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Letters to the Editor

OPEN Chair outlines Sister City program’s importance

OPEN (Organization Promoting Everlasting Neighbors) has been Newton’s official sister city group since 1991. Our two sister cities are Smila, Ukraine, and WuChi, Taiwan.  

We have traditionally celebrated Sister City Month in January annually. We are proud to continue to sponsor a student program that began in 1993 and we currently have our 37th student, Dima Oliinyk, who is from Smila, Ukraine.  

Dima lives at the home of Vince and Karen King. He will spend the entire academic year of 2012-2013 in Newton and is playing junior varsity basketball at Newton Senior High School this winter.

In addition to our student program, OPEN has sponsored humanitarian, educational, medical and cultural activities. We have collaborated with international organizations and facilitated hundreds of guests from countries of the former Soviet Union as part of U.S. State Department initiatives such as Community Connections and Open World groups.  

All guests have been hosted in private homes Newton and Jasper County and many long-term friendships have been formed.

OPEN is a member of Sister Cities International and we use their services to secure the necessary documents required for any United States foreign exchange student program to be in compliance with the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security. Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy.

Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By becoming friends, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences, instead of deriding them, fostering suspicion and sowing new seeds for war.

Sister Cities International creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy.” Since then, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now President Barack Obama have served as the Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International.

The Board of Directors of OPEN has 17 committed members. The support and respect of Newton and Jasper County citizens has allowed OPEN to function for 21 years. Thank you for your support as we strive to continue our work.

Jane Ann Cotton

OPEN Chairwoman


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