In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower hosted the first People-to-People conference. The aim of the conference was to foster peace by rebuilding bonds between communities across the world on the heels of World War II. Sister Cities International (SCI), a non-profit organization created to help communities achieve this aspiration, was born out of that conference.
Today, SCI has over 500 member cities, counties, and states in the U.S., which have partnered with over 2,100 municipalities in 145 other countries across the world. Fountain Hills Sister Cities (FHSC) is proud to continue this tradition with Fountain Hills’ international partner cities.
FHSC’s mission is to promote peace and prosperity through community-to-community interactions and exchanges that transcend national boundaries and governmental action.
In general, Fountain Hills Sister Cities relationships focus on three principal areas of exchange.
*Arts and Culture: Sharing cultural traditions from music and art to food and fashion is a powerful way for Fountain Hills and the partner communities to learn from each other.
The arts and cultural programs are some of the most longstanding and robust in the FHSC network and continue to connect people from an array of backgrounds on a uniquely human level.
*Youth and Adult Education: International awareness opportunities are a critical part of FHSC programs.
Common activities include student exchanges and educator collaborations with Dierdorf, Germany and Zamosc, Poland, participation in State and National Sister Cities Conferences and coordinating adult travel excursions to learn more about the cultural differences and similarities that bind partners internationally.
*Community Aid and Development: Officials, businesses and community members in Fountain Hills and its sister cities have opportunities to learn from each other through the work of FHSC in policy areas such as community infrastructure assistance, economic development and humanitarian aid.
Fountain Hills and FHSC are well-positioned to help the partner cities during times of desired economic enhancement, as well as more urgent times of crisis.
During regional conflicts in Ukraine, for example, residents of Fountain Hills collected donations and sent more than $40,000 to the sister city of Zamosc, Poland, to help with medical supplies, housing and educational assistance to displaced refugees.
Another example includes the response to routine flooding and poor economic conditions faced by the sister city Ataco, El Salvador. These events led to FHSC volunteers building shelter housing for underserved Ataco residents and collecting donations to fund repairs to their flood-damaged municipal water and sewage control systems.
With 2023 right around the corner, FHSC embarks on some exciting changes including the release of a new website, fountainhillssistercities.org, that dramatically improves community outreach efforts, awareness and engagement efforts, along with an exploration of a new sister city involving Fountain Hills community members in the identification and selection process.
At several points in its history, Fountain Hills Sister Cities has explored and created new sister city partnership agreements as determined by shared community interest.
In rare instances, a sister city relationship becomes impractical to maintain and thus is collectively and respectfully dissolved. Such is the case with FHSC’s former sister city Kasterlee, Belgium. This leaves a unique opportunity to cultivate a new partner-city relationship.
The process of selection is built on mutually beneficial relationships between members of the respective communities.
Deep and common bonds with Fountain Hills must exist with the communities the FHSC formalizes relationships with. Things to consider when selecting a new sister city are common heritage, family ancestry, language familiarity, community leadership connections, academic connections, travel ease, travel safety, along with the bi-directional commitment to facilitating the three principal areas of exchange.
All these factors in combination are important for a new city-to-city relationship to stand the test of time. The best partnerships between international cities are intended to last a lifetime.
For those with suggestions for a new sister city, reach out to FHSC at fountainhillssistercities.org on the “Contact” page and select “Other” to share thoughts on why a chosen city should fill the current vacancy. If a city is selected, FHSC would invite the person who suggested the city to join the FHSC volunteer team to be that city’s official liaison.
Organizers said that, in an increasingly disconnected world, the ideals and aims of the original Sister Cities movement are as important now as they have ever been. The country still faces the challenge Eisenhower identified over 60 years ago: working together to develop “not one method but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other.”
Fountain Hills Sister Cities is taking steps to make these connections happen every day, city by city, community by community, person by person. Come join the international experience of Fountain Hills Sister Cities.