In May 2019, two representatives from the Sister Cities of Hays, Kansas board joined the Fort Hays State University delegation on a trip to China. Sister Cities of Hays is a member of Sister Cities International, the oldest and largest organization of citizen diplomats in the nation. Hays’ sister cities include Santa Maria de las Misiones, Paraguay, and Xinzheng, China.
The purpose of this trip was to participate in the annual commencement ceremonies for Fort Hays State University’s partner institutions. This year marked a major milestone as the delegation celebrated 20 years of partnership with Sias International University.
Mehran Shahidi, director of intercultural integration at FHSU and Brittney Squire, Forsyth Library outreach specialist at FHSU represented Sister Cities and the city of Hays on this trip. During the visit, Shahidi and Squire, along with FHSU President Tisa Mason, and Cindy Elliott, FHSU Assistant Vice President for Global Partnerships and board member for Sister Cities International, met with members of the Xinzheng Municipal Government in the Henan Province of China.
There they met with the Mayor of Xinzheng, Mr. Zhifeng Ma. During this meeting, there was an exchange of information about the city of Hays, FHSU, and the city of Xinzheng. In a discussion about possible collaboration opportunities between the two cities, several items of interest were presented including cultural exchange programs, economic development, telemedicine prospects and artificial intelligence.
“Through this meeting and a previous one with Mayor Ma, I have really noticed the purpose of establishing friendships through one on one relationship — one individual and one community at a time. The conversation and the enthusiasm among all of us once again reminded me of President Eisenhower’s belief that friendship through individuals and communities would make the difference,” said Shahidi.
Shahidi and Squire also presented Mayor Ma with a proclamation from Hays Mayor Henry Schwaller. The proclamation reinforced the desire to maintain a positive relationship and cultural exchange between Hays and Xinzheng. Gifts were exchanged by both parties including items which are native to both areas.
“We were given such a warm welcome in China from our very first stop in Xinzheng. I was so impressed by the Chinese hospitality, and I only hope Hays, Kansas can return the favor one day soon by showing off our own Midwestern charm,” said Squire.
Mayor Ma was invited to bring a delegation to Hays. The Sister Cities board will continue to maintain communication with Xinzheng representatives in order to arrange a visit in the future.
Hays Sister Cities is a committee of local citizen volunteers with a passion for international collaboration. For information on Hays Sister Cities, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the group on Facebook.
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