Creating international connections.
Cultivating local innovation.
Activating global potential.
January 2021
Expand Your World Today
In This Issue...
  • Quote of the Month
  • Thank You to Our Donors
  • Remembering Tom LaBonge
  • Sharing a Global Perspective
  • Two Minutes with... Board Member Lourdes Saab
  • Help IVCLA Represent the USA at Dubai World Expo
  • Community Events
  • Stay Informed on COVID-19
  • Upcoming International Virtual Programs
Click the button below to check out our past newsletters:
Quote of the Month:

“The Civil Rights struggle for African Americans resulted in the prospect of equal rights for all minorities. Problems of racism, sexism, and homophobia became interlinked. It’s something we need to learn in Brazil, to fight for all minorities. It doesn’t seem like any one group is fighting alone here."

~ Robson Anselmo Santos, a visitor from Brazil on a 2016 program about Social Inclusion in the U.S.
A Special Thank You to Our 2020 Year End Donors!
It's people like you who make our work possible! With your support, we are able to create high-quality, people-to-people exchange programs that address today's most pressing challenges and increase international understanding between Los Angeles and the world.

We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the supporters who contributed to our 2020 year-end giving campaign:
Dr. Yahia Abdul-Rahman
Robert Banks
John & Ginger Barnard
Amy Berstein
June & Paul Bilgore
Allen & Sybil Cayir
Paul Deibel
Lanie Denslow
Clive Fleissig & Pamela Podemski-Fleissig
Margaret Gaffney
Wendy Gladney
Virginia Hatfield
Marie-Noelle Herve-Bart
Laura King
Mable Kong
Karen Lachter
Jessica Lawson
Thomas Malone
Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah
Sherry Mueller
Marissa Nance
John & Nancy Richardson
Linda Linstrom Rice
Lourdes Saab
Thomas Safran
Barry Simon
Hannah Stoddard
Paul Supnik
Neal Thomas
Nivine Woods
Nick Zigic
Thank you for believing in the power of Citizen Diplomacy! It is never too late to contribute and help make 2021 the best year yet!
Remembering Tom LaBonge
Last Thursday IVCLA was deeply saddened to hear of the sudden and untimely death of former City Councilman Tom LaBonge. He died in his Silverlake home where his wife Brigid attempted to wake him after he fell asleep on the couch, but he was unresponsive. In 2001 Tom filled the city council seat left vacant after Councilman John Ferraro’s death. He was then elected to the position and served as City Councilman for the 4th District from 2001-2015, when he retired due to term limits. 

A joint message from Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Nury Martinez said in part, “Our hearts are heavy with the passing of former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. In a city of four million Angelenos, Tom LaBonge was Mr. Los Angeles…. As a councilmember, he took care of his constituents and was a champion of one of L.A.’s greatest treasures, Griffith Park. He loved Los Angeles and Los Angeles loved him right back.”

Tom was a former IVCLA Board Member and a consistent friend to IVCLA. He was always eager to share with others his vast knowledge of the city’s history, its landmarks, its public spaces and its people, including those from around world. As IVCLA Board Chair Mike McDowell shared, “While never losing sight of addressing his constituents’ needs both large and small, Tom also felt deeply that Los Angeles could and should contribute significantly to advancing peace and prosperity internationally through citizen-diplomacy and the robust exchange of art, culture, goodwill, insights, scholarship, science and service. And he worked tirelessly throughout his career to foster, support and expand that effort. May his memory be a blessing to all who were fortunate to know him.”

Tom graciously met with IVCLA’s international participants and when time permitted he would pile them into his Ford Crown Victoria and give them a first-hand tour of his favorite spots. Needless to say they remembered the warmth and generosity they received from a L.A. Councilman when they returned home. He was a true Citizen Diplomat! IVCLA Board Member Kathy Jones Irish, a long-time colleague and friend of Tom’s said, “IVCLA has truly lost one of its best champions and advocates for the value of nurturing international relationships and the beauty of global cultural exchange.” 

Dedicated to international people-to-people relationships, Tom was Chairman Emeritus of Sister Cities of Los Angeles and worked closely with the Los Angeles County Consular Corps and the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. Patti MacJennett, Senior V.P. at the L.A. Tourism & Convention Board and IVCLA Board Member said, “Tom's love for Los Angeles and zest for life inspired so many of us. He was a true champion for tourism promoting the diversity of our communities to the people next door and to visitors from around the world. He truly understood the value of global relationships as a catalyst for positive change and understanding.”

Tom LaBonge always worked for a better Los Angeles and a better world. Los Angeles and the world are diminished by the loss of this dynamic individual. He will be missed greatly!
Sharing a Global Perspective
Last year the U.S. Department of State celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) by acknowledging 80 stellar IVLP alumni in an initiative called #FacesofExchange. Throughout 2020 IVCLA shared the stories of those IVLP alumni who had come to Los Angeles. We are pleased to share the final IVCLA alumni who was recognized with this honor. 

IVCLA's 80 Faces of Exchange Alumni
Muhammad Azfar Ahsan is a global influencer and entrepreneur based in Pakistan. IVCLA was honored to have this dynamic individual come to Los Angeles in 2008 as a participant in an IVLP focused on NGO Management of Youth Programs. In 2003 Muhammad founded the Nutshell Forum, which is now regarded as one of Pakistan’s most prominent conference management companies. His company has organized more than 400 national and international seminars, workshops, and conferences throughout Pakistan, Bahrain, Dubai, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, that connect senior government officials, high profile speakers, and celebrities. In 2008, he was a founding member of the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network.

During his IVLP in Los Angeles his meetings included interacting with leaders and representatives at the Western Justice Foundation, the Youth Justice Coalition, and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to discuss the pivotal role that NGOs play in the support and development of American youth. IVCLA also arranged a volunteer activity with the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House, a "home away from home" for families of seriously ill children who are receiving care in Southern California. During these meetings he learned about the inner workings of nonprofits and think tanks. Upon his return to Pakistan he formed the Regional Center for Research and Dialogue, a private sector think tank promoting the social, economic, and political rebuilding of South Asian countries.

Over the past 17 years Muhammad has managed dozens of community projects in Pakistan regarding issues of health and education, has been involved in advocacy campaigns, and worked to engage the leadership of six political parties in Karachi. With his experiences and achievements as a change maker, Muhammad continues to build connections between individuals from different backgrounds and advances U.S.-Pakistan relations. We salute Muhammad for being recognized as one of the IVLP’s 80 Faces of Exchange Alumni.
Although we are not able to welcome our international visitors to the L.A. area during this unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic, we are looking forward to welcoming more remarkable visitors from around the world as soon as it is safe. In the meantime, IVCLA has reached out to our international alumni to share their stories and insights with you.
In February, before the world shut down, IVCLA welcomed 23 visitors from 23 countries on the topic of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. Their program in Los Angeles included meetings with Operation USA, Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Center, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Unit, and Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) Project.

Back in November, we had the chance to catch-up with one of the participants, Major Paris Samoutis, Deputy Head of the Crisis Management Department for Cyprus’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He told us that almost immediately upon returning to Cyprus he became fully engaged in efforts to combat our common invisible threat, COVID-19. He shared with us that during their time in Los Angeles a discussion had taken place amongst the group about whether it was the correct approach by the Department of State to include doctors in the program. He said, “Even if the majority of our IVLP colleagues supported the idea that first responders are mostly the civil protection, fire brigade, police departments, the army, etc., my opinion was strong and clear, medical services are definitely a part of the core team of the first responders when emergencies and crisis occur. And I even raised the coronavirus as an example. I said we will have the time to verify my position when we see this corona virus become a pandemic, and medical services will stand at the first line.” 

Unfortunately his prediction was right. The coronavirus quickly evolved into a global pandemic and the medical service personnel became our heroes. Paris shared his situation in Cyprus, “We immediately activated our mechanism to confront this crisis which was coming toward Europe. My obligation was to activate the National Crisis Management Centre, which I was the coordinator at that time.” An article written about their efforts was featured on the Council of the European Union’s Facebook page. Paris ended his message by stressing, “I admire the excellent job you are doing”.
IVCLA was happy to reconnect with Adrian Sealey of Trinidad and Tobago. Adrian was highlighted in IVCLA’s September Newsletter as part of the IVLP #FacesofExchange 80th Anniversary campaign. Adrian came to Los Angeles in 2017 as an IVLP participant where he joined community leaders from across the world to share best practices and learn municipal-level approaches to countering violent extremism and radicalization. Thanks to our Facebook post we were able to connect with Adrian and learn more about the impact of his time in the Los Angeles area.

In 2013 Adrian co-founded the Ryu Dan Dojo martial arts academy. Adrian realized he could positively mentor the youths who looked up to him the same way he looked up to his Martial Arts instructor. His extensive community work with the Dojo captured the eyes of the U.S. Embassy in Port-of-Spain, which led to Adrian’s selection as an IVLP participant in 2017.
During his IVLP he met with civic leaders and police officers to discuss the importance of pro-active community policing, particularly when working with at-risk youths. Adrian shared that one of the highlights of his L.A. program was his visit to Anaheim, where he met former Mayor Tom Tait who shared Anaheim’s model of “Make Kindness Contagious”. Inspired by this, Adrian returned to Trinidad & Tobago and shared the lessons learned with the Ryu Dan Dojo. In 2018 he was allowed to use Anaheim’s theme of making kindness contagious to launch the "Unity in the Community, Make Kindness Contagious Initiative" (pictured below). 

Currently, Adrian is serving as a Police Constable for the Community Relations Department at the Chaguanas Police Station. He told IVCLA about his latest initiative, “I was encouraged and supported to create a community-based group to combat crime in the community. And from it, the Crown Trace Youth Empowerment Committee (CTYEC) was formed.” The CTYEC used the Postman Recreational Ground, a breeding ground of crime in the community, as the location to initiate Anaheim’s Make Kindness Contagious campaign. They highlighted positive deeds of the community that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Adrian noted, “This strategy resulted in positive behavioral modification and changed the stigma that had been placed on the recreational grounds."
In October 2020, the United States Embassy awarded Adrian (pictured left) for his outstanding community service to localize the “Make Kindness Contagious” campaign which he learned about during his IVCLA program. After our December Facebook post, Adrian was featured on “Inspire TT”, a segment from the local news channel CNC3. You can watch the full segment here!

It is alumni like Adrian who make IVCLA's work so meaningful. Seeing alumni take ideas from the meetings we arrange, collaborate with our resources, and implement or improve upon issues in their countries makes the work we do worthwhile.
Two Minutes with... Board Member Lourdes Saab
We are pleased to provide the seventh in our series of interviews with the IVCLA Board of Directors. In the coming months we look forward to providing candid conversations with each Director. This month we talk with Lourdes Saab, Chief of Protocol for the County of Los Angeles.
IVCLA: What do you find most compelling about IVCLA’s mission and work?

LS: IVCLA is uniquely positioned to bring to Los Angeles upcoming leaders from many countries to visit the U.S. and meet with their counterparts to learn and share ideas. In the process, the visitors and hosts gain a deeper understanding of each other’s work successes and challenges.

IVCLA: Our programs directly address some of the world’s most pressing issues: countering government disinformation, creating sustainable communities, promoting tolerance through the arts, empowering women in leadership, controlling infectious diseases, eliminating human trafficking, and alleviating chronic poverty and hunger, to name just a few. What global issue is most important to you for IVCLA to develop deeper ties between L.A. and the rest of the world?

LS: Creating sustainable communities is a pressing issue faced by all countries. The second most pressing issue is to counteract misinformation by empowering youth with critical listening skills so that they can discern disinformation.
IVCLA: If you were hosting an international visitor for a day in Los Angeles, what would you want them to see and do?

LS: I would show them Olvera Street, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, downtown financial district, Koreatown, Hollywood and Vine, Griffith Park Observatory, and depending on the season, a performance at the Hollywood Bowl or one of the five Music Center venues.
IVCLA: Describe one of your most interesting experiences while traveling in another country.

LS: As a teenager I spent a summer in Germany with a family as part of the Youth for Understanding Program. I saw first-hand how the schools taught the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust and heard from German youth their regret for the atrocities committed.
IVCLA: What is one (or more) of your most treasured objects that you acquired while visiting another country?

LS: These two objects represent beautiful memories of two countries that represent my heritage and my love: Three beautiful watercolors from Mexican artists and a cedar wood object made from the historical Cedars of Lebanon.
IVCLA: What country/culture would you like to explore one day, and why is it on your “bucket list”?

LS: I would love to visit South America and go to the archeological sites in Peru and Bolivia.

IVCLA: Where are you planning to travel internationally next and what do you hope to discover/experience?

LS: I would love to re-visit Baalbek in Lebanon and tour the ruins for a day with an expert guide.

IVCLA: If there was only one thing you’d like residents of other countries to know about Americans and the U.S., what would it be?

LS: Except for Native Americans, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. The promise of freedom, opportunity is what binds us, and the result is that we enjoy the fruits of our diversity in our food, culture, music, science and business.
Help IVCLA Represent the USA at Dubai World Expo
You can be part of an exciting global event! Taking place October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022, the World Expo will welcome 192 participating countries and approximately 25 million visitors from across the globe.


IVCLA and Global Ties U.S. are seeking 75 Youth Ambassadors to serve as guides and cultural ambassadors for the USA Pavilion at the Expo in Dubai! Youth Ambassadors will be the human connection to the U.S. and its territories, reflecting its geographic and cultural diversity. Youth Ambassadors must be energetic, friendly, and people-oriented, as they will serve as the "Faces of America" to millions of Expo visitors.

To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen between 18-29 (no younger than 18 and no older than 29 as of August 1, 2021). Youth Ambassadors’ expenses (travel, lodging, per diem) are covered. Language abilities (i.e. Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin, Hindi, Russian, Urdu, Bengali, French, or Spanish) are an asset, but not required in order to apply.

Applications will remain open until Feb 26, 2021. However, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.

Want more information? Check-out the USA Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai, or GlobalTies U.S. websites or contact Janet Elliott at with any questions.

Ready to apply? The application portal is open! Apply here.

Want a closer look? Explore the USA Pavilion here.

Share your talent as a cultural performers for the USA Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai! IVCLA will be nominating cultural performers to showcase American cultural diversity and innovation across disciplines including but not limited to music, dance, theater, literature, film, cuisine, and sport, as well as subject-matter experts/speaking engagements on innovation, technology, space and other creative/innovative platforms of expression or entertainment!

Applications are open now through March 15, 2021. Please note that performers will be selected on a rolling basis. Performers’ expenses (travel, lodging, meals) are covered.

If you or someone you know would be interested in this opportunity, please contact Janet Elliott at first for more details.

Want a closer look? Explore the U.S. Pavilion here.
Community Events
The World Trade Week committee offers scholarships to aspiring students in international trade fields. Scholarships are awarded to outstanding graduating high school seniors entering an accredited college or university with the goal of a career in international trade, as well as college students pursuing international degrees. By fostering international trade education and international business development, the committee hopes to develop a network of international trade professionals willing to provide mentoring to future students interested in international business.

Applications are open for High School and College/University students! Click here for more details. The deadline is Friday, March 5, 2021.
Stay Informed on COVID-19
The IVCLA staff and board send good thoughts to all our members and friends. Although our work creating people-to-people connections isn’t possible right now, we look forward to hosting more international visitors as soon as it’s safe. We can all do our part to lend moral support to others, not only in Los Angeles, but around the world. This unprecedented global crisis can only be solved by coming together to share all of our knowledge, expertise, and goodwill. We are stronger together!      
An informative, infographic global report of the COVID-19 data is HERE

Check out the volunteer opportunities in Los Angeles HERE

Free COVID-19 Testing Available for Eligible Angelenos HERE

LA County COVID-19 Vaccine Information HERE
Upcoming International Virtual Programs
The International Visitors Council of Los Angeles will be back with
more virtual programs next month.
In-person IVLP has been postponed until June 2021, and our other exchange programs have been postponed until further notice. We look forward to welcoming more remarkable visitors from around the world as soon as it is safe. In the meantime, as the entire world struggles through this crisis together, IVCLA is reaching out to international alumni and we welcome suggestions to highlight in our newsletter. If you would like to recommend a visitor you have stayed in touch with, please contact Janet Elliott at