Spotlight: Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester, New York
What are your city’s sister cities?
Rochester’s 12 sister cities are Rennes, France (1958); Würzburg, Germany (1964); Caltanissetta, Italy (1965); Rehovot, Israel (1972); Kraków, Poland (1973); Bamako, Mali (1975); Waterford, Ireland (1983); Velikiy Novgorod, Russia (1990); Hamamatsu, Japan (1996); Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (1997); Xianyang, Shaanxi Province, Peoples Republic of China (2007); and Alytus, Lithuania (2009).
How has your community benefited from your sister city program?
Rochester City Councilmember Frank J. Lamb, later Rochester Mayor, was a participant in President Eisenhower’s White House Conference on Citizen Diplomacy, and became a long-time supporter of the program. He served in the leadership of Sister Cities International, the coordinator of the United States sister cities program, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Rochester program.
Given the diversity of ethnic origins of its population, and its strong international business ties, the City of Rochester was one of the first to develop closer ties with its counterparts abroad when Mayor Peter Barry signed its initial Sister City agreement with Rennes, France in 1958 — the City’s first sister city.
International Sister Cities of Rochester (ISCOR) and its sister city committees organize and carry out Rochester’s Sister Cities Program. Relying on the support of volunteers from throughout the Rochester region, ISCOR promotes international understanding, cooperation, and development through a variety of dynamic exchanges with its sister cities around the globe. ISCOR supports projects which link the sister cities, and serves as an international gateway for municipal, economic, cultural, educational, medical, and governmental exchanges between Rochester and its sister cities.
The program has since grown to 12 relationships world-wide. Officially established by the Rochester City Council, each relationship is led and maintained by volunteers of the Rochester region. The sister cities relationships involve activities including educational, economic, cultural, sports, municipal, and humanitarian assistance exchanges that mutually benefit the partner communities.
As another example of valuable sister city exchanges: In 2015 Rochester, NY and Velikiy Novgorod, Russia celebrated 25 years as sister cities. Linkages of Rochester — the American organization that sponsors the sister city relationship between Rochester and Velikiy Novgorod — in 2014 -2015 conducted a year-long exchange on domestic violence issues in both Russia and the US sponsored by a US Department of State Peer to Peer Dialogue grant awarded to Linkages by the US Embassy in Moscow. The goal of the project was to advance understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence in both the US and Russia and to find ways to improve services to victims of domestic violence.
Linkages was also the recipient of an Open World grant to bring a delegation of substance abuse services professionals to Rochester from Novgorod in October 2015. They met with counterparts in chemical dependency programs in Rochester, visited the Washington office for congresswoman also paid a visit to City Hall. The goal of the visit was for the group to take back ideas and strategies in use in the US to adapt to their own work in prevention activities and treatment programs for persons of all ages with substance abuse disorders.
Past ISCOR exchanges have facilitated study abroad programs for Rochester students, brought music and cultural performances to the city, and supported humanitarian missions such as the donation of firefighting equipment to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
What would you like to see your sister city program do in the future?
Our sister cities program has engaged thousands of our citizens and challenged them to embrace diversity of thought and culture, to learn about other countries, and to appreciate differences and identify similarities. We have displays from each of our sister cities prominently on exhibit at City Hall, and these are discussed with school and other organizational groups as they visit. I would like to see our relationships with our 12 sister cities continue to blossom and develop further programs. Rochester has a sizable refugee population, and has welcomed them to our community, so our residents already have a basis to learn from other cultures. Sister cities helps to expand upon this introduction.