A Columbus East senior has punched the city of Columbus’ ticket to become part of Sister Cities International, joining 13 other Indiana communities that are part of the organization.
Tyler Johnson, who had a goal of raising enough money through a senior project to fund the membership fee for several years, formally donated the money April 21 during a Columbus City Council meeting.
Johnson said the $1,848 he has raised will take care of three years of the $580 annual registration fee, with a little bit leftover to start on the fourth year.
He told council members he chose the project because he had participated in student exchange programs with Lohne, Germany, one of the Columbus’ sister cities, and wanted to strengthen the bonds with that city and others in a more formal and proper way.
Columbus has four sister cities: Lohne, Germany; Miyoshi, Japan; Xiangyang, China; and Wuxi, China, all with ties here in different ways.
Sister City International describes its program as bringing together cities across the globe in broad-based, long-term partnerships. A sister city, county or state relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement. A city may have any number of sister cities, with community involvement ranging from a half-dozen to hundreds of volunteers.
Johnson emphasized that city leaders would only have to sign off on the paperwork to join the international organization, which will result in numerous benefits, including allowing Columbus to network with other citizen diplomats from more than 545 U.S. communities who have sister-city relationships with cities in 145 countries around the world.
Resources are provided to grow a sister-city relationship and each city receives a directory of the sister-city relationships around the world, listed by country and state by state.
Johnson’s senior project means Columbus will join Bloomington, Carmel, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Goshen, Greenfield, Indianapolis, Jasper, Lafayette, Madison, Newburgh, Noblesville and Richmond as members of the international organization.
The city became Columbus’ sister city in 1994, when both communities realized that a large percentage of Columbus’ population, and those who live in surrounding areas, had ancestors who emigrated from this same region in Northern German.
In April 1989, Hans-Gunter Lichte and his wife Edith came to Columbus in search of family history, and found family members buried in a cemetery at St. Paul Lutheran Church at Clifty. Lichte and Arthur Schwenk of Columbus began to visit back and forth. A student exchange program was developed between Columbus North High School and a high school in Lohne.
The sister relationship began July 5, 1994 with the signing of a cultural partnership agreement by Mayor Bob Stewart and Mayor Michio Tsukamoto. The formal resolution was approved Nov. 30, 1994. Near Miyoshi is Toyota, home of the Toyota Motor Co. Initial family exchanges formalized into community, student, teacher and friendship programs at both cities.
Hundreds of cherry trees in Columbus and the sidewalk bricks of the downtown Friendship Alley were donated by Miyoshi residents.
Wuxi became the Columbus’ third sister city on April 14, 2008, during a signing ceremony that included Mayor Fred Armstrong and other community leaders. Wuxi is recognized as one of the birthplaces of China’s national industry and commerce. A Columbus delegation to the Fifth Wuxi International Sister Cities Forum in 2010 included IUPUC and Ivy Tech Community College – Columbus representatives.
Ivy Tech has a partnership with Wuxi Professional College of Science and Technology, resulting from similarities in programing and pre-existing relationships formed by Cummins.
Columbus officials first visited Xiangyang in 2007, building upon established relationships by Cummins and Dongfeng Motors. In October 2009, officials from Xiangyang made a visit to Columbus. In November 2008, LHP Technologies joined with Dongfeng Motor Import & Export and Yinlun Machinery to create LHP Yinchang in Columbus. The relationship continued when in April 2010, the Columbus Economic Development Board announced it would partner with the company’s office in Shanghai to house Columbus EDB-Shanghai office.