Citizen Diplomacy in Indiana

Home hospitality hosts welcome visitors to their home for a night of food and discussion.

So many of The International Center’s programs would not be possible without the support of volunteers. Firefighters, police officers, bankers, and educators give their time to our Community Orientation Program for Expatriates, providing helpful insights as families adjust to life in Indiana. Busy professionals also take time out of their work day to share experiences with our clients in the Orientation Program for International Employees over lunch. A team of engaged community leaders serve on our Festival Fund committee that supports international and ethnic groups hosting events in Central Indiana. Volunteers help welcome guests to The Center’s biggest annual event, The International Citizen of the Year Awards Dinner. But nowhere is the role of volunteers more crucial to the success of The Center’s work than the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

Visitors from various countries on the Change Makers: Promoting Community Resilience Against Radicalization and Extremism visit the Landmark for Peace Memorial in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park

The International Visitor Leadership Program is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.

Each year nearly 5,000 exchange participants come to the U.S. through the IVLP Program. More than 200,000 International visitors have engaged with Americans through the IVLP, including more than 500 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government.

In 2017, The International Center hosted 16 groups consisting of 114 visitors from 27 different countries. 125 professionals volunteered their time and expertise to make it yet another successful year of international exchange in Indiana. An integral part of the program, our volunteers share insights into the success and challenges that they face in their line of work so that our visitors can take back knowledge and new-found friendships that influence policies around the world.

This year’s program topics included:

  • Religious Tolerance and Pluralism
  • Higher Education (x 2)
  • Disability Rights (x 3)
  • Youth Leaders:  Building Common Ground
  • Changemakers:  Promoting Community Resilience Against Radicalization and Extremism
  • Advancing and Sustaining Civic Engagement
  • Emergency Management
  • Computer Science Education
  • Migration Issues
  • Agriculture (x 2)
  • Sports Management
  • Young Scientists Forum

Indianapolis has hosted visitors from: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

In addition to all the professional appointments we had 10 families open their doors and welcome visitors into their homes for a night of Hoosier Hospitality. Time and time again, visitors express that Home Hospitality, sharing a meal with a host family, is the highlight of their program. This allows visitors to learn first-hand what life in the U.S. is like and gain lasting impressions.

Want to learn more about IVLP? Join The International Center on December 12 to learn more about how you can be engaged in our volunteer network. Click the button below to register.


By Peter Kirkwood, Protocol Officer