2013 Newsletter

THE FLORIDA/COLOMBIA CHAPTER OF PARTNERS OF THE AMERICAS

2013 was another busy year for our Partners Chapter. We accomplished much to further the Partner’s mission of connecting, serving and changing lives in a people-to-people context, but challenging work remains to be done as we navigate around the shoals encountered in these rapidly changing times.

Partners of the Americas, as an international organization, continued on a course of “reinventing” itself to make its mission more relevant and effective, and our Chapter shares in that endeavor. One of our members attended POA’s May “What Works” conference in Greeley, Co. which provided motivation and insight into how various Chapters are conducting successful activities in creative ways; it was a great learning experience. One of the most important initiatives is to expand the POA resource network of partners and associates (check out “Partners Connect” at the Partners.net website).

One of our goals is to provide better outreach to south Florida. Having Vice-Pres. Harold Silva as our key representative there at Miami-Dade College is an important anchor for that. When we hosted Fabian Gonzalez of the Bogota Chapter on his spring tour of bilingual education programs, we made many contacts in the Miami area which led to new partners and strengthened relationships that are serving us well going forward.

Exchange visits involving POA members from Colombia and Florida are important and continued in 2013. Besides Fabian Gonzalez’ visit to Florida and Washington D.C., Co-Pres. Sue Mahan traveled in May to several Colombian cities giving presentations on her renowned book “Restoring Justice in Colombia”. John Schoch also visited Colombia for several weeks in July, meeting with various members of the Bogota Chapter and visiting the EUM school with Nury Penagos of the “Our Birds Are Your Birds Too” school-to-school project. An especially important trip was made in October to the 2nd Annual Partners Campus Convention in Medellin by three Partners Campus students from Stetson, led by the local PC President, Aly Delgado. Various Chapter members contributed financial support for that visit. As reported back by the group, they were excited and motivated by that wonderful learning and sharing experience. Our Partners Campus program has also been extended to Miami-Dade College, where Harold Silva has spearheaded the effort.

From time to time we also participate in a variety of other projects, such as Hip-Hop artist, youth sports management, teacher and professional exchanges, donations of emergency response equipment, selected support for social uplift foundations, and international conferences.

Towards the end of 2013, we began planning for events in 2014 focused on commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of both the national Partners of the Americas organization and our Florida Chapter. The key sponsored event will be a Climate Change Symposium at Stetson U. on April 4, but we also intend to provide additional activities at that time, so “stay tuned”.

We were notified that POA will provide a Youth Ambassadors program again in 2014 (fall). Our Chapter has successfully hosted two such groups in the past; so we are exploring how we can serve again as hosts for a group of about 8 student leaders from Colombia. POA continues to offer program opportunities like this for participation by the various Chapters. Our ability to take advantage of those opportunities depends greatly upon our membership and resource base. Therefore, another main goal is to expand that base because the larger it is, the more potential we have for taking advantage of the opportunities to be of service. For those of you reading this report who are not already members or affiliates of our Chapter, we cordially and warmly invite you to attend our meetings and events and to participate in our activities—who knows? You might even be inclined to join our Chapter. Have a great and productive 2014!

For more information, contact: John Schoch, Co-President of the Florida/Colombia Chapter: cell, 386-295-6501 or home, 386-236-8009; email: chazschoch@gmail.com; also see: www.floridacolombiapartners.org