An IVLP Experience: Guiding a Leader From Curacao

By Blake Bowers, Development Intern

My most memorable experience with The International Center thus far has been the opportunity to meet and escort an international delegate around Indianapolis. The delegate that I spent the day with was Jeroen Jansen, a Policy Director from Curacao. Curacao is an island just off the coast of Venezuela. I was afforded this opportunity through The Center’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and its goal is to bring distinguished international individuals to the United States to meet with their international colleagues.

Getting to spend the day with a delegate from another country was an incredibly unique experience for me. Curacao declared independence from the Netherlands in 2010 and they are currently working to become a more established country. Having the opportunity to speak with someone who is laying the groundwork for a newly established country was truly a privilege. It is an exciting time in Curacao and that excitement radiated from Mr. Jansen. He was in the United States to discuss the local and national immigration laws in the U.S. Because of this, I was able to sit in on meetings with the Indy Chamber, Mayor Ballard’s Office, and the Indiana Department of Labor. All three meetings covered various topics under the umbrella of immigration and how Indianapolis handles differing cultures.

Curacao Flag

I have lived in this city for 17 years and I never thought I would be sitting in on meetings with important policy makers in Indianapolis. Mr Jansen said to me that he took so much away from the meetings and there is much to be done in his country. But the best part of the experience for me was what I also felt I gained from those meetings. I had no idea that Indianapolis was as involved with an international audience on the scale that we are. As a city, Indianapolis is continually reaching out to the various international communities in order to establish a relationship with them and make them feel welcome in our community. Being a county that was founded by immigrants, it is encouraging to know that we have stayed true to our early values. All of this I learned simply from sitting in a few meetings and not saying a word. Mr. Jansen was also kind enough to give me pen with Curacao inscribed on it, an extremely nice gesture. I look forward to another opportunity to meet with an international delegate. There is so much to be learned from people with differing perspectives than your own, and therein lies the beauty of The International Center: few people come from the same place.

Blake with Mr. Jansen & Beth Barich,
 International Visitors Program Manager