European delegates learned community engagement, partnership-building, networking and other advocacy strategies during a recent visit to the U.S., funded through a U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows Program grant.
The Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development hosted 21 European delegates from Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia as part of a Shaping Participatory Democracy grant that builds international partnerships and teaches democratic processes. The Great Lakes Consortium is a program of Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (formerly WSOS Community Action Commission). As part of their visit, delegates were placed with 13 different U.S. host and mentoring organizations according to their interests.
These mentorships helped the participants expand knowledge of advocacy and community engagement methods. The hope is to give young men and women from emergent democracies a better understanding of how advocacy organizations engage communities in the U.S., Community Development Director Deb Martin said.
“The delegates came from former Soviet-bloc countries where democratic processes weren’t present,” Martin said. “We want to show delegates how change can come from the local level through
The delegation included persons such as Daniel Csango, a Hungarian disability rights activist; Iulia Merca, an LGBT rights association coordinator from Romania; and Ivana Novakova, a Slovakian woman who works with homeless populations in Bratislava.
After arriving in the U.S. on April 17, the delegation started its six-week visit by meeting with local government officials in Toledo. Great Lakes Consortium Director Elizabeth Balint and Arts Council Lake Erie West Director Martin Nagy facilitated the delegation’s traveling and accommodation needs.
The group then stopped at GLCAP sites in Fremont on April 19, starting with a stop at the Stricker Family Development Center to meet with Head Start staff and visit preschool students enrolled in the program. Participants then went to the Fremont Senior Center and joined in an international food experience wh
ere senior guests sampled Hungarian and other eastern European cuisines. Delegates then met with GLCAP President/CEO Ruthann House and Community Development Director Deb Martin to learn more about the agency and the mission of community action.
After this, each person traveled to his or her assigned mentoring organization for a four-week internship. Mentoring organizations included:
- Logan Square Neighborhood Association in Chicago, Ill.
- Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
- Community Training and Assistance Center in Boston, Mass.
- Tinderbox in Reno, Nev.
- FIERCE in Bronx, N.Y.
- Rockaway Youth Task Force in Far Rockaway, N.Y.
- National Equality Action Team in New York City
- Tides Advocacy Fund in New York City
- Action North Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina
- US Together in Columbus, Ohio
- Toledo School for the Arts
- Center of Popular Democracy in Washington, D.C.
- United States International Council on Disabilities in Washington, D.C.
The delegation’s visit concluded with a reconvening of all participants at the Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, D.C.
Representatives from U.S. mentoring organizations will then travel to Europe in late summer 2018 or winter 2019 for a follow-up visit.