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With international conference coming in 2017, officials excited while organization seeks support

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

COURTHOUSE — Virginia Beach will host the 2017 annual meeting and conference for Sister Cities International, a notable achievement for the city as a whole and the Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach. The Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach is looking for support to make the event a success.

Carolyn Garrett, vice president of the association, discussed the conference with the City Council at City Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 11. She spoke about her own experiences at conferences, especially noting the important lessons about diplomacy for young people, including residents of Virginia Beach.

“I cannot tell you how moving it is to see young people carrying flags from cities around the world,” Garrett said.

The Beach, she noted, is respected within the organization.

“It reinforces that we are known worldwide as the best city,” Mayor Will Sessoms quipped.

“You’re stealing my line,” Garrett said.

Sister Cities International brings members together each year for educational purposes, networking and an annual meeting, according to the organization. The organization estimates that 500 to 600 delegates from the U.S. and around the world might attend the 2017 annual conference in the Beach, according to the application to host the event.

“This is the first time in Virginia that Sister Cities has ever had a conference,” said Ruth Hodges Fraser, president of the Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach and the city clerk here, during an interview. “There will be people from all over the world.”

“We’re very excited about this,” Sessoms said during the meeting Tuesday. “Ruth called me after they opened the award, and we could not be more excited. … Thank you for everything, and we will help you.”

Virginia Beach is sister cities with Miyazaki, Japan; Moss, Norway; Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland; and Olongapo, Philippines. The Beach also has a friendship city, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

The city’s participation in the program has led to a number of exchanges and visits, many of which have involved young people.

The association can always use support, including money, but it also needs involvement, such as volunteers. For information on getting involved, reach the association at (757) 385-4303.

The Independent News

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