The Birmingham Sister Cities Commission has won Sister Cities International's 2011 Best Overall Program Award for a city with a population between 100,001 and 300,000, with several initiatives involving the relationship with Israeli sister city Rosh Ha’Ayin cited.
The award recognizes sister city programs that demonstrate outstanding accomplishments in advancing the goals and mission of the sister cities movement.
An E-Pal program with Rosh Ha'ayin now includes four schools in Birmingham and two in Rosh Ha'ayin. Over 300 students communicate each week via email and video conference. The Commission also sent two local college graduates to Hitachi, Japan for two years as English teachers.
With the Commission's support, Birmingham jazz guitarist Eric Essix performed in sister cities Rosh Ha’Ayin and Szekeshfehrevar, Hungary. There were several art exchanges with sister cities including Karak, Jordan, which signed its sister city arrangement in a trilateral ceremony with Birmingham and Rosh Ha’Ayin.
Birmingham’s commission also hosted the Fourth Open World program on the theme "Accountable Governance" with participants from sister city Vinnytsia, Ukraine. A delegation of six high school students and two chaperones visited sister city Winneba, Ghana to conduct a service project.
As a result of a delegation visit from sister city Chao Yang, China, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and the Emergency Management Agency of Jefferson County are now collaborating to develop hospice programs in China. In December 2011, Mayor William Bell and a member of the Sister Cities Commission went to Beijing as part of the U.S.-China EcoPartnership program.
Award winners will be honored at a special luncheon ceremony on July 14 during the Sister Cities International 56th Annual Conference in Jacksonville, Fla.
Sister Cities International facilitates nearly 2,000 partnerships in 136 countries on six continents between 600 communities in the United States with similar municipalities abroad.