Building relationships across borders

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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From April 21 to 28, a delegation of five judges from the Republic of Georgia gained firsthand experience of the life and lifestyle of Oak Park. Their visit was sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress. The focus of the delegation's program was "Rule of Law: Judicial Independence and Ethics."

The delegates came to Illinois to observe American best practices in the rule of law, to compare and contrast judicial independence and ethics in both countries, and to take back home applicable strategies and practices.  

They spent the week meeting with professionals from a variety of institutions, including the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the University of Chicago Law School. The delegates had roundtable discussions with judges from the 7th Federal District Court, Cook County, and DuPage County courts.

The trip was part of an exchange program administered by the Council of International Programs (CIP), an Illinois-based nonprofit organization, which is an affiliate of CIP USA. It is sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center, whose mission is to enhance understanding and encourage cooperation between the United States and the countries of Eurasia and the Baltic states. Its goal is to develop a network of leaders in the region who have gained significant, first-hand exposure to America's democratic, accountable government and free-market system.

Host family living is an integral part of this exchange program, made possible by four Oak Park families. We were able to learn something about the history and culture of Georgia, which we were largely unfamiliar with before this visit. My wife, Linda Wyco, and I hosted two of the visiting members. This was our first time hosting international professionals through CIP.

Claudia and Tim Divis have hosted several CIP participants from different countries in the past. "We provide a low-stress environment, home cooking, answers for questions, and help in navigating the city," Claudia said of her experience. "Americans participating in this way can learn about other cultures and social systems," she added.

"Host family living is the main vehicle of cross-cultural exchange that is one of the goals of this program," said George Palamattam, executive director of CIP Chicago. CIP Chicago offers a variety of opportunities for community members to be a part of this noble endeavor. Interested individuals may contact CIP at 312-545-6882 or gp@cipchicago.org.

Ken Hooker

Oak Park

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