By Natassja Santistevan
Former President of Albuquerque Sister Cities, Richard Buckler, is starting a new journey. A long-standing member of the local chapter and leader in the “people-to-people” goal of Albuquerque Sister Cities, Richard has been granted the role by Sister Cities International of Zambia Country Representative.
Richard first became involved with Albuquerque Sister Cities in the early 1990s, when he was approached to help a 16-year-old from his church travel to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, one of Albuquerque’s Sister Cities which began in 1991. He got involved with his first student exchange shortly after, writing grants and helping with a program through the United States Congress focused on building additional exchanges with the new Republics that had been a part of the former Soviet Union. After 12 years of being the co-chair/chair for Turkmenistan, working locally and leading student delegations, Richard became the President of the Albuquerque Sister Cities in 2008.
During his presidency, he met with a Zambian representative—Patrick Mapalo– who presented three Zambia cities for New Mexico to consider. Santa Fe and Clovis signed on for the Sister Cities program with Zambia. Working with Mr. Mapalo and local African American leaders, such as Dr. Harold Bailey, Richard began the process for Albuquerque to have its first sister city in Africa—Lusaka, Zambia. After visits by Zambian officials in the Fall of 2014, Richard helped coordinate the 2015 reciprocal visit from Albuquerque to Zambia that finalized the Sister Cities’ agreement between both cities. Shortly after, Richard stepped down from his role as Sister Cities President, and subsequently became the New Mexico State Representative for Sister Cities International.
Richard believes that successful Sister City programs are often built on strong cultural, educational, and economic ties—things that work together in synergistic ways. “We should join together with like-minded people from other countries.” Richard likes the strong emphasis in recent projects with Zambia on Education, supported by some New Mexico universities, such as the University of New Mexico’s “Sister Cities Scholarships” and Western Universities M.O.U. with the University of Lusaka to allow qualified students of both countries to enjoy in-state tuition. Already, over 10 Zambian students have benefited with Western’s program.
Richard’s current appointment by Sister Cities International is part of their Global Awareness program designed to promote countries like Zambia nationally. He hopes to expand on the current programs in New Mexico, and longer term programs such as Los Angeles’ 55 year relationship with Zambia.
Knowing there is much to learn, Richard believes that the foundation of friendship already in place can get other Cities interested in becoming Sister Cities with Zambia. Thus, his five-year goal is to help link five more cities in the US with Sister Cities programs with Zambia, leading to expanded sharing of best practices that will benefit all participants, allowing all involved to have “a more prosperous and sustainable future.”
Fabiola Melendez was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua Mexico. She grew up in Moriarty, New Mexico.
She was able to win a Latino American Award in 2016. She was also a College Facilitator for two years at Global Santa Fe. She had the pleasure of Studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain for a semester. This sparked her interest in International Relations.
Fabiola Melendez is the Program Operations Specialist for Q Station. She helps facilitate the space making sure all events and meetings run smoothly. She also facilitates foreign relations with the New Mexico Trade Alliance, a nonprofit economic development organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fabiola graduated from the University of New Mexico. She received a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Spanish. She also received a minor in German.
By Natassja Santistevan
Is it easy to fall in love after a few weeks? According to Stephen West, a current resident of Japan, it is. Stephen recently visited the States and shared his experience with Albuquerque Sister Cities. After his involvement with the Albuquerque Sister City Japanese youth program, in which he visited Sister City Sasebo his senior year, he continued embracing the culture by learning Japanese and later enrolled in school, calling Japan his new home.
Stephen was first introduced to the program when his own home was opened to Kento, a student from Sasebo. While the language could have been a bump in the relationship, the two boys bonded and even played a John Lennon song for a Sister City reception. The following year Stephen had the opportunity to stay with Kento’s family. He had been studying Japanese at UNM so he could communicate with his host family. They became extremely close. His host family had been a part of the youth program for 55 years so their bond resembles a true family. In his 3rd year at UNM and with 3 years of Japanese under his belt, Stephen applied to a program where archeologists could stay in Japan for two weeks and experience the museums and culture of Tokyo and Hokkaido. While the environment is memorable, the people left the biggest mark on Stephen. He explained “the people are very considerate, they’re very kind…our personalities align “. Culture shock is not uncommon, the biggest difference Stephen experienced between the US and Japan was the way people socialize. It’s not as common for people in Japan to entertain in their homes. According to his experience, “usually you go out to a place, to a bar or something”, leaving the home for more intimate moments.
West is currently enrolled in a Phd program and has been a resident of Japan since 2019 and hopes to work as a researcher or professor in Japanese Archeology. With less than 5 Americans in this field, he wants to “carry the torch” as an American archeologist. Establishing yourself as a resident in Japan is a difficult process. Thankfully Stephen was more comfortable with the transition from his past visits.
Stephen expressed gratitude for Albuquerque Sister City, stating he would never be on this path if it wasn’t for his enrollment in their youth program. When asked about the program he emphasized, “there are a lot of experiences you won’t get to do in America, it’s good to try out new things” and for those who are uncertain of studying abroad, “what do you have to lose”?
From senior year to college graduate, Stephen’s story began with Albuquerque Sister City and their program continues to support his Japanese adventure and personal growth. Albuquerque Sister City is hopeful to bring student delegates to Sasebo again and is looking forward to seeing the benefits of the program on the newer students. Like Stephen, they aim to develop relationships with different cultures and people, bridging the gap between worlds and embracing opportunities.
ASCF President Pam Feather and Sasebo Committee Chairs Kazumi Kawakubo-Todman and Denise Terrazes meet with the West family over dinner to congratulate Stephen on his pursuit of his phD in Japan.
ASCF thanks Ernesto Garcia for his dedicated service as our Guadalajara Chair for the past several years. During his tenure as Chair, he helped coordinate ASCF’s involvement in the Sister Cities International’s 2018 All Mexico-US Sister Cities Mayors’ Summit held in Guadalajara. Join us in wishing him all the best in his future endeavors.
Celeste Nuñez is the Director of International Business Resources for the New Mexico Trade Alliance, a nonprofit economic development organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She connects companies from all over New Mexico with local, state, federal, and international export assistance resources to help them gain and grow international sales. Notably, Celeste manages the SBA-funded New Mexico State Trade Expansion Program Grant under the New Mexico Trade Alliance’s contract with the State of New Mexico.
Celeste is a 2020 U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s (USGLC) Next Gen Global Leader and a member of the USGLC New Mexico Advisory Board. In 2019, Celeste served as the organizer for the Albuquerque – Chihuahua Sister City Bilateral Commission, an Agreement with the objective of developing programs of mutual benefit in the areas of economic development, tourism and cultural exchange, public safety, and education. Additionally, Celeste contracts with local governments on other business development projects through her own consulting company.
Celeste graduated summa cum laude with a BBA from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management focusing on International Management and Marketing.
Spear-headed by Sister Cities International’s Africa Regional Coordinator Lorna Johnson and SCI Global Envoy Mary Palko, representatives from Los Angeles and Albuquerque/Clovis, New Mexico, met on-line February 3 with US Embassy Public and Cultural Affairs officers (Mr. Philip Dimon and Ms. Anamarie Karrels). Discussion centered on how to strengthen and grow sister city projects between the U.S. and Zambia. In attendance for New Mexico were Pam Feather (ASCF president), Dr. Harold Bailey (ASCF Lusaka-Albuquerque Chair), Richard Buckler (SCI NM State Representative), Claire Burroughs (Clovis Assistant City Manager), and Patrick Mapalo (NM Honorary Consul for Zambia). Dr. Earnestine Robertson (President Lusaka-Los Angeles Committee) represented Los Angeles.
On December 5 many of our Members met in person (following New Mexico Health Department guidelines) to celebrate Winter Fest. The event was hosted and catered by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and attendees were able to sample the wonderful cuisine of IPCC’s Harvest Kitchen, including chips-salsa-guacamole, three kinds of savory meatballs, green chile quesadillas, blue corn pancakes, and several kinds of fruit and cheese. Entertainment was provided by soloist Hannah Stephens, Spanish classical guitarist Ron Manginell, Shamisen performer Masahiro Kamei, and the Tierra Adento of New Mexico Flamenco Dancers. The entertainment was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube for those who attended virtually.
Albuquerque Sister Cities Foundation (ASCF) would like to announce that Richard Buckler has received the Award of “Outstanding State Representative” by Sister Cities International!
Our annual International Tea Events look different this year due to the current pandemic challenges. We have planned alternative events through our Facebook livestream that will feature two of the 10 Sister Cities each month beginning with February 21, 2021 through June 13, 2021.
In the past, we have hosted an International Tea for the Albuquerque Community featuring the 10 Sister cities in one event at a local community center.
April 25 Sasebo, Japan and Guadalajara, Mexico
May 23 Helmstedt, Germany and Chihuahua, Mexico
June 13 Lusaka, Zambia and Alburquerque, Spain
Tune in LIVE on Facebook or YouTube for presentations, Q&A, and more!
FB Live: http://bit.ly/Mach21 LIVE YOU TUBE: bit.ly/ABQSisterCities *FB Live will be the month and date listed above.
This is a fun, free opportunity to virtually experience two of our international sister cities and Learn about their culture.
Please Note: Update on Travel- Due to the continued Covid-19 pandemic, there will not be any outbound or inbound trips. ASCF will be monitoring and following USA guidelines as well as their twin city/country’s guidelines for travel.