By Natalia Kunzer, Open World Program Officer at Rotary International
The Open World Program gives emerging leaders from specific Eurasian countries firsthand exposure to the United States’ system of democracy through visits to local governments and communities in the U.S.. Rotary International serves as a national hosting organization, with Rotary clubs serving as local hosts for Open World delegations of young professionals. RI is able to reimburse clubs for many of their hosting expenses through Open World grants, funded by the U.S. government.
Rotary clubs host delegates by coordinating the on-the-ground logistics and organizing a program schedule, including a homestay, professional meetings, and cultural activities. Through their experience with host Rotary clubs, some Open World alumnae have been inspired to become more involved with Rotary.
Nadiya Tsarynna, a member of the Inclusive Education team hosted by the Las Vegas Rotary Club in October 2019, shared her experience:
“I work as the Deputy Director of Secondary School 2 in Poltava, Ukraine. It is in our school that the Zernyatko Center for Assistance to Children and Families of Children with Autism is located.
My decision to become a Rotary member was strengthened and implemented after my participation in the Open World program. I saw great opportunities to organize Rotary clubs and Rotarians, their unity and support, and willingness to cooperate. I met real people of action. This left no doubt about the decision to join Rotary. And I am now a member of a Rotary club that meets online. During this time, my volunteer work grows, although I am the mother of a newborn boy. My faith in Rotary grows stronger, and membership in the e-club gives the opportunity to remotely influence and join projects.
I especially want to thank the family that hosted me on my visit to the U.S. host and the club. We felt the warmth and care with which they received us. We still maintain relationships with club members because they are inspiring people!”
Rotarian Maryana Iskiv of the Lviv Knyazhii Rotary Club in Lviv, Ukraine knew of Rotary since 2015, but made a move to join Rotary only in 2019. That was after she met with Rotarians in Houston during the Open World Program in June of 2019. Maryana reflected on her participation in the program as a turning point experience which “played a leading role in my professional development, changed my life values and helped me understand what to strive for and how to realize my dreams.” In addition to attending professional meetings, the delegation visited a number of local Rotary club meetings which provided further inspiration for Maryanna. After returning home, she was invited to join Rotary, and she did.
Open World promotes global understanding and creates meaningful international connections. In these cases, the program also introduced young leaders to the good that Rotary does and the community it offers, which has led to their on-going participation in Rotary when they returned home.
Is your club interested in building new relationships? Learn more about how you can get involved in Open World.
The Open World Program was originally established as a Library of Congress–administered pilot project in 1999 to give emerging Russian leaders firsthand exposure to the American system of democracy through visits to local governments and communities in the United States. Since 2003, the congressionally sponsored program brings emerging leaders from the following Eurasian countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan to the United States in order to give them firsthand exposure to the American system of participatory democracy and free enterprise. The principles of accountability, transparency, and citizen involvement in government are among the concepts emphasized by the Open World Program.