2016 Newsletter
Happy Summer! 
With summer finally here, we would like to take this time to look back on the first half of 2016. With numerous programs hosted by International Focus, this year is shaping up to be filled with thought provoking programs and fun events! As we review this past half year, I ask that you join us in our upcoming events and discover the world in Raleigh!
If you are not yet a member of International Focus, we hope that you will check our member benefits! Your financial support and volunteering are critical to advancing international exchange programs, global understanding and citizen diplomacy.
Thank you to the members that have already renewed.
With warm regards,
Leila Bekri
International Visitor Leadership Program
International Focus
Thanks to Bob Rankin
International Focus would like to extend our sincere thanks to Mr. Bob Rankin for his hospitality in hosting our Christmas party. Mr. Rankin, an influential artist in the Raleigh area, has been the creator of the International Festival in Raleigh for years.

2016 Citizen Diplomacy

Ambassador to Togo 
International Focus had the honor of hosting the former ambassador to Togo, Brenda Schoonover, on Tuesday, June 21. Ambassador Schoonover shared her experiences of being a career long Foreign Affairs officer, her time in the Peace Corps as both a volunteer and as a director, as an ambassador's wife to Richard Schoonover who also served as a Foreign Affairs officer, and as the ambassador to Togo from 1998 to 2000. She expressed her passion for the work she accomplished, her frustrations on some of the politics that go into ambassador appointment, and detailed the different ways that she as a representative of the United States helped to improve the countries she served in. Following her presentation, the participants were invited to ask the ambassador questions. The questions ranged from about her time in the Peace Corps to the Chinese trade presence in Africa. International Focus would like to thank Ambassador Brenda Schoonover for leading such an informative and lively discussion.

"Germany and Global Order"
On May 24th, International Focus was fortunate to host Professor Klaus Larres as he lead a presentation and discussion on Germany and Global Order as a part of the Citizen Diplomacy series. Professor Larres of UNC discussed Germany's position in Europe, Germany's trade relations with China and the United States, and its political relations with Russia. Professor Larres also discussed Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and how her background growing up in East Germany has influenced the decisions she has made, in regards to the refugee crisis and her political relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin. The evening was ending with a Q & A sessions with questions from those in attendance, ranging with questions about WWII's influence on modern Germany to Germany's military use.

"Working in Global Health and Development in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals" 
As an Associate Scientist in the Social and Behavioral Health Sciences group at FHI360, Emily Namey works on cross-cutting issues of public health and development that are prominent in the UN's recently released Sustainable Development Goals. In her discussion, she highlighted examples from two recent USAID-funded projects, one working to integrate economic elements into programs designed to reduce female sex workers' risk of HIV in Côte d'Ivoire, and a second to evaluate how economic programs might help children in Uganda reintegrate into family-based care after having lived on the streets or in orphanages.
Emily has nearly 15 years' experience designing, implementing, and disseminating qualitative and mixed methods research, with a focus on HIV prevention, maternal health, bioethics, and economic strengthening.
Coffee & Conversation
Canada: Educational Exchanges

On the week of Friday, June 10th, International Focus had the honor of hosting a group of Canadian delegates. Through the International Visitors Leadership Program, this group's focus was to research the American university system and systems for educational exchanges. A group of International Focus members had the opportunity to talk with the group of delegates over coffee. We started by discussing all of the Canadian influence in North Carolina, from how Canada is the number one trade partner with North Carolina to the Canadian presence in the Raleigh Symphony. As a part of the visit, the group toured the universities in the area. The biggest difference they noticed between Canadian universities and American universities was the resources available to students that aren't directly related to academia. They also noted that the academic resources in American universities have a very high standard. "The technology [in NCSU's Hunt Library] is absolutely amazing!" one member had to say.

Armenia: Supporting Social Change through Youth Engagement

On Friday, May 20th, a group of four Armenian delegates came to the Raleigh Durham area. Their group, comprised of two Musicians, a graphic designer, and a documentarian, sat down with International Focus members to discuss what they have seen in their time in America and what life is like in Armenia.  From Los Angeles to New York City, when the group set down in Raleigh, their last city in their trip, the first thing they all noticed was how green Raleigh is compared to the other places they visited. "My perception of this Country is changing," said one member of the group. They talked about how each state in America is like its own country, with differences both geographically and culturally. They also commented on how, in the US, change comes from the people to the government. "Here, everything goes from the bottom to the top," said one group member. They talked about how the government is bound to the will of the people and not the other way around.     
They also talked about their own projects. One member focused on an after school program teaching at risk kids how to play rock and roll. Another member created documentaries about Armenian social topics, from mental hospitals to gender inequality.  The meeting ended with a stunning rendition of a traditional Armenian song from Komitas, a 1900's Armenian musicologist.

Moldova: Trends in Higher Education in the US  

On March 4th, 2016, International Focus was fortunate to host a Moldovan group, whose focus was to experience the education standards and work done in United States Higher Education. Four visitors from Moldova were welcomed. The group spent time at two of North Carolina's public universities: the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. We would like to extend a thank you to all IF Members and professionals who made this program such a success.

India: Economic & Business Reporting Skills for Journalists

International Focus was fortunate to welcome a group of Indian journalist last February.  The group sat down with members of the community for coffee and discussion. The conversation was spent talking about many similarities and differences between Indian journalism and American journalism with members of both Indian journalism and American journalism expressing their tactics and passions. The group was shown around the Research Triangle to get a sense of the business centric culture Raleigh has to offer. One of the most significant takeaways from the trip was the organic nature women have in U.S. leadership. One participant recounts "My U.S. experience showed me that women are an organic part of the entire U.S. system. Most striking to me was the equal opportunity given to women of different backgrounds."
IVLP: International Women of Courage
This past April, International Focus in collaboration with The State Department's and World Learning has coordinating International Women of Courage (IWOC) initiative. IWOC is a prestigious award given to a select group of women from around the globe. Ms. Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit from Thailand a co-owner of a bookstore, Book Re:public, has galvanized interest and attention with her heartfelt and inspiring message when she addressed our International Focus members and guests. She spoke on how her parents inspired her love of the written word and her passion for civic justice and openness-- a passion that would be fostered by her formative college years. She recounted the challenges she faced in her home country in her struggle to promote the fundamental human rights of free speech and freedom of association and how through the help of social media and the support of her friends and family she and her allies have persisted in their fight for a free and democratic society.

IF you would like to read more about Ms. Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, please Click Here
IVLP Alumni

We reach out to Dr. Frank Habineza , The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda's President and a Raleigh IVLP Alum. He recanted his time in the program.

     "The most memorable thing was being in Raleigh few days before the mid-term elections in 2014 and watching how the race was close between Kay Hagan and Thom Hills. What I liked so much was for learning that President Obama sent text messages to the electorate urging them to vote for Kay Hagan. I liked the debates on Fox TV and CNN, very opposite to each other but what was most important was the freedom of expression from both sides. That was very remarkable.
    When I returned to my country Rwanda, I issued a press statement and requested the Rwandan Government to learn from my IVLP experience, especially on the conduct of national elections. I requested the introduction of an electronic voting system, which could be combined with ballot papers. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, later accepted my suggestion and we officially requested the National Electoral Commission to consider this. We have taken this issue and other requests for electoral and political reforms to Parliament and finally to the Prime Minister's office.
    The most surprising thing to me, was the amount of money spent in the US elections. It costs so much to campaign and win a seat. That kind of money can build a hospital or a school in Rwanda.
    The key message I learnt was how evident the concept of separation of powers is being implemented in USA. We arrived in US when there was an evident gridlock between the US Senate and US House of Representatives, where both houses agreed to disagree on almost everything and this situation nearly caused chaos. We were surprised about that independence that the all-powerful US President, could not push his way through and enforce his will to the US Congress. This was the main message I leant and I encouraged the Rwandan Government to emulate the same. My press release carried the title: SEPARATION OF POWERS: KEY LESSON FROM US's INTERNATIONAL VISITOR LEADERSHIP PROGRAM (IVLP)."

Programs in Review
  • Multi-Regional Group - "American Language: Connecting Teachers to U.S. History & Culture"
  • India - "Economic and business reporting Skills for Journalists"
  • Indonesia - "Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation: Forest Fires
  • Moldova - "Higher Education"
  • "Combating Corruption"
  • Afghanistan - "Youth Engagement and Civil Society"
  • Greece - "Higher Education"
  • Israel - "Building Legislative Capacity"
  • Kyrgyzstan - "Civil Society: Rule of Law, and Human Rights"
  • Turkey - "Supreme Court (Yargitay)"Armenia - "Supporting Social Change through Youth Engagement and Empowerment"  
  • Canada - "Educational Exchanges"

Upcoming Programs
July 16-21
"Global Aviation"
20 + 3 participants
Multi- Regional
July 6 - 27
"Facilitating Venture Funding for Entrepreneurial Development"
10 + 3 participants
August 4-11
"Building Bangladesh Climate Resilience"
7 + 2 participants
August 2 - 16
Youth Leadership Program
14 participants
Home Stays / REQUESTED (August 2 - 16) 
If you are not a member and would like the opportunity to join us for these events, please consider becoming a member. Members have access to international networking opportunities based right here in the Triangle, where you can discover the world in Raleigh!

For more information, please visit us directly at:

International Focus 
3700 National Drive, Suite 214, Raleigh, NC 27612