A group of visitors from one of the former Soviet republics will spend the next two weeks in Iowa. The Iowa Council for International Understanding, originally founded by the U-S State Department, followed the breakup of the U-S-S-R, according to program manager Alec Zama. She says the purpose was to bring business professionals from Russia to the U-S, hundreds of them, to get training and help that country in its transition to a free-market country and a democratic form of government. Zama says it proved so successful, the program was given the title “Community Connection,” and expanded to different countries and more professionals, like teachers. She says the visitors will tell you after their stay that the time they spent in Iowa is a life-changing experience. We’ve hosted nearly 300 visitors from russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldava so far. The program began in 1996. Zama says visitors stay with American families and often remark on the warmth of their welcome to Iowa. A component of the program is the stay with American families, because they’re here not only to learn professional skills but see how American families live, and they don’t expect such a warm welcome from afamilies in a country that’s a former enemy. Visitors also are surprised by how ready their hosts are to share professional information. Zama says the community offers support from hosts the visitors will stay with, to drivers, businesses that offer tours, schools and other agencies eager to show visitors from the former Soviet Union how Iowans live. This tour of educators will visit Des Moines area public schools and at least one rural school as well as Drake University and Des Moines Area Community College.
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