Saturday, December 13, 2014

“We are connected, we foster opportunities to connect with others”

The title of this post, of course, reflects one of the five stated Values of the Columbia Association.  These words were very much top of mind as I strolled toward the CA building, where, at the stroke of three o’clock Saturday (12/13/14), the inaugural meeting of the Haiti Sister City Planning Committee Meeting was gaveled to order.

Columbia, as you may be aware, has three Sister Cities – two in Europe and one in Africa.  Today, the discussion of forming a similar relationship with a city in the Western Hemisphere, specifically with the city of Cap-Haitien, Haiti, took a step forward.

Intuitively, this potential arrangement makes a great deal of sense.  Haiti’s geographic proximity to our corner of the States (relative to the other three locales) should help facilitate exchanges and other interactions between residents of our two communities.  We even share the same time zone.  Moreover, there are many Haitians and those with family in Haiti who reside and/or work in Columbia.  Cap-Haitien is known for being a center of artistic activity; Columbia celebrates the arts.        

We are both going through times of transition.  Our unique community is evolving while Cap-Haitien is undergoing significant changes as well.  The University of Haiti – Campus Roi Henri Christophe in Limonade (which is part of the Cap-Haitien Arrondissement) was just completed in 2012.  Tourism is growing in the city that has been called “the Paris of the Antilles.” 

But I am not yet on expert on Cap-Haitien, and I may never be.  Moreover, j’ai oublie la plus part de la langue francaise depuis l’ecole secondaire (I hope I am in the ballpark there).    I also don’t speak a word of Haitian Creole but I have always been interested in the history of the Republic of Haiti.  So I am elated to be part of a group that is working to formalize a relationship, via citizen diplomacy, with Cap-Haitien.

I am encouraged based on the intellectual firepower of those who attended today’s meeting.  There were some smart discussions on next steps as well as key challenges and considerations, and some on-the-nose questions were raised.  Overall, we are off to a promising start.

There are many steps remaining in order to move this process forward.  To that end, I encourage my readers – particularly those who reside in Columbia – to attend the next meeting of the Haiti Sister City Planning Committee, which I believe is scheduled to occur on January 13, 2015 at 7 pm at the CA Building (in the Board Room).  I will re-confirm that day/time/location in the days ahead.

And while international relations may not be a centerpiece of CA programming, there is a deep and abiding commitment to diversity, to building bridges, to learning from one another.  To those vital ends, among others, this author believes that the uniqueness of Cap-Haitien, combined with the special nature of Columbia, would make for a long and mutually beneficial association….hopefully, a Sister City relationship.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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