Although OPEN has been in Newton for more than 20 years, the organization still has a few check marks to make on its bucket list, and board chairperson Jane Ann Cotton recently accomplished one.
OPEN, which stands for Organization Promoting Everlasting Neighbors, is an organiztion that promotes relations between international communities. Newton has two sister cities, Smila, Ukraine and Wu Chi, Taiwan, and Jane Ann became the first OPEN member to visit Wu Chi.
“I have been to Ukraine a number of times, starting in 1993, so when I had the wonderful opportunity to finally travel in November to our sister city area in Taiwan, I was excited,” Jane Ann said. “May-May Ng has been a good friend of OPEN and she invited me to accompany her to Taiwan.
“We landed in Taipei and spent a few days there before traveling by train to the Wu Chi area, which is part of greater Taichung, a large city in central Taiwan,” she continued.
Wu Chi sent Jason Wu to Newton as an exchange student for the current school year. Jane Ann used this opportunity to meet Jason’s family and update them on his progress here in America.
“I spent a delightful day with the family of our current student, Jason Wu,” Jane Ann said. “Jason’s mother and sister, who is a university student and made a special effort to travel to her home area for the weekend, attended a special luncheon planned by Jason’s family and (former exchange student) Min-Hua Song’s family.”
Jane Ann said after the luncheon, she and both the families traveled to the Wu residence for tea and conversation until dinner time.
“After traveling a short distance to the nearby Kou Mei Wetland, we had another wonderful meal together,” Jane Ann said. “Jason’s father is a police officer and his work responsibilities kept him from attending the day’s festivities. However, after work he made a special effort to come to the hotel to meet me.”
Besides meeting the Wu family, which Jane Ann said she felt was a treat, she said her favorite part of the trip was a visit to Chung Gang Senior High School, where she met English teacher Tina Ou and visited her English class of 45 seniors.
“Upon arrival at (CGHS), Min-Hua met us with flowers and she and the principal’s secretary led us to the principal’s office for an official welcome. After being escorted to Tina Ou’s room, the class gave a warm welcome and made presentations in English about special locations in Taiwan and presentations about typical popular food, with samples.”
After leaving the class, Jane Ann said the principal drove her to a seafood restaurant she described as “wonderful” and it is where she met another influential individual.
“I met with the former mayor of Wu Chi—who signed the original 1995 document creating the sister city agreement—and who is now the elected councilor representing the Wu Chi area in a merged government with Taichung City,” Jane Ann said.
“It was a cordial meeting and communications with them will continue,” she continued. “The school contact is very amazing and in the future, we may have a small group of students studying English from CGHS, whose interest is to visit Newton Senior High School and spend a week or two in Newton.”
In a way, Jane Ann has described OPEN as being very successful at making global relations and cites the 38 visits students from both Taiwan and the Ukraine have made to Newton, along with the numerous professionals as proof.
“Our cultural programs have been numerous and allowed our community the opportunity for exposure on many levels of music, art and sculpture, historical focus—too many to name individually,” she said. “All of the visitors and participants in these activities have been home hosted, providing a rich cultural experience to the host families.”
Jane Ann believes OPEN’s work has been a positive thing for Newton, which is why she has been serving on the board since its inception.
“The biggest benefit to Newton, having a group such as OPEN, is the exposure that many businesses, families and schools have had as a result of our activities and projects,” Jane Ann said.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.