Fort Wayne is one step closer to having our 5th official Sister City.
Fort Wayne, Indiana and Mawlamyine [Maw-lah-mee-eye-n], Myanmar [Mee-an-mar] officially became Friendship Cities in 2016. Currently, Fort Wayne is the only US city that has a relationship with a city in Myanmar. It has only been 4 years since Fort Wayne and Mawlamyine became Friendship Cities, yet we have received much attention and support from the U.S. Embassy in Burma/Myanmar for being a model of citizen diplomacy and people-to-people engagement.
On the evening of February 28th, 2020 Fort Wayne Sister Cities International held their annual, “Taste of Sister Cities” Gala. It was hosted at the Mirro Center for Research and Innovation. The evening, emceed by Dirk Rowley from WANE 15 News, was a record-breaking event for Fort Wayne Sister Cities. However, the night of international cuisine, silent auctions, and entertainment culminated in a keynote address given by Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry.
Mayor Henry announced that after four years as official Friendship Cities, Fort Wayne and Mawlamyine, with the State Department’s blessing are going to move ahead with plans to become official Sister Cities. This widening of scope and deepening of our diplomatic, academic, and social relationships are a much welcomed site between our two growing communities.
Fort Wayne Sister Cities and their Mawlamyine committee are very vibrant and active within our community and have brought two student exchanges at the university level to Fort Wayne and sent a student exchange to Myanmar. The committee has also created an English language teacher program, which has been housed at Mawlamyine University. All of the exchanges have strengthened the students’ desire to revisit and study abroad.
Mary Encabo, the chair of our Mawlamyine committee has said of the teaching program, “My goal is to stabilize the program so that other teachers from Fort Wayne will be able to teach at Mawlamyine University and for the faculty at Mawlamyine University to have a better sense of what to expect (e.g. what teachers from Fort Wayne could be like). In other words, I wanted to set a standard and tone for a fruitful and sustainable program.”
In 2019, one of the most important developments that emerged out of our Friendship City relationship is the collaboration between Purdue University Fort Wayne and Mawlamyine University. Purdue University Fort Wayne is now able to take an active role in supporting higher education reform in Myanmar. Last December, Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer visited Mawlamyine University and Yangon University to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with both universities as well as with the National Centre for English Language.
We hope that when the official Sister City signing takes place, it will further strengthen each city’s and each nation’s commitment to working towards long-term friendship and building a foundation for peace. In some ways, even though it has been a total of 8 years since the search for and the establishment of a Friendship City, this year feels like a new beginning, which is quite fitting since this is also a new decade. With a new decade, a new vision will have to be made.
Since 1956, Sister Cities International has worked to create exchanges that create community impact and kindle lifelong friendships. Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.