring Latinos into the mainstream of American political and socio-economic life. The participants were impressed by numbers and great work this fund did in the community providing better educational opportunities, encouraging participation in all aspects of society and offering a positive vision for the future.
The Ukrainian team was very grateful for representatives’ time to meet with them and share their experiences and stories. This affirmed that civic engagement is incredibly important, as public participation increases the well being of everyone as a whole in the community, addressing all issues, rather than those of a select few. Ukrainians saw in practice what a vibrant civil society does to encourage communication, cooperation, and compromise throughout every possible sector.