Sister Cities Board Meeting February 7, 2012
Attendees: Boardmembers Hudnut, Smith, Adams, Smith, Barre, Nance, Gonzalez Guests: Ayela, Warner, Koroma
Chairman Hudnut opened the meeting asking for discussion of the Beit Shemesh question. Sister Cities had conlemplaled partnering with Beit Shemesh as soon as fall of 2012, but has yet to enter any agreement. Human rights violation episodes occurred in Beit Shemesh that were reported in the press in December of 2011 including harassment of school girls by extremists who thought the girls were not dressing appropriately for school. There are groups and individuaìs in the county who have urged Sister Cities to forgo partnering with Beit Shemesh as a result of these incidents. The organizations include the County Executive Middle-Eastern Advisory Group and a group called MD Human Rights. Org. Seven individuals have contacted Sister Cities in opposition to the proposed partnering. Two commenters favor partnering regarding the episodes as not representative of Beit Shemesh as a whole and one more commenter asked for more information. The Sister Cities Board decided to have a meeting with the opponents either on March 13 or March 27 in Rockville. The meeting date will be determined by the Chairman and Mier. The opponents will be notified of place, date and time. The meeting will most likely be held in a Rockville Library conference room. Depending upon the results of that meeting there may be a separate meeting called to hear from proponents of partnering with Beit Shemesh though the Jewish Federation has previousiy made a presentaiion to the board favoring the Beit Shemesh partnering.
The next board topic was a trip to Gondar, Ethiopia by 9 people on behalf of Sister Cities to explore the possibilities of partnering there. By ail accounts the trip was a great success. Daniel Koroma, County African Liaison, started out the report extolling Gondar as a perfect place to partner for its history, culture, education and economic potential. The Mayor of Gondar and President of the University there were very enthusiastic about the partnering. The university currently has 20,000 students and expects to have 40,000 students by the end of the next four years. The university was started as a public health institution but has added to the curriculum significantly along the way. They hope to add scientific capacity with the help of Johns Hopkins in Shady Grove and the NIH. They also learned from our delegation how Montgomery College could participate in this effort. Tim Warner, County liaison to the American community and an ordained minister saw the possibility of helping the university form a theology department. The religious history of Gondor and Ethiopia is fascinating within the Judeo-Christian field, but other religions as well. There has been an ongoing emigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel and a community of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews still live in a separate community in Gondar awaiting emigration. It is hoped that Sister Cities will send a delegation headed by lke Leggett to visit Gondar next fall, as early as late September, for a partnership signing. The delegation might include three groups: the county Gondar sister cities committee, the President of Montgomery College and others and a religious scholar possibly from a DC area interfaith group. It could include as many as 75 people.
In Gondar, the Sister City delegation just returned leamed that they need training to build capacity to serve their citizenry. They will need to define what kind of training is needed and the president of their university agreed to help ín that effort. It appears it could be generally academic, science and health including physicians especially, agriculture and economic development including bio-tech opportunity. Furthermore, their elementary schools need computers, secondary schools need sports equipment and school classrooms need renovation. Our Sister Cities and a Gondar Committee in Gondor will need to document and prioritize projects that might be undertaken.
The board then turned to the subject of Morazan- Evelyn Gonzalez reported that the Morazan committee participated in a very successful benefit in December which netted the committee approximately $5200. The committee may use the funds to transport donated medical equipment to a hospital in Morazan. The committee also not only provided 4 bookshelves to a school in Morazan, but it continues to send books to the school-the last shipment including 14 boxes.
The board then approved the December 6, 2011 meetings minutes.
Then Bruce Adams reported on more activity in Iooking toward finding a partner in China. There will be a board meeting held on May 8 to hear four proposals for Chinese communities with which the county might partner. This is being coordinated by Lily Qi, former County Executive Asian liaison for the county as well as Diane Vu, the new Asian liaison. Though Gondor was recommended by the County Executive African Advisory Board, it appears that for China it will be move efficient and acceptable that at least four possibilities be identified by Lily who rernains a county administrator in a different capacity, but still involved with the county Asian commmlity.
Bruce suggested we look into acquiring pins to give as gifts in future Sister Cities travels. His Contact for that purpose is Chris Renshaw.
Suzan Jenkins, Director of the county office of the Arts and Humanities contacted Mier to let him know their interest in heìping to effectuate exchanges with Sister cities partners in the cultural area.
Evelyn Gonzalez, Secretary