This blog post was written in an effort to provide the reader with a visual, data driven look into the impact of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) at Meridian International Center over the past fiscal year. The data used are derived from internal recordkeeping in the Professional Exchanges Division at Meridian.
Each fiscal year Meridian welcomes over 1,500 international visitors to the U.S via the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in order to start them on a journey that could last any amount of time from just a few days to three weeks. Our programming teams work closely with the U.S. Department of State and Global Ties U.S. Community Based Members (CBMs) to build outstanding programs that include not only meetings with counterparts, but opportunities to get to know Americans in their homes and during volunteer events in local communities across the country. This blog entry is an effort to convey the diverse makeup of our visitors and their unique experiences.
In this past year, Meridian welcomed visitors from 171 nations, transnational organizations, and other territories. The map below provides a visual interpretation of these visitors and their respective origin countries.
The following countries were responsible for sending the most participants overall:
Saudi Arabia (40)
People’s Republic of China (36)
Next, we will take a look at thematic areas, or the reasons why these visitors were grouped together to travel to the U.S. in FY16. Each project varied in size (some included just one visitor, while others included up to 30 participants) and overall theme. The following chart reveals the main project themes for the year.
As the chart demonstrates, the most prominent categories were Human Rights and Social Issues, Law Enforcement, Business & Economics, Media, and Education. Projects under each heading cover a range of sub-topics, including:
Human Rights and Social Issues: LBGTQ Rights, Refugee Integration, Minority Issues
Law Enforcement: Combatting Violent Extremism, Conflict Resolution, and Human Trafficking
Business & Economics: Entrepreneurship, Women in Business, Economic Policy
Media: Digital Media, Traditional Media, Free Press
Education: STEM/STEAM, K-12, Administration
In addition to program themes and visitor numbers, we tracked home hospitality,* which provides the opportunity for visitors to sit down and share a meal with residents of the cities they visit. The American hosts are volunteers who are familiar with their local communities and are eager to meet incoming participants in an informal setting. For this blog entry, we examined both national and local itineraries to identify cities that organized home hospitality for our participants. The following image provides an idea of where our participants had home hospitality during the last fiscal year.
*Not all CBMs are asked to arrange home hospitality, as it is requested on a project by project basis. Numbers reflect those that were contacted for home hospitality and were able to organize it for visiting groups or individual international visitors.
Total Cities: (74)
By Visitors Hosted:
Santa Fe (94)
Los Angeles (74)
Salt Lake City (71)
Iowa City (56)
By Hospitalities Organized:
Los Angeles (10)
Santa Fe (9)
Washington, DC (9)
Salt Lake City (9)
Iowa City (9)
Finally, we sought to analyze the impact of volunteer activities* our participants engaged in over the past year. Based again on national and local itineraries, we concluded that 437 visitors and 117 international visitor liaisons and/or interpreters worked to contribute a total of 1,466.5 service hours across the U.S. The following image provides an idea of where our participants and liaisons volunteered, and the number of hours they spent doing so.
*Not all CBMs are asked to arrange volunteer opportunities, as it is requested on a program by program basis, much like home hospitality. Numbers below reflect those that were contacted for volunteer opportunities and were able to organize it for visiting international participants.
In total, 49 volunteer opportunities were organized in 25 cities. The greatest amount of volunteer hours were completed in Washington, DC where six experiences for 74 participants amounted to 241.5 hours. Seattle (66) and Los Angeles (53) were also responsible for a majority of hours served, with each organizing four activities amounting respectively to 192 and 162 hours.
Participants engaged in activities such as distributing emergency food to families with the Oregon Food Bank in Portland, working with youth on a project using recycled materials with Trash for Teaching in Los Angeles, participating in an education campaign with Bags of Fun in Denver, serving meals to disadvantaged community members with St. Ben’s Community Meal in Milwaukee, and community gardening with Seattle Tilth in Washington State.
If you enjoyed this journey through the past fiscal year, check out other, similar blog posts about the impact of the International Visitor Leadership Program at Meridian.