I am happy to announce that you are reading the blog of the newest board member on the Hood River – Tsuruta Sister City Committee. Yay!!! Tuesday night I was unanimously voted in on the board for the 2014-2015 year.
With this honor fresh in my head I thought it would be a good opportunity to blog about what the committee does and how it operates.
How Often Does the Board Meet?
The board meets regularly once a month and other times when necessary for planning and event purposes.
The events and activities pertaining to the sister city exchange are scheduled early in advance and it is assumed that both towns will participate fully in making the exchanges and activities successful.
The standard activities and how often they occur are briefly described below.
Hood River – Tsuruta Sister City Activities
Hood River Junior High School and High School Student Visit (every other year) – A group of students from Hood River travels to Tsuruta in the summer to stay with host families and immerse themselves into Japanese life and culture. The group usually stays for a week or two.
Tsuruta Junior High School Spring Visit (annually) – One of the larger group visits, 20-30 junior high school students visit Hood River for approximately a week during the spring. The students stay with host families, go to school, go sightseeing and go skiing, bowling and shopping during their visit.
Tsuruta High School Fall Visit (annually) – High School students from Tsuruta travel to Hood River for a brief, but fun, 4 day visit. They tour the area, stay with host families and go to classes at the high school.
Hood River Adult Visit (every 5 years) – Adults from Hood River are invited to stay with host families in Tsuruta while they see the area and engage in Japanese culture. The visitors are treated like honored guest and are often entertained by the talents of local Tsurutians.
Tsuruta Adult Visit (every 5 years) – A group of adults from Tsuruta visits Hood River for a week of festivities to commemorate the anniversary of the sister cities. Some adults stay with host families while others seek out their own accommodation. The group tours the area and enjoys time with their Hood River friends.
Taste of Tsuruta (annually) – A dinner and silent auction is held each year to raise money for the organization. Guests enjoy Japanese cuisine and bid on items donated by individuals, groups and businesses from Hood River and Tsuruta.
High School Exchange Student (based on interest) – Hood River and Tsuruta allow a high school student from either Tsuruta or Hood River high schools to live and study abroad for up to one year. This opportunity is dependent on the host school’s ability to host the exchange student in a particular year.
Coordinator for International (CIR) (annually) – Tsuruta employs a Hood River local to work and live in Japan for a year. This person acts as liaison between the two towns and teaches English to Tsuruta’s schoolchildren. The CIR has the option to renew their contract after the completion of their first year.
Scholarships (annually) – The committee awards a scholarship to a high school senior who, along with other qualifications, has made substantial efforts in promoting and engaging in cultural exchange and understanding.
These activities have been the standard operating procedure for Hood River and Tsuruta’s sister city program over the years. Although not every activity occurs each year, constant work and effort is always being made to make these things happen as well as trying to come up with new activities and ways to further connect the two towns.
Committees Make it Happen
Committees are formed to plan all the details associated with these events and visits. A detailed schedule must be created, host families must be found, events need to be carefully planned, food has to be ordered and travel itineraries organized.
There are specially appointed committees to handle things like host family recruitment, the Taste of Tsuruta, the hiring of the CIR, the planning of anniversary celebrations and purchasing of gifts, etc. All of the current board members serve on one or more of these committees as well as general members of the sister city organization.
35 Years of Experience
A lot of work and communication back and forth between Hood River and Tsuruta is necessary to make all these things happen. But with over 35 years of experience behind them, the two towns have made the process as close to seamless as it can be.
The 2014-2015 Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City Board:
- President: Niko Yasui
- Vice President: Sharlene Wilkins
- Treasurer: Don Benton
- Secretary: Kathy Oats
- Membership Coordinator: Katie Paul
- Paul Blackburn, Mayor of Hood River
- Ron Rivers (ex officio), County Commissioner
- Kevin Liburdy, HR City Representative
- Adam Lapierre
- Scott Murahashi
- Leslie Melby
- And now . . . LisaAnn Kawachi
- Honorary members: Toshiko Carlos and Betty Carrithers.
What is an Honorary Board Member?
An honorary board member is someone who has shown significant commitment to and substantial efforts on behalf of the Hood River and Tsuruta sister city relationship. They are members in every aspect and are invited to participate and contribute to any and all activities associated with the sister city relationship. The only exception is that they are not allowed voting privileges.
I’m excited to see what the future will hold for me and my involvement with the Hood River- Tsuruta Sister City Program. I have seen the relationship from the CIR’s perspective and look forward to coupling my experience and knowledge in this area with the position of being a board member. As a board member I ll will have the opportunity to help move things forward and continue to strengthen the bond between the two towns.
Featured Photo Taken By: Nicholas Swyers