With a new leadership team now in place, the Arlington Sister City Association is gearing up to rekindle relationships that were derailed during the pandemic.
The organization’s hope is to re-start cultural exchanges in early 2022; to reconstruct a dormant relationship with one of its Sister City partners; and perhaps to welcome a new partner community to the fold.
Hanna Eun, founder and principal of HHE Consulting Inc., recently was elected chair and treasurer of the non-profit organization, succeeding Elizabeth Schollaert.
“I am looking forward to serving . . . as we re-start our programs and events,” Eun said. “It is an exciting time – we have such an exceptional group of Arlingtonians who are deeply invested in furthering [the organization’s] mission.”
Other officers will include Stephanie Benefield (vice chair) and Daphne Lathouras (secretary). Those joining the board of directors include Gijs de Leed, Aaron Fuchs, John Manzolillo and Michelle Shanahan.
The Arlington Sister City Association was founded in 1993 and started with one relationship (Coyoacan, Mexico) that later grew to include Aachen, Germany; Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine; Reims, France; and San Miguel, El Salvador. Events through the years have included civic, artistic, educational and sports exchanges, all of which have been put on hold during the COVID era.
The Coyoacan and San Miguel partnerships have been dormant in recent years. But association executive director Christy Walika, who came on board in March, said she is hopeful the El Salvador partnership, at least, can be jump-started.
“We have active and engaged members on the San Miguel committee,” she told the Sun Gazette. “I will be assisting them to recruit more members of the committee and re-engage our partners in San Miguel.”
Meanwhile, the organization is gearing up for a “Friendship City” agreement with Setagaya, Japan, marking an interim step until a formal Sister City agreement can be finalized.
Located in the greater Tokyo area, Setagaya is roughly the size of Arlington (22 square miles to 26 square miles) but has more than three times the population. Its recorded history dates to the 15th century, when it contained a number of villages.
(While U.S. localities have Sister City relationships with communities in 138 countries, there are none more – 162 in total – than in Japan.)
The Sister City concept originated out of the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s, designed as a way to foster international friendships in the tense Cold War era. Today, according to the International Sister City Association, there are 500 participating communities in 140 countries, with a total of 2,000 partnerships.
The Arlington County government has had a sporadic relationship with the association, but it has become more formalized in recent times. This year, the county government has kicked in $45,000 in support.
For information, see the Website at www.arlingtonsistercities.org.