(Pictured above – Una Hartzell-Baird, Operations Manager at LUNA, Mary Kane, President and CEO of Sister Cities International and Jane Ghelhausen, Director of the Mayor’s Office of International and Cultural Affairs)

contributed by Una Hartzell-Baird

My work with LUNA Language Services has lead me to a variety of great opportunities to meet people from our diverse communities in Indy.  One of my favorite activities is volunteering with Sister Cities Fest each year. The Indianapolis Sister Cities Program includes eight cities from around the world and engages the diverse and growing community of refugees, immigrants and ex-pats in Indianapolis.

In the Summer of 2015 I had the great pleasure of attending the Sister Cities International Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The highlights of the three day conference included a walking tour through the Skywalks in downtown Minneapolis; accepting the award for Innovation: Arts and Culture for the Indianapolis Sister Cities Fest; and connecting with other Sister Cities programs (big and small!) around the country.

I expected to meet folks from all over the US and even the world.  What I didn’t expect was to meet my very own State Representative, Christina Hale.  Her leadership experience with Kiwanis International led to her serving on a panel discussing the new relationship between Sister Cities International and Kiwanis.

Six hundred miles from home I connected with an Indiana supporter of the Deaf community and a woman with a great understanding of the importance of language access.   Representative Hale served as the Chief Communications Officer for Kiwanis International and experienced first-hand the impact language makes.  Our work at LUNA offers us the opportunity to provide services to large companies competing in the global marketplace.  It also allows us to amplify the voices of those community members not heard because they don’t speak English

The conference participants, many of whom are volunteers, have since returned home with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and revitalized vigor to carry on the work of citizen diplomacy with an emphasis on including youth in our efforts.  The conference theme was “Bridging Generations for Peace” and emphasized the importance of educating and involving the youth of today as an investment in tomorrow’s diplomacy and international relations.  As an avid supporter of and volunteer for Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, I walked away with many ideas to engage girls in citizen diplomacy and help promote the Youth Leadership Summit. Who knows, maybe next year your daughter will be one of the Indy students attending the summit and expanding her knowledge and circle of friends.