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July 15, 2017 in Virginai Beach, Virgiinia at the Annual Sister Cities International Convention Birmingham received the Humanitarian Award for its efforts to provide tons of medical relief to Vinnytsia, Ukraine for assistance with humanitarian efforts for the war in the Donbas Region.   Pictured Scotty Colson Director and SCI President Tim Quigley also were represented by Ukraine Chair Vlad Tchouenko, Secretary of the Board Gwen Amamoo and Youth delegate Alexis Nord.
Each year at its’ Annual Convention Sister Cities International recognizes outstanding programs and achievements by member cities.  For the 4th straight year Birmingham has been honored.  The 2017 Humanitarian Assistance Award for cities between 100,000-500,000 will be presented to Birmingham Sister Cities July 16 in Virginia Beach, Va.  We will also host Mayor Morhunov next week.  His visit is to promote trade and to thank our community for its’ generosity.

Birmingham is Sister Cities with Vinnytsia, Ukraine and a Friendship City relationship with Krasnodon.  Krasnodon is located in Lughansk Oblast which is part of the Donbas region. In recent years separatists supported by Russian units have attempted to secede from Ukraine. This has led to war and now stalemate with regularly artillery attacks and small unit probes of the lines.   At times casualties for civilians and fighters have been heavy.  During this conflict Vinnytsia like other cities have raised units of volunteers.   Units on both sides are ill equipped especially with regards to medical equipment.  Medical infrastructure in the Donbas, not good in the best of times, has been devastated by fighting and looting.   Birmingham has world renown medical facilities such as UAB Medical School and Sparkman Center for Global Health which has a long history of working with Pirogov Medical School in Vinnytsia.   Our goal is to use our assets to assist with basic medical needs in the war zone and to provide humanitarian aid for the injured and displaced in the fighting by the Donbas. 

We consulted with our contacts in Vinnytsia and with other organizations in Ukraine.   Due to ongoing conflict and occupation Krasnodon has fallen silent, therefore we had to work with other groups in the Donbas.   We were told by our Ukrainian friends they needed basic bandages, IV kits, and basic set ups for first aid and if possible some pain and anti-biotic medicines would be needed.    After getting our shopping lists we approached local churches, hospitals, UAB Medical School and Hospital, City Hall and the Ukrainian Festival organizers for assistance in fundraising and donations of supplies.  We coordinated with Vinnytsia who coordinated with volunteer units from Vinnytsia on the frontlines in the Donbas and Ukrainian civilian aid organizations.  Vinntysia supplied trucks for shipments to the Donbas frontlines.  We secured Crestway Baptist to store supplies until we had enough for shipments and got commitments from volunteers to sort and pack the shipments.   Next we secured funding through our Ukrainian Festival and from Ukrainian Sister City Committee using Open World payments for hosting delegations.   So we identified the need in consultation with sources in Ukraine, identified funding, volunteer and donation sources locally and coordinated with national organizations to find shipping options.  With our friends Ukraine coordinating receipt of the shipments and transfer to the Donbas and distribution to units as well as Aid agencies/sites on the frontlines.  Thus our efforts are coordinated locally, nationally and internationally to maximize the efforts of donors and volunteers to provide maximum support for people injured and at risk in the war in East Ukraine. 

At the beginning of the project we identified funds in the Ukrainian Committee of Birmingham Sister Cities that accumulated form Open payments for hosting Ukrainian delegations.  We also identified funding from our annual Ukraine Day Festival.   US-Ukraine Foundation helped us find a reasonably priced shipping company that served Vinnytsia.  Shipping costs for three tons and seven shipments has been at most $6,000.00.  We also spent about $2,000.00 on some hard to get donated medical supplies.   The Annual Ukraine Day celebration (pictured below) brings Ukrainians and Friends of Ukraine from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The event generated revenue of about $1,500.00 for the effort.  Vinnytsia secured trucks and drivers for delivery of these supplies along with about 3 tons of supplies which were donated locally to the war refugees and volunteers in the Donbas region.

We contacted local churches, hospitals, UAB-Medical School, student groups and smaller hospitals and clinics.  In addition Birmingham City Hall and other groups were solicited for first aid items, from non- medical groups.  We also made requests to UAB Hospital and Medical School for medical supplies that were not going to be used or were no longer needed.   We at the same time solicited funds for shipping and used a shipping company provided by US-Ukraine Association for the seven shipments.   Furthermore solicitations were made at our annual Ukraine Independence Day Celebration which draws 3-400 attendees from throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.   Supplies were stored in donated space at Crestway Baptist Church where packages were prepared, inspected and sorted.   UAB warehouse personnel became enthusiastic in setting aside unclaimed or other unwanted supplies.   These supplies included but were not limited to first aid set up kits,  gloves, sheets and some small medical devices have been donated.   Each year our Ukrainian Committee hosts an Open World delegation and receives payments for this program.  The funds from this are put towards the shipment of the supplies and packing materials.   Through these projects and outreach activities we gathered over three tons of useful supplies and in seven shipments sent these to our Sister City contacts in Vinnytsia., Ukraine.   Our friends in Vinnytsia City Hall coordinated with the local humanitarian relief efforts to deliver the medical supplies to the volunteers and civilians on the frontlines in the Donbas.    Aid stations and refugee centers received the shipments which were transported by trucks from Vinnytsia.   We estimate that from donors, to packers, to truck drivers to fund raisers that we have had over 2,000 people involved in making these exchanges happen. 

Pictured below is a patient whose doctors are using supplies and equipment sent by Birmingham to Vinnytsia.  This patient represents the hundreds of people in East Ukraine who have benefitted from the shipments we have sent.   The photo below depicts a shipment arriving in Vinnytsia and being prepared for transport to the frontlines, refugee centers and Aid stations.   When visiting this year we were greeted by amazing expressions of gratitude, as well as stories of how our shipments had made a difference in providing substantive assistance to their efforts to ameliorate the suffering of the victims of this war.   The expressions of love for Birmingham and the USA were heartwarming and the communications from the people of Vinnytsia shows that they appreciate being remembered and cared for.   While this war does not monopolize our daily news, for the people of Ukraine it is continuing source of misery, fear and loss.  The realization that their Sister City cares enough to marshal volunteers and donors in an effort to reach out and help the Ukrainian people gives them hope and an appreciation of the real people to people benefits of Sister Cities.

 

Birmingham Sister Cities would like to extend a warm invitation to you for the international event 10th annual Ukrainian Independence Day celebration at Crestway Baptist Church on, Saturday August 19, 2017 at 12:00 noon.

This event is designed to not only reach out to our Ukrainian-American community, but also to those with an interest in the region (cultural, historical, or professional).

We ask each family or individual bring a dish that is Ukrainian (or some other food), while Sister Cities will provide beverages.

Join us for an afternoon of food, fun, and entertainment, and celebration! Please RSVP to Sister Cities Director Scotty Colson by the 18th of August, 2017 by calling 205.254.2317 or at rscolso@ci.birmingham.al.us. You may also RSVP by contacting Charles Coleman calling 205.999.5527 or at chascole@uab.edu.

This is a free event. Donations are appreciated.

We need volunteers to help with place decoration and food presentation.

Annual Sister Cities International Convention Birmingham was the only city to receive two first place awards

July 16, 2016 in Washington DC at the Annual Sister Cities International Convention Birmingham was the only city to receive two first place awards.   Birmingham won Best Overall program for the third time in eight years and won the first Economic Development Award.   At the ceremony were Vice Chair Bettina Byrd-Giles, Treasurer Marty Connors and Secretary Gwen Amamoo. 

 

BIRMINGHAM SISTER CITIES WINS SISTER CITIES INTERNATIONAL’S INNOVATION AWARD FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

WASHINGTON, DC – Birmingham Sister Cities (BSC) has won Sister Cities International’s (SCI) 2016 Innovation Award for Economic Development for a city with a population between 100,001 and 300,000. The 2016 Sister Cities Innovation Award for Economic Development recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding community and individual sister city programs that promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.

In 2015, BSC started two excellent economic initiatives, a new relationship with Liverpool, United Kingdom and the creation of an EB-5 program. The relationship with Liverpool came about through a bi-annual International Forum for Business, a several week long business fair and forum. BSC sent a delegation including their Mayor who was a major presenter at the conference. Birmingham’s business Incubator, Innovation Depot, and Invest Liverpool had a lot of common projects along with connections between Birmingham’s large research University (UAB) and Samford and Liverpool- Hope Universities. They also found that Birmingham’s world class research program, Southern Research, which specializes in bio-tech research, had some very good connections for Liverpool as well.

Since their sister city signing in fall of 2015, the two cities began creating an EB-5 visa program as a way to attract investors to Birmingham and to fund their sister city program. Foreign investors who finance projects with a value of $500,000 or more and who produce jobs for three years in low income areas can qualify for family Green Cards. This program will be used by BSC to recruit from their sister city nations and others to attract businesses to partner with local businesses to bring development to low income/high unemployment areas.

Development fees are planned to help fund BSC’s general fund. Birmingham has had significantly valuable long term contracts between their Southern Research and various bio-tech firms in Liverpool. A large multi-national Liverpool based bio-science firm will be opening an office in Birmingham. Birmingham has had one local business open their new UK office in Liverpool and Birmingham will have 10 businesses from their Innovation Depot attend the IFB in 2016, with a chance to formally and informally present their business investment opportunities.  

SCI’s Annual Awards are awarded in several categories including Best Overall, Innovation (Arts and Culture, Economic Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and Youth and Education), and Volunteer of the Year. Award winners will be honored at the Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Dinner on Saturday, July 16 during SCI’s 60th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, DC.

SCIs 60th anniversary celebration will include an Annual Conference and Youth Leadership Summit in Washington, DC July 13-16, 2016. The celebration will bring together hundreds of the most influential global leaders in diplomacy, foreign affairs, policy, business, and innovation. Elected and municipal officials, business leaders, youth delegates, and citizen diplomats will discuss this years theme “Peace through People,” building on President Eisenhowers initial vision of creating a more peaceful world by building global relationships.

Birmingham Sister City Anniversary Dates
4/23/82 Hitachi, Japan
10/15/95 Szeke. Hungary
11/5/96 Anshan, China
12/1/97 Gweru, Zimbabwe
3/13/98- Pomigliano D'Arco, Italy
8/5/98 Chao yang-Friendship, China
10/21/98 Maebashi, Japan Friendship
4/8/99 Krasnodon-Friendship, Ukraine
4/23/03 Vinnytsia, Ukraine
2/8/05 Guediawaye, Senegal
5/6/05 Plzen, Czech Republic
11/9/05 Rosh Ha'ayan, Israel
11/9/05 Karak, Jordan
2/2/09 Winneba Ghana
10/21/15 Liverpool, UK
2/15/2017 Kingston,Jamaica
7/3/2017 Maebashi, Japan

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