Group revives sister city program after budget cuts

CARLSBAD — As the recession continues to take a toll on the nation, city officials have made the tough decision to cut funding for many beloved programs.
While Carlsbad’s Sister City Committee did not escape the budget cuts, a group of citizens have formed a nonprofit organization — the Carlsbad Sister City Ambassadors — to continue fostering the international relationships.
“Moving forward means maintaining our two relationships with Futtsu and Karlovy Vary and adding more sister cities,” ambassador Tom Hersant said.
The foundation for the new organization has been in the works for several months since the city first gave word that the original committee would be dissolved.
Ambassadors independently secured a nonprofit status and were more than prepared when they took over as official sister city representatives June 22.
Although the mayor’s office has usually played an integral role in the program that promotes cultural and educational enrichment, the ambassadors hope to still maintain the same level of success in the future, Hersant said.
“We only have two sister cities, but you can have as many as you can handle,” Hersant said. “We’re just getting started here.”
Carlsbad’s history with international delegations dates back to 1988, when the city first got involved with the Sister City International program. Futtsu, Japan, was Carlsbad’s original sister city, and Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic — Carlsbad’s namesake — followed shortly thereafter, Hersant said.
Through these relationships, Carlsbad’s representatives have hosted a number of international groups, as well as traveled overseas to represent Carlsbad in other sister communities. Last May, Hersant was invited to Karlovy Vary to join the Lord Mayor Werner Hauptmann in celebrating the start of spa season.
Ambassadors have already begun research on a possible third connection with a golf-related town, as Carlsbad is well-known for golf manufacturing. They hope to find a Chinese city also known for manufacturing, or link up with the birthplace of golf in Saint Andrews, Scotland — even both, Hersant said.
“We think finding a golfing town is a natural fit for us,” Hersant said. “We can probably get the golf manufacturers here to support a relationship with the hallowed grounds of Saint Andrews, too.”
Although just a small number of representatives officially make up the Carlsbad Sister City Ambassadors, the entire community is invited to participate in the program.
When visiting delegations arrives, the committee organizes a reception that residents are more than welcome to attend. During a delegation’s stay, locals are encouraged to open their doors for tours and meals, or to host students as part of the home stay program.
“The more support we get from the community, the stronger we are,” Hersant said. “The delegations want to experience our culture — they get tickled to death visiting our homes.”
The Carlsbad Sister City Ambassadors recently organized a membership program for residents to get involved more easily. Signup will be available on their soon-to-be-launched website, www.carlsbadambassadors.us.
Until then, donations or membership requests can be sent to the Carlsbad Sister City Ambassadors, PO Box 131202, Carlsbad, CA 92013.

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