International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is an international program run by the U.S. State Department addressed to leaders in partner countries and aimed at sharing experience in various areas of public life, such as politics, media, business, education, science or culture. The guests go to the USA and take part in study visits that meet their interests and allow to share their experience. An important element of that study tour is seeing the United States directly.
This year, thanks to cooperation of the Department of State, Polish-American Freedom Foundation, the U.S. Embassy and the School of Leaders Foundation, twelve alumni of PAFF Leaders program went on the study tour under IVLP. The leaders had to wait for that trip for two years as study tours were stopped due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The group of visitors was composed of: Jolanta Czernicka-Siwecka (Iskierka Foundation, the Board Chairperson, Chorzów), Monika Kozdraś-Grzesik (Local Space Foundation, the Board President, Błażowa), Izabela Janczak-Bizoń (Speed-ball Polska Federation, the Vice President, Trzemieśnia), Jolanta Kaczmarczyk (St. Padre Pio Foundation, the Board Member and Vice Director, Kraków), Agata Krzyżek-Gola (RAINBOW Association of Parents and friends of children with Down Syndrom, the Vice President, Kraków), Marcin Pera (Jerzy Turowicz Association –Tygodnik Powszechny weekly clubs, the President, Września), Michał Gaczkowski (Sulejów For Generations Association, Sulejów City Council Chairman, Sulejów), Jolanta Woźnicka (OPUS Promotion and Civil Initiatives Center, the Board Member, Łódź), Bożena Skoczeń (Borowik Association, the Board Chairperson, Nowe Miasteczko), Aleksandra Muzińska (Fund for Change, the Founder and Board Member, Warszawa), Anna Nawrot (Śląski University in Katowice, Access Coordinator, Katowice), and Renata Martyniak (Orawa Development Association, the Board Member, Lipnica Wielka).
The group of leaders started their adventure in the USA with participation in celebrations of the Independence Day. The contents-related visit started in New York on July 5, and finished in Pittsburg on July 13. The PAFF Leaders visited three cities: New York, Iowa City, and Pittsburgh. They had an opportunity to learn about NGOs operations, meet representatives of local institutions and take part in workshops on fundraising.
In New York, at the official opening of the study tour, the participants were welcomed by representatives of the US State Department Dina Suggs and Jenny Eisenberg. In State of New York the leaders visited among the others the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). The WRC’s mission is to improve the standard pf living and protect the rights of women, children and young people who left their countries escaping the conflicts. WRC analyses their needs, works out the solutions and finds the politicians who can strengthen their resistance and make refugee support processes more efficient. During the meeting they focused on women and the disabled inclusion into creation of programs for refugees. Members of the organization informed the PAFF leaders how they use professional social surveys to enhance activities for refugees. In turn, Janice Holzman of Row New York presented the method of running the fundraising campaign for team sports of disadvantaged people. She also shared her rich experience in creation of strategic plans of fundraising campaigns for poorly developed areas. Next there were workshops with Don Waisanen of Baruch College, City University of New York, on storytelling.
Another place visited by the PAFF Leaders alumni was The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation in the State of Iowa active in promotion of charity donations. The organization helps to contact donors with recipients, enhances non-profit organizations operating in its area and coordinates these organizations’ network. Then the IVLP participants played the role of volunteers of Table to Table organization. Its mission is preventing the healthy, edible food waste through collecting it from donors and providing to people in need via aid institutions. The participants wrote later that this active time was the perfect space for integration but also showed them how much can be done if you have the support from volunteers. They were also surprised to learn how many seniors were willing to engage in aid activities in their free time. And finally the study tour participants visited Global Ties Iowa organization which helps the visitors to the United States learn about the State of Iowa potential, and experience sharing, as well as facilitates the residents of Iowa meet people coming from all over the world and build local community’s global ties. For PAFF leaders it was a chance to discover the small town America, for example by paying visits to American families. The participants assessed it as a valuable experience showing openness and kindness to other people which are the necessary basis for all activities related to volunteering and financial supporting NGOs.
The last stop was in Pittsburgh, State of Pennsylvania, where Peggy Outon of The Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University conducted workshops of fundraising and showed how efficient the cooperation between a University and business can be in the area of local community support. During that workshop the leaders could tell about their organizations, share their problems and learn what advice and solutions can be. Also, the leaders had an opportunity to learn about what activities and methods of getting funding the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh applies. The library has created a wide range of methods which donors can support it with, e.g. by offering a tool allowing to create website dedicated to fundraising campaigns run by the library.
Every visit to each organization and each conversation were valuable. Original information, new activities and methods, different attitudes to fundraising for organization activities, a small portion of America – all these has made the participants unanimously agree that IVLP 2022 was the trip of their life. “The time we spent together as a group allowed us to get to know each other. Now we know our strong points, profiles of organizations we work for, and this will allow us here, in Poland, draw from these resources and maybe enter close cooperation. Looking from the inside one can see that America also has some problems (…) However, people we met showed us the strength of cooperation, optimism and energy to solve these problems. And we intend to use this energy!,” the PAFF leaders declare.