Summer 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW5

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Partners of the Americas


Arlen W. Etling
Assistant Professor
Agricultural and Extension Education Department
Penn State University-University Park

Christopher J. Kalangi
Arizona Extension Service
University of Arizona-Tucson

Juanita O. Waites
Arizona Extension Service
University of Arizona-Tucson

Can youth contribute to international development? Can they do more than the traditional "exchange"? A collaborative effort involving Arizona 4-H and the National Association of the Partners of the Americas, Inc. (Partners) indicates that youth can play a significant role in international development.

Partners is the largest private voluntary organization promoting economic and social development in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. states are linked with countries or states in Latin America and the Caribbean to form "partnerships." Committees are then formed on each side of the partnership according to common interests such as agriculture, economic development, cultural arts, health, youth, and sports. The Partners organization provides travel grants for members of the partnerships to plan and implement collaborative international projects. Volunteers with professional backgrounds in various fields share their knowledge and skills to conduct self-help projects at the grassroots level.

Arizona 4-H made contact, through the Arizona Partners youth development committee, with a parallel committee in Durango, Mexico. A joint project was conceived in Fall 1985. Its main goal was to establish a 4-H type youth organization in Durango.

In March 1986, Durango sent 23 youth who were members of a school folk dance troop and also interested in organizing youth clubs. Eleven adults accompanied the group, which gave performances in four Arizona counties while observing both rural and urban 4-H programs. Durango then requested that Arizona send 4-H youth and adult leaders with experience in horticulture, leadership, and club organization.

Eight 4-H youth and three adults (community club leader, county 4-H agent, community development specialist) traveled to Mexico in August 1986. They worked with their Mexican hosts to plan and conduct training at three sites for youth and adults interested in organizing 4-C in Durango. The four C's stand for cabeza (head), corazon (heart), casa (home), and comunidad (community).

Fifty Mexican youth and 26 adults completed the training. Seventeen new 4-C groups were organized immediately and expanded to 28 by 1988. A grassroots 4-C organization was created and a new dimension was added to Arizona 4-H, thus creating an opportunity for an inexpensive international experience.

A year later, 11 outstanding Durango 4-C members were selected to go to Arizona to share their experiences in organizing 4-C and to learn more about other 4-H projects. A second group of students in Durango's College of Agriculture, who volunteered to help with 4-C, also visited Arizona in 1987 for intensive training.

In November 1987, this program received one of six "awards for excellence" from the American Express Company. Presented at Partners' 8th International Conference in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the $1,000 award was split between Arizona 4-H and Durango 4-C to be used for future exchanges. This was the only youth program among the six award recipients.

In 1988, Arizona sent a second delegation of 12 4-Hers and four adults to Durango. Integral parts of this exchange were cultural awareness and technical training sessions for the 4-Hers before their departure for Mexico. In Durango, the 4-H and 4-C participants built greenhouses, rabbit hutches, and poultry pens. They completed workshops on vegetable, rabbit, and poultry production. Entrepreneurship skills were also taught at the request of Durango Partners and Durango 4-C. Durango and Arizona plan to continue youth exchanges each summer, alternating as hosts and guests. Rooms and meals are provided by host families.

The benefits of this program to Durango are obvious. More subtle, however, are the benefits to Arizona. Sister clubs have resulted from individual contacts. These sister clubs correspond, exchange ideas, and sometimes exchange learning materials. Arizona 4-Hers who aren't old enough for IFYE and can't afford UTREK (exchange with Japan) can travel to Durango. The 1986 trip to Mexico cost each 4-Her $50.

Contacts between Arizona and Durango promote understanding between two neighboring countries that are strongly influenced by each other and increasingly interdependent. As increasing numbers of U.S. citizens speak Spanish, knowledge of Latin American people and culture becomes more important. In this Arizona- Durango exchange, stereotyped impressions were changed. Second language abilities improved as personal friendships were established and cultural awareness was enhanced.

Forty-three U.S. states have partners to the south. With the success of the Arizona-Durango partnership, Partners is encouraged to try other youth programs through 4-H. Interested states can contact the parent organization: Partners of the Americas, 1424 K Street, N.W., #700, Washington, D.C. 20005, 1-800-322-7844.