NEWPORT NEWS-Sister Cities Newport News (SCNN) held its 13th Annual International Breakfast from 8am to 9am on Friday, June 16, at the David Student Ballroom at Christopher Newport University. This year’s breakfast was open to the public to witness the official signing ceremony with SCNN’s newest international partner, Carrigaline, County Cork, Ireland.
“Sistering” is a process that formally links citizens and municipalities with foreign communities through formal “Sister City” agreements. These agreements are fostered by grassroots, citizen efforts and then ratified by a City Council, or its equivalent. The process of sistering cities is fostered so that relationships will be grounded in long-term community partnerships.
“Traditionally, the International Breakfast has been our largest fundraising event for our 501(c)(3) nonprofit,” said Kate Helwig, executive director of Sister Cities of Newport News Inc. “This time, the highlight of the program for the morning was the actual sistering, or signing, of the Sister City Declaration between Newport News and Carrigaline.”
Nine delegates from Carrigaline, County Cork, Ireland were in attendance, including Seamus McGrath, who was the featured speaker at the breakfast. McGrath has been a member of Cork County Council since 2007 and served as mayor of Cork County from 2016 to 2017.
“We also had a board member speak, an invocation, and Will Reddy, who’s the director of the President’s Leadership Program at CNU, spoke as well,” said Helwig. “Will traveled with our outgoing delegation to Ireland in March, where the first half of the agreement was signed. The President’s Leadership Program is hoping to have a college exchange or youth exchange as early as this fall.”
Helwig said the connection between Carrigaline, County Cork, Ireland and the City of Newport News dates back to more than 400 years ago.
“The program really pointed out the fact that back in 1621, English via Carrigaline, founded a settlement called Marie’s Mount, which basically rests under the coal yard or in the Yard District right behind city hall in Newport News,” said Helwig.
The Declaration of Sister Cities states that the Sister City alliance shall be “the establishment of individual and friendly relations between our citizens through mutual visits; the enrichment of the cultural life of our cities through encouraging meetings and exchanges; the cooperation and exchange of experiences in all areas including culture, education, business, local affairs, governmental best-practices, science, environmental sustainability, religion, sport, and industry; and especially, the promotion of peace, freedom, and prosperity in the world and our twinned communities.”
Carrigaline, County Cork, Ireland is the fourth international Sister City that’s taken part in the ceremonious commitment to serve peace and progress in friendship and cooperation. Newport News Sister Cities officially “sistered” with partners in Neyagawa, Osaka, Japan in 1982; Taizhou, Jiangsu, China in 1998; and Greifswald, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany in 2007. The organization also has “friendship city” partnerships with Ziyang, China and Saint Nazaire, France.
SCNN is governed by a 19-member volunteer board of directors and managed by an executive director. Volunteers, businesses, and partner organizations who support the nonprofit with their time, financial donations, and in-kind services are the backbone of the organization.
“Our budget is under $100,000 a year,” said Helwig. “Building these relationships with our Sister Cities takes a community of volunteers and interested citizens who want to engage. Some members actually travel and host, other members are engaged in committees and bring programming to schools and local festivals, so there are a lot of people who contribute to making these connections.”