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VCWA encourages cultural exchange through Community Connecti

Of the many programs coordinated by the Vermont Council on World Affairs, the organizations effort to bring international visitors to Vermont is impressive. Last year alone, the VCWA hosted 112 delegates from 36 countries that included a wide range: High school students from Thailand, Ukrainian authors, national park managers from Japan, and Russian journalists, among many others. As part of one international visitor program, Community Connections of USAID, the VCWA is now planning a three-week visit of bed and breakfast managers from Armenia. During the period of March 23 through April 13, a delegation of seven women and four men will learn about how Vermont bed and breakfasts operate and the challenges of how to promote and manage a business. Activities are planned across the state, and will hopefully include meetings at the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Farm Stay visits, and an introduction to hospitality programs at Champlain and Johnson State colleges, said Carol Casey, director off the International Visitor Leadership Program, and a resident of Shelburne. The Armenian visitors will hear from Vermont Bed and Breakfast owners directly about the business, and learn about cooperative marketing techniques. It is the goal of the program for each of the Armenian visitors to develop individual strategic action plans during their stay. The hope, said Casey, is that the program will have an impact and will be an educational experience for each visitor. Casey, who helps to coordinate each aspect of the visitors stay, said there will of course be time for the fun things, too, mentioning visits to Shelburne Farms, a trip to ECHO, and tasting the Vermont classic, sugar on snow. As part of the Community Connections Program, each visitor is placed with a host family for the time of their stay. Casey said this groups three-week stay may make finding host families more difficult, so she is considering breaking up the stays into two 10-day periods with each host. Im hoping that the timing of the group will make it easier to find families, said Casey. There are a number of families in the area who have hosted visitors regularly and really enjoy doing it, she said. Casey mentioned that there are many host families that live in Shelburne and Charlotte, which is conveniently located for many of the activities planned for visitors, and as a central starting point for day trips. She added that since she is also usually one of the drivers, and a Shelburne resident, this location is ideal. Local families that hosted one of the first Community Connection programs held by the VCWA last summer included Ken and Gail Albert, of Shelburne, and Dennis and Sharron Delaney, of Charlotte. They helped to host a group of Russian journalists who visited Vermont over the fourth of July. Casey said that both Dennis Delaney and Gail Albert spoke some Russian, which made them ideal hosts for the guests. Casey said one reason the international programs hosted by VCWA are so varying is because the resources in Vermont are so vast. You can name almost any theme, and there are excellent people here to address that theme. She said she is hopeful the VCWA will do at least one more Community Connections visit this year, along with plans for two or three more Open World programs, and over 100 visitors from the International Business Leaders Program. Casey said of the importance of the Community Connections program, and other international visitors programs, We are indeed living in one world--thats growing smaller--and we need to appreciate the culture, history, and traditions of other countries. One-on-one diplomacy is the best way to accomplish this. Anyone who would be interested in g the possibility of hosting should call Carol Casey at 985-3063 or send an email to carolcaseyvt@aol.com. Typically a host provides breakfast for their guest(s) and occasionally dinner. The visiting Armenians are away from their host homes during the day learning about Vermont and its hospitality industry. The Vermont Council on World Affairs is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1952 by U. S. Senator Warren R. Austin and a group of other distinguished Vermonters, works to promote awareness and understanding of world affairs through educational programs, presentations, and hosting delegates from around the world through the U. S. Department of States International Visitor Leadership Program, the Open World Program of the Library of Congress and the Community Connections Program of USAID. For more information about VCWA, please go to www.vcwa.org.

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