Creating international connections.
Cultivating local innovation.
Activating global potential.
June 2020
Expand Your World Today
In This Issue...
  • Quote of the Month
  • Sharing a Global Perspective
  • Two Minutes with... Board Member Tim Watkins
  • Alumnus Opens Gelato Festival Store
  • Sign Petition to Help IVLP Alumnus!
  • Stay Informed on COVID-19
  • Career Opportunities
  • Stay Tuned for Upcoming Visitors
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Quote of the Month:

“The United States is a great nation that houses infinite cultures, faces many disasters and finds ways to repair itself. They are not perfect, but they are in the continuous search to improve.” 
~ A visitor from Bolivia on a 2019 program about Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response
Sharing a Global Perspective
Since 1980 IVCLA has been creating global connections between the Los Angeles region and the rest of the world. Although we aren’t able to celebrate our 40 th Anniversary as planned, we are reaching out to our international alumni to share their stories and insights with you. This year also marks the 80 th Anniversary of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program 's (IVLP) which is the primary program IVCLA coordinates. The theme of the IVLP Anniversary celebration is #FacesofExchange . Throughout 2020 this initiative will be recognizing 80 outstanding IVLP alumni. We are pleased to share two of IVCLA’s alumni who are recent honorees. 
IVCLA congratulations our alumna from the United Arab Emirates, Nayla al-Khaja , for being recognized as an IVLP #FacesofExchange honoree. Nayla, a director and producer, came to L.A. in 2010 on the program Film in the U.S. Her meetings in L.A. included the Los Angeles Film School , the International Documentary Association , and Cleveland High School’s global media program and IYMS . After returning home Nayla was inspired by her IVLP Home Hospitality experience in Austin to create The Neighbour , which has won two international film awards. Today, Nayla is CEO of Nayla Al Khaja Films and Chair of the Scene Club, the UAE's first formally recognized film club. Nayla says her IVLP experience also stimulated her to successfully advocate for government sponsored art grants in the UAE and to promote women’s empowerment in the Middle East. 
See Nayla's Film "The Neighbour"
We salute Veronica Corchado Espinoza from Mexico who was also selected as one of the 80 Faces of Exchange. During Veronica’s 2010 program on Civil Society her meetings in L.A. included A Place Called Home, Homeboy Industries, LAPD’s Rampart Community-Police Advisory Board and Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural in Sylmar. She said learning about the initiatives to deter violence in L.A. enabled her to adapt the information and establish The Collective for Arts, Community, and Equality in Ciudad Juarez when she returned home. The organization empowers at-risk youth through education, sports, and the arts. The center stimulates local interest in art but more importantly provides a safe zone for girls and women in some of the city’s most historically violent neighborhoods. Veronica has spent her career working to reduce violence against women and to inspire women to bring about change in their communities using arts and advocacy. She remains globally-minded in her endeavors, actively collaborating with international organizations to reach her goals.
Hussein al-Bohlega from Qatar came to Los Angeles in 2010 as an IVLP participant. He is currently helping to make sure his fellow citizens have the opportunity to learn the facts about COVID-19. During Ramadan he arranged a lively and engaging four-hour virtual ghabga to discuss the social and economic ramifications of COVID-19 on society. A ghabga in Qatar is traditionally an evening get-together and discussion during Ramadan. Hussein’s family has been conducting ghabgas for the last 13 years, so it was only fitting, given the COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings, Hussein introduced the concept of a gender-integrating, virtual ghabga this Ramadan. It is especially noteworthy the young U.S. exchange alumni are playing a leading role in Qatar. Following their time in the U.S. they are inspired to bring lessons learned back to Qatar, as they create platforms for public discourse and push traditional social boundaries.

Seventy-four people participated in the forum; a mixture of youth and prominent opinion leaders in their respective fields of medicine, economy, psychology, academia, journalism, and education. They discussed opportunities to further educate and support youth in Qatar, starting with encouraging them to take social distancing requirements more seriously. They shared the value of more initiatives to help youth cope with the changing times and develop qualities such as self-reliance and resilience to better prepare them for their role as future leaders. Finally, the need to educate youth about fact-checking and verifying one’s sources before sharing news stories to prevent the spread of misinformation was stressed.

Al-Sharq and Lusail, two prominent local newspapers, reported on the innovation of this forum, its transparency, inclusiveness, and its role in bringing expertise directly to Qataris. This program has opened the door for more civil society engagements from our alumni in the future.
Just this past January, Indian Director Abhijit Das came to Los Angeles on an International Leadership Visitor Program focused on "Film as a Medium for Social Change." An advocate for change, Abhijit uses his films to address social issues such as the right to information and transparency in government, the plight of senior citizens, child suicides, and the profiling of Muslim citizens.

During his visit in L.A., IVCLA arranged for Abhijit and his group to meet with co-founder and president of The International Youth Media Summit , Evelyn Seubert, who is now a part of Abhijit's latest film project, "Lockdown Diaries." Mirroring the lockdown countries around the world are experiencing right now due to the pandemic, "Lockdown Diaries," will be produced entirely through social distancing. Read more about Abhijit's message and the production process HERE.
Two Minutes with... Board Member Tim Watkins
We are pleased to provide the second 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 Tim Watkins, CEO of the Watt’s Labor Community Action Committee. Tim frequently hosts IVCLA’s international visitors at WLCAC to discuss a range of topics such as Promoting Tolerance, Job Creation, Empowering Youth, Creating Strong Cities and many more.
IVCLA: What do you find most compelling about IVCLA’s mission and work?

Tim Watkins: The work of IVCLA that compels me most is its ability to bring internationally diverse visitors with complex regional experiences to America to share and learn from each other’s circumstantial perspectives. Watts has been a focal point for international visitors as they seek ‘off the beaten path’ views of life in the most prosperous country in the world. Off the beaten path they have a glimpse of poor public policy and the atrocious symptom of poverty and the gross quality of life disparity that is lived by have-nots.

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?

TW: It’s important to Watts Labor Community Action Committee ( WLCAC) to advocate for the arts as the missing tools in quality of life development within underserved communities. Arts is the conduit through which creative expression and constructive communication most easily passes through. When hitched to social services such as job training, literacy, nutrition and housing strategies, the arts provide the experience that enriches and makes possible the quest for higher learning and life-long self-sufficiency.
IVCLA: If you were hosting an international visitor for a day in Los Angeles, what would you want them to see and do?

TW: The WLCAC Center Museum and Gallery space, the Watts Towers , Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens housing developments.
IVCLA: Describe one of your most interesting/rewarding experiences while traveling in another country.

TW : Hailing from Watts, it was most interesting to visit England for the first time and not see any guns…..anywhere. I was amazed at the absence of deadly tension between police and citizens. Perhaps it was there and missed only by me, but missed nevertheless. 
IVCLA: What is one (or more) of your most treasured objects/memories that you acquired while visiting another country?

TW: Antique toy trains from England and France. Very colorful and exquisitely detailed.

My treasured memory is of joining my father for a trip to Brixton, England in 1986 following the 1985 Brixton riots . Having witnessed the Watts Revolt as a child, I was fascinated by the contract of what Englanders called a riot and the massive loss of life, destruction of property and national instability caused by the Watts Revolt .
IVCLA: What country/culture would you like to explore one day, and why is it on your “bucket list”?

TW: I’d love to visit China. I’m fascinated by its deep historic and cultural experience and how such experience informs todays decisions and posture in our world.

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

TW: No current plans. Too much to do here at home.

IVCLA: What benefit does meeting professionally with IVCLA’s international influencers bring to your field of work?

TW: I benefit from the irony of how much the same we are no matter where we hail from. Poverty may be deeper in places other than America but the pain of it I’m sure is no less. [But] IVCLA needs more funding to accommodate more visitors and to facilitate deeper learning experiences. For example, a couple of hours with a group of visitors from 12 Latin countries is hardly enough to facilitate robust exchange of opinions, ideas and philosophies.

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?

TW: Despite failing to address its original sins of genocide and slavery, America is still the best place on the planet to live if a structured, regulated society is where you’d like to raise your family. In terms of other systems such as medical, education, employment, law and homelessness, the jury remains out.
Alumnus Opens Gelato Festival Store
By Janet Elliott - IVCLA President
Just two weeks before the Safer At Home order took effect, I attended a fabulous Italy-America Chamber event at Gelato Festival in West Hollywood. It may seem expected to use fabulous and gelato in the same sentence, but this was an extraordinary experience in many ways. When I arrived I realized Gelato Festival was not just the name of the event, it was the name of the venue. Right in the middle of the WeHo action on Melrose, Gelato Festival serves delicious handcrafted gelato and Italian coffees, as well as providing gelato-making classes and the experience of a small art gallery and gelato museum. 

As I handed my business-card to owner Gabriele Poli and began my usual spiel about IVCLA’s work, he stopped me by saying, “I am actually a former IVLP participant.” What a surprise to discover an IVLP alumnus opened a business in West Hollywood! He was chosen by the U.S. Embassy in Italy to participate in the IVLP when he was President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association in Florence. I was thrilled to learn how after his trip to D.C., NYC, Portland, St. Louis and Raleigh, (we’re sorry his program didn’t include L.A. – but he’s here now!) he returned to Italy and decided to organize an event in Florence dedicated to artisanal gelato. He chose Florence for the festival because it was there in 1559 that the first gelato recipe was created by artist Bernardo Buontalenti for the Medici court. The Gelato Festival competitions have grown over the past 10 years and now take place around the world. Gelato Festival is considered one of the most followed food events globally and is known to determine the best artisanal gelato in the world.
Fortunately for us, Los Angeles was chosen for the first brick & mortar Gelato Festival location so we can enjoy the awarding winning gelato flavors any time. Unfortunately for Gabriel, the timing was definitely not ideal. The grand opening was only five months before the COVID-19 closures began. As with all small businesses these days it is a struggle as he and his mom, sisters and cousins continue running the business. They create the incredible gelato flavors which you can enjoy with curb-side service and by ordering online.

Not only can you treat yourself to an international delight, you can feel good about supporting an IVLP alumnus and one of our newest local businesses during this difficult time!

Check out the link below for the current flavors – including oat milk and vegan options.
Sign Petition to Help IVLP Aumnus!
In February 2016 Ekpar Asat was a participant in the U.S Department of State IVLP. He was chosen to participate in the program because of his work as a bright, young entrepreneur, having built the most prominent Uighur digital media platform, known as Bagdax .  But three weeks after returning to China from that program, he disappeared into the shadows of a vast secret detention system in Xinjiang , a region in northwest China.

In 2016, as he was departing the U.S., he visited his older sister, Rayhan Asat, in New York and had plans to return in a few months with their parents to watch her graduate with a master’s degree from Harvard Law School - the first ethnic Uighur to do so. However that was the last time Rayhan saw her brother. She recently heard he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

She has now started a petition to aid in her brother’s release. She says, “I have tried other forms of advocacy to seek my brother’s release, and have come to realize that speaking out and raising awareness is the only way to effect real change. On behalf of my brother, I am appealing to you, the public. Be a light for my brother! Together, we can put an end to this injustice. Please sign this petition, send it to your friends, and above all, speak out about the Chinese government’s horrendous actions in Xinjiang.”
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. If you have made connections with IVCLA International Visitors over the years, now is a good time to reach out to see how they are doing. 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
Free Testing Now Open to Critical Workers HERE
COVID-19 and City Diplomacy
Ambassador Nina Hachigian, Deputy Mayor of International Affairs for the City of Los Angeles, shared in the Office of International Affairs’ recent newsletter the importance of international relationships and city diplomacy at this critical time.

"Our international partnerships are more important than ever. This global crisis has reinforced how connected we are, and, during this challenging time, our international friendships have only gotten stronger. We are working with cities and governments around the world to share and learn best practices to combat this virus and reimagine what our city will look like in the weeks, months, and years to come. 
Last month, we received donations of 15,000 masks and face coverings, 65,000 gloves, and 54,000 face shields from the Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese American communities. The Taiwanese American community in Los Angeles has also donated over $2 million to the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. And among the largest donations we have received to date, $5 million dollars, was given by the State of Qatar through the Consulate of Qatar to provide critical support to Angelenos in need. As chair of C40, Mayor Garcetti has convened three calls to date with dozens of global mayors to share best practices. We’ve also had important technical conversations around testing and reopening with the cities of Auckland, Guangzhou, Barcelona and the governments of Denmark, Israel and Taiwan."
Donating Blood Matters!
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect millions of Americans, other serious health issues continue to endanger many members of our community. If you are in good health and able to donate blood, now more than ever there is a greater demand for your help! Find your location HERE!
Career Opportunities
Natalia Lvovich, IVCLA’s Director of International Programs, recently participated in a panel discussion Ready, Set, Go! Finding Your First Job in the Network hosted by Global Ties U.S. The discussion, which was for young professionals and college students, focused on career opportunities within the Global Ties network of organizations. The second in the series is for young professionals and will take place on June 4 th at 11:00 a.m. PDT. It will address the next steps in a career within the network. If you are interested in participating you may contact Natalia Lvovich at for the login information.
Stay Tuned for Upcoming International Visitors
The IVLP has been postponed until September 30 th 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 .
Editor: Andrea Martinez
Communications & Events Coordinator
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