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By Gregg Parker
Email the authorPublished 2:49 pm Monday, May 20, 2019MADISON – This year, Global Ties Alabama or GTA has placed visitors from Africa, Kosovo, the Middle East, Argentina, Central American, Ukraine and other countries in Madison homes. Currently, GTA is recruiting host families for youth delegates in late summer.In the Tennessee Valley, GTA promotes global peace and understanding through citizen diplomacy. Founded in 1965 as International Services Council of Alabama, GTA was an outreach of Huntsville Rotary Club to welcome international military trainees to Redstone Arsenal.GTA partners with the U.S. Department of State to customize study programs for emerging international leaders. “It has been extremely successful with high school students” from many countries,” GTA CEO Jacqueline Shipe said.This year, the U.S. State Department sponsored Pan Africa Leadership Conference to promote mutual understanding and strengthen connections between Americans and Africans. The youths’ training emphasized Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM; entrepreneurship; civic engagement; and volunteerism.An example of outreach, the Madison County Homemakers Association and Community Leaders annually host a visiting youth delegation. This year, the club welcomed 25 Pan African students and chaperones at First Baptist Church of Madison. The group then met with Mayor Paul Finley at City Hall.“The homemakers demonstrated the art of community service and hospitality,” Shipe said. “Thirty club members sat among the students to lead table-top discussions regarding community engagement and leadership skills. Each table then appointed a spokesperson to provide an overview of their discussions.”Hosts Deb Adelsperger; Michael and Gladys Ayokanmbi; Juli Gerrits and Don Fike; and Jay and Marsha Ferrell welcomed youth ambassadors to stay in their homes.In addition, Ukraine Parliament’s staff visited under auspices of Open World, an important U.S. exchange programs with post-Soviet countries. “Open World is a long-term investment in U.S. relations with Eurasia and … a cost-effective tool of public diplomacy,” [JB emphasis] Shipe said.One Madison family welcomed two Ukrainian delegates during an Open World visit.Shipe hopes residents will consider assisting Pan-Africa Youth Leadership by serving as a host family for one or more students or chaperones. During the day, students and adults will participate in activities around Madison County. At night, the visitors can experience American culture and family life with hosts.“On weekends, participants will learn the unique side of Alabama that only you can provide,” Shipe said. Volunteers can host African youth from Francophone countries on July 31-Aug. 13 and youth ambassadors from the Caribbean on Aug. 13-24.“Putting a face with a culture helps dispel myths associated with America,” Shipe said. Hosts demonstrate different family structures, cultures and customs, along with Southern hospitality.For more information, call 256-532-3560 (Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.); email GTA3@MadisonCountyAL.gov; or visit Facebook/Global Ties Alabama, Instagram and Twitter @globaltiesal.