For several decades, the US government has been inviting around 5.5 thousand people from all over the world as part of various government programs guests who are socially engaged in their countries. For me, the nomination was a great surprise and honor, and participation in 2017 edition of IVLP has been an extremely valuable experience, mainly due to three aspects: entrepreneurial, cultural and touristic one.
“How is it done in America?”
The topic of the IVLP program, in which I had the pleasure to participate, concerned management in non-governmental organizations. Therefore, within three weeks our group of about 20 people each day held meetings with representatives of numerous institutions and non-governmental organizations in many cities and states of America. This allowed participants to become acquainted with the structures and legal environment in which NGOs in the US operate, as well as to exchange experiences in the field of raising funds and the model of operation of individual organizations. It was possible to observe the very widespread involvement of American society in charity, whether through volunteering or financial support for selected NGOs. Participation in the program was also an opportunity to take part in various cultural events, such as the Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C., or the equality parade in Albuquerque. In spite of the very tense travel and meeting plan we also had the opportunity to organize meetings outside the program.
Implementation of the plan was possible thanks to the fantastic care of three tutors who were at the disposal of the whole group. Liaisons – as they are called – accompanied us in all meetings, made sure that none of the participants was left without proper care and answered all questions. Also on a private level, they were extremely friendly, sympathetic and polite people.
Clash of cultures, or intercultural confrontation
The second, equally interesting aspect was the integration with the other participants of the program. The group included representatives of 20 countries (of which 19 from outside the European Union), representing different cultures, viewpoints, religions. Relations with citizens of countries such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Uganda, the Kingdom of Lesotho, Singapore, and Kaliningrad in an amazing way opens the mind to the diversity of nations and races. Discussions about cultural, religious and political background were on the agenda, allowing even better acquaintance with the other guests of the program, as well as to create unique friendships.
“We are tourists!”
Last, but not least – an extremely valuable aspect of participating in IVLP was the opportunity to visit America. In three weeks we had the opportunity to see 6 cities, from Washington, D.C., through Springfield (Massachusetts), Albuquerque and Santa Fe (New Mexico), to Sacramento and San Francisco (California). We had the opportunity to see the amazing geographic, climatic and cultural diversity. At least its small portion.
It is impossible to indicate which meeting was the most valuable. Every event, every conversation, every lecture was a very valuable source of knowledge and experience. For sure, each of them was an inspiration for reflection in terms of the activities of domestic NGOs. Participation in IVLP is a powerful dose of knowledge, experience, contacts, inspiration and motivation to act.