Creating international connections
Cultivating local innovation
Activating global potential
June 2021
Expand Your World Today
In This Issue...
  • Quote of the Month
  • Sharing a Global Perspective
  • Two Minutes with... Board Member Yael Swerdlow
  • Welcome IVCLA Summer Intern
  • Lives Not Grades
  • Vaccine Diplomacy
  • GTUS 2021 National Meeting
  • International Opportunities
  • Community Events
  • Stay Informed on COVID-19
  • Upcoming International Programs
Click the button below to check out our past newsletters:
Quote of the Month:

“We usually come to know about a country through media, but with the IVLP I was [given] the opportunity to have direct interaction with [American] people. And it's people that are always different from what is practically seen."

~ Siraj Ul Haq, a visitor from the Pakistan on a 2019 program about Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management
Sharing a Global Perspective
Although we aren’t yet able to welcome international visitors to Greater L.A., we are creating virtual programming for our International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants. While it’s not the same as meeting in person, we are pleased we can continue to build dialogue and communication channels with our remarkable visitors from around the world. We look forward to welcoming them in person just as soon as it is safe. 
By Vaugh Nahapetian, IVCLA Intern
Junior at St. Francis High School in La Canada

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a meeting with 15 IVLP participants from eight different countries in East Asia and the Pacific. Their program was on the topic Intellectual Property Rights Regulation Formation. IVCLA arranged a virtual discussion for the group with Deputy Sheriff Enrique Godinez from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD), and Kris Buckner and Keven Reyes with Investigative Consultants.

Deputy Godinez provided insight into how LASD combats intellectual property theft in the county and he stressed the importance of their collaboration with Investigative Consultants as they work on undercover investigations with hidden cameras, microphones and all. They discussed IPR cases pertaining to manufacturing, distribution, and the responsibility of resellers to do their due diligence to make sure what they are buying “at a good price” is authentic and legitimate. They explained in cases such as counterfeit vape pens, make-up or prescription drugs, it becomes a public health issue, as there is no ingredient regulation, no manufacturing practices in place, no sanitation standards, and people can overdose or have allergic reactions to these fake products. An insightful Q&A session provided the participants with an understanding of how various new strategies might be utilized to combat the issue in their home countries.

Overall I saw the meeting reflected IVCLA's mission of connecting people to discuss important global issues. Through the discussion IVCLA arranged, there was a global sharing of information on one of the most pressing issues for the manufacturing sector.
Four years after IVCLA welcomed a group of women entrepreneurs from St. Petersburg, Russia to Los Angeles, the IVCLA staff, resources and members enjoyed an engaging virtual reunion with the women. The Congressional Office of International Leadership (formerly Open World Leadership Center) coordinated the session with the five women who were participants in the 2017 Open World program Los Angeles-St. Petersburg: Community Focused Women Entrepreneurs in Sister Cities.
IVCLA arranged for the women to reengage with Mary McCormick, CEO of MBI Media and Deanna Evans, Executive Director of Startup UCLA, who had both shared their expertise with them when they came to L.A. Since Los Angeles and St. Petersburg are Sister Cities, so IVCLA was pleased to have Yoomee Ha, the new Executive Director for Sister Cities of Los Angeles, join the conversation. IVCLA members host Open World participants in their homes during their time in L.A. Two of the home hosts, Judy Chiasson and Michele Franchett, were able to join the reunion to catch-up with their guests and share memories. One of the participants, Olga Bykova, was pleased to share that following her visit to Los Angeles she began publishing a new magazine for women entrepreneurs called WE. You can also check out her website here.

IVCLA is planning a World Partners trip to St. Petersburg in May 2022, which had originally been scheduled in 2020. We look forward to collaborating with our IVCLA alumni on the plans for the trip!
Two Minutes with... Board Member Yael Swerdlow
We are pleased to provide the twelfth 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 Yael Swerdlow, Co-Founder/President of the Women’s Empowerment Foundation and CEO/Founder of Maestro Games, SPC.
IVCLA: What do you find most compelling about IVCLA’s mission and work?

YS: The normalcy of the interactions. Once the initial formality gives way and the ice is broken, the visitors from their respective countries become friends most often very quickly, especially now with the help of social media – we become part of each other’s lives.

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?

YS: All of them are equally important in my view.

IVCLA: If you were hosting an international visitor for a day in Los Angeles, what would you want them to see and do?

YS: We’d sit in a café and get to know each other for a bit, and I would ask them what they want to see and do.

IVCLA: Describe one of your most interesting experiences while traveling in another country.

YS: Too many to name. That’s an impossible task.
IVCLA: What is one of your most treasured objects or memories that you acquired while visiting another country?

YS: No objects, just relationships. 

Pictured left: Yael on assignment in Baidoa, Somalia. In summer of 1994, Yael traveled to Rwanda, Somalia, and Southern Sudan on behalf of the International Medical Corps to document the reestablishment of medical infrastructure in those war-torn countries. In 2005, the Transitional Federal Government established temporary headquarters in Baidoa before relocating the Somalian capitol to Mogadishu.
IVCLA: What country/culture would you like to explore one day, and why is it on your “bucket list”?

YS: Japan! I am drawn to the East.

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

YS: The stillness in the gardens of Kyoto.
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?

YS: We are not a monolith.

IVCLA: What role would you like to see IVCLA play in helping the world heal following the COVID-19 pandemic?

YS: Healing the damage that Trump has caused.
Welcome IVCLA Branding & Communications Intern
IVCLA is pleased to welcome Emilia Miller, our 2021 Spring/Summer intern. Emilia is a rising senior at The George Washington University pursuing a B.A. in International Affairs with a Cross-Cultural Communication minor. We appreciate her enthusiasm for IVCLA’s work and look forward to having her as part of the IVCLA team!

Emilia shares, “Having been born and raised in Los Angeles County, I am excited to engage with both my own community and those abroad through IVCLA. As a child of two immigrant parents, I have enjoyed learning about global perspectives on different issues for as long as I can remember. I also currently speak Swedish and German, and hope to begin learning Spanish or Russian soon. Within my more formal study of international affairs, some of my primary interests include conflict resolution and peacebuilding, as well as gender, conflict, and security issues. In the fall of 2020, I had the amazing opportunity to intern with the State Department’s Office of International Visitors. During my time there I was able to work on the Faces of Exchange initiative and engage with a number of emerging international leaders. It fostered an understanding for the importance of citizen diplomacy and its role in bridging gaps to encourage connections, cooperation, and dialogues that may not have been possible otherwise. I am passionate about IVCLA’s work in bolstering global collaboration, and eager to continue learning about exchange!"
Lives Not Grades
Lives Not Grades, a new film co-produced and funded in part by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, takes viewers inside "the world's worst refugee camp," where USC students design and build innovations to improve conditions.
"What if we used the same passion and intellect that went into designing the iPhone and self-driving cars to solve the greatest challenges of our time? What if that's what we taught in schools?" These are the questions that sparked the creation of the Innovation in Engineering Design for Global Challenges course through the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USC.

The course was created by four professors: Burcin Becerik-Gerber, David Gerber, Brad Cracchiola and Daniel Druhora. The objective: solving the global refugee crisis. The course’s motto, and the appropriately-named title of the film, is “Lives, not Grades.” The film follows a team of USC college students as they design and build innovations to improve the lives of refugees fleeing wars and natural disasters. “That’s what we’re here for,” Brad says to his students, “impacting people’s lives for real, not writing papers. This is about people who desperately need help on the other side of the world and we’re not playing around.”

During the course, the team takes two trips to Lesvos, Greece to visit inside the Moria refugee camp for a real world encounter with the crisis at hand. The goal is to implement practical solutions for the people living inside the camp in less than a year. The first trip was to interview the people they will be helping so they could better understand their most pressing issues and what would help in their day-to-day lives. With this information, they travel back to Los Angeles and begin prototyping.

After months at the drawing table, it was time to go back with their products and get user feedback. This was one of the most powerful parts of the film. The students received feedback on what did and didn’t work with their products, but more importantly their eyes were opened to the harsh realities they were dealing with. They saw the overwhelming humanitarian crisis for the people in Moria (and other camps like it). They were stunned by the devastation these people have experienced, people who were educated, had careers, led normal lives before. They were humbled by the realization their impact on this huge global crisis would be very tiny. One student remarked “…the only way to make a substantial impact is through systemic change.

As of January 2021, students of the course have launched numerous social innovation start-ups including Duet, Safar, Torch, Key, Frontida and more.

After the premiere of the film, IVCLA reached out to Dr. Becerik-Gerber. In 2019 she had met with IVCLA’s #HiddenNoMore group of women on STEAM. She remembers, “The joy of seeing so many female leaders in my lab; it was very encouraging and I enjoyed the conversation very much.” When asked about the film Burcin shared, “the most powerful aspect of this course was what was revealed at the end of the documentary, when I realized our mission was to develop young engineers and non-engineers to tackle the most pressing needs of our society and put their experience, skills and expertise into improving the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable; not to develop products to address global challenges (though this is of course a welcomed side outcome). One of the main goals of the film was to tell our story so that others (universities, high schools, etc.) can also implement similar courses, work on similar efforts.”

We learned from Daniel Druhora that USC is in the process of expanding this initiative and they are looking for strategic partners. If anyone is interested in joining this effort, please contact Dr. David Jason Gerber, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Practice and of Architecture at

Watch Lives Not Grades now on PBS SoCal or LinkTv.
America's Role in Vaccine Diplomacy
By Emilia Miller, IVCLA Branding & Communications Intern

With increased concern about vaccine distribution worldwide, vaccine diplomacy has become a prominent new buzzword. As the world begins to recover from the past year’s pandemic, vaccine diplomacy will be a determining factor in how well we bounce-back. Diplomacy will play a central role in who gets vaccinated and when.

In “Vaccine Diplomacy: A New Chapter in the Story of Soft Power,” Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies faculty member David Ellwood explains that vaccine producing countries have taken advantage of the vulnerability in some countries without vaccines. In these instances of vaccine diplomacy, vaccines serve as bargaining chips for furthering national interests. Ellwood suggests that a number of vaccine producing countries see the global pandemic as an opportunity to build their reputations and increase their political influence. Some argue that America taking on a role in vaccinating the world would provide a strategic advantage and allow the U.S. to gain trust as a leader and partner.

More importantly, effective vaccine diplomacy is critical for protecting the health of not only those abroad, but also in the U.S. When a country’s population remains largely unvaccinated, variants of the virus are likely to pop up, cross borders, and threaten global public health. This is clear in India where a highly transmissible strain that created a devastating second wave of COVID-19 has spread to 49 countries. Advocates for vaccine diplomacy, such as Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), recognize that intervention is in America’s best interest. “As long as the COVID-19 fires are raging anywhere in the world... they will come back and burn us here in the U.S,” said Krishnamoorthi.
Over the last month, the number of COVID cases in the U.S has been shrinking. At the same time, more and more people are getting vaccinated. Currently, it is estimated that by July 18, 2021, the U.S. should have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate its whole population. At this rate, the U.S. is also predicted to have over 1 billion extra doses to distribute worldwide by the end of the year.

Despite U.S. successes, vaccine distribution has been unequal worldwide. As of May 2021, many more people have been vaccinated in high and upper-middle-income countries than low-income countries. If vaccination continues at this rate, approximately 85 countries will not have widespread access to vaccines before 2023. For this reason, with its possibility of surplus doses, America’s role in vaccine diplomacy has become crucial.

So far, the U.S. has taken on responsibilities in vaccinating the world, and strategies have been implemented to promote vaccine diplomacy. In response to a World Trade Organization proposal, the Biden Administration announced support for waiving patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, in a bipartisan letter, nearly half of the Senate urged strong funding for the International Affairs Budget in 2022 to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. In this pandemic, the ability of one country to get back to normal is dependent upon the recovery of all others within the global community. Continued support for vaccine diplomacy is critical to ensure that we can overcome COVID-19 together.
Watch the 2021 National Meeting Plenaries on YouTube!
Each year the Global Ties U.S. network of community based organizations (such as IVCLA) gather with other leaders in the international exchange field and U.S. Department of State representatives for the Global Ties National Meeting. In our April Newsletter, we highlighted a couple of special sessions and speakers from the National Meeting.

Now you can watch all of the plenary sessions from the National Meeting on YouTube and learn why #ExchangeMatters! Click the button below for the full playlist.
International Opportunities
Global Ties U.S., one of IVCLA's partner organizations, has announced an opportunity for an interesting and unique virtual exchange program!

The Global Ties U.S. MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange (MERGE) brings together young women and girls ages 15-19 from the United States and Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region in a supportive virtual space to develop emotional resilience skills. Participants discuss and experiment with a variety of stress-relief and coping techniques while guided by trained facilitators, engaging in both synchronous (live) and asynchronous exchange.  MERGE helps girls from diverse communities and backgrounds learn about their own mental health, build skills and techniques to cope with stressors, and empowers participants to share these tools with their communities through the program’s culminating mental resilience strategies website.

In two program iterations during the 2021-2022 academic year, MERGE will meaningfully engage 400 girls and young women, with 200 from the United States, and 200 from Jordan, Morocco, and the Palestinian Territories. An additional 20 university-age facilitators will represent all participating countries and regions.

Questions? Please contact Elizabeth Black, Senior Program Manager for Virtual Exchange, Global Ties U.S., at

Applications close on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
Ready to apply? Click below! 
Community Events
Celebrate the power of arts and culture to heal the world

Meridian International Center proudly presents culturefix, its inaugural cultural diplomacy celebration to honor the power of the arts and cultures to help fix global challenges faced by people, communities and the planet. The virtual program will feature conversations at the intersection of diplomacy, culture, and the arts, the announcement of the Meridian Cultural Diplomacy Awards, and special performances. The Meridian Cultural Diplomacy Awards will be bestowed on artists or cultural leaders who demonstrate an ongoing commitment to using the arts and culture to unite people in the United States and around the world and contribute to greater international cooperation on shared global challenges.

The event will also include a special in-person evening reception with a live performance by the American Pops Orchestra and art exhibition by Fred Tomaselli at the historic Meridian House, the diplomatic residence to the world, in Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, June 9, 2021

culturefix Conversations Virtual Program:
6:00 AM-9:15 AM PT/9:00 AM-12:15 PM ET

Meridian Cultural Diplomacy Awards & Celebration Virtual Broadcast:
3:00-3:45PM PT/6:00-6:45 PM ET
The 2021 Games for Change Festival will take place virtually July 12 – 14 and will be free for all attendees! Join a global community of developers, educators, students, and researchers to ignite your imagination about how games and immersive media can help to realize the potential of the years ahead and address our collective challenges: achieving equity and social justice, ensuring a thriving planet, and regaining a sense of security.
Games continue to be a powerful tool to inspire, connect, and change the world, supporting today’s most pressing challenges. The 2020 Games for Change Festival connected almost 7,000 people from across 81 countries, and G4C2021 will aim to connect even more!
Stay Informed on COVID-19
The IVCLA staff and board send good thoughts to all our members and friends. 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 Angelenos HERE

Now Free COVID-19 Vaccination Without Appointment HERE
Upcoming International Virtual Programs
The following are international guests of the U.S. government whose
professional appointments in Los Angeles will be virtually arranged by the
International Visitors Council of Los Angeles

JUNE 2021
June 10: Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalist - Media Responsibility in the Age of Disinformation
June 21-23: Arts Management and Advancing Social Change Through the Arts 
In-person IVLP has been postponed until October 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 are an IVLP Alumni who would like to share your story and IVLP experience with us, please contact Victoria Meza at
The International Visitors Council of Los Angeles depends on its members and friends to help support its programs. If you are not an IVCLA Citizen Diplomat, please review our membership benefits here and consider joining — or make a tax-deductible donation here. We need your support now more than ever! Please make a contribution today.