Inside the International Visitors Leadership Program

Inside the International Visitors Leadership ProgramThe International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) was launched in 1940. Since then, it has helped the U.S. maintain and improve its relationship with other countries. Foreign leaders visit U.S. public and private sector organizations correlating to the project’s theme while partaking in cultural and social activities.

How it Works

Each year about 5,000 foreign leaders come to the United States. In addition, 200,000 international visitors come to interact with Americans through the International Visitor Leadership Program. They have the opportunity to meet more than 500 former or current chiefs of state or heads of government.

The brief visit usually lasts more than three weeks, taking place in four U.S. communities. But the themes the Embassy requests and other factors determine how long a program lasts. So, how does someone get to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program? You can not simply apply for the position. A visitor must be nominated then selected by the U.S. Embassies global staff. To better understand how much of an impact the International Leadership Program has on foreign leaders, Here is the story of one woman who was allowed to travel for further development of her cause.

Inside the International Visitors Leadership Program

Angela Benedicto is a known civil society activist back in her country Mwanza, Tanzania. The International Leadership Program approved Benedicto to travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, back in 2013. Although excited to get an American perspective of youth development, she had no idea what to expect on this journey. However, Benedicto knew that she wanted to build a community of people passionate about youth development. A passion that stems from her personal experience of being a child domestic worker. This sparked Benedicto’s nonprofit organization, Wotesawa Domestic Worker, to improve the rights of domestic workers. The International Visitors Leadership Program not only impacted Angela Benedicto’s life but nearly 5,000 international leaders each year.

Building Relationships

With the help of the International Visitor Leadership Program, Angela Benedicto was able to contact other nonprofit organizations generating professional U.S. connections. She gives her opinion of what makes the International Visitor Leadership Program project great saying, “It was the people!”

Benedicto highlighted her relationship with Global Ties Kalamazoo, a citizen diplomacy network located in Michigan. The network seeks to establish trust with world leaders and their communities at home. The nonprofit organization allows participants to visit the homes of local families as part of its programs.

For example, Benedicto ate dinner with the Potratz family who she met through Global Ties Kalamazoo connections. Quickly, they built a long-lasting relationship after talks about youth development. Later, this singular visit led to the Potratz family and Benedicto collaborating on a “Test of The World” auction, a project to raise funds for Tanzanian girls to receive scholarships. Items sold in this auction included handmade products and donated goods provided by local businesses.

COVID-19 and The International Leadership Program

COVID-19 did not stop the International Visitors Leadership Program members from continuing their work. Although the pandemic limited physical activity and travel, members like Angela Benedicto use zoom to connect with Kalamazoo and Tanzania organizations. The International Visitor Leadership Program allowed Benedicto to produce a team of leaders on a global scale to help youth development even during a pandemic.

The International Visitor Leadership Program creates a bridge for foreign leaders and American citizens to cross. It allows them to meet, discuss and develop new perspectives and solutions for a common interest on particular issues. Thus, making it easier for the international community to grow globally and keeping the U.S. involved with counterpart countries.

– Alexis Jones
Photo: Flickr