When I first heard about the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, it brought me back to my earliest experience of learning about people whose cultures are different from my own. (You can read about it here.) What an important cause, now more than ever.
As an adult, if you are looking for an opportunity to get to know and understand people from other countries, getting involved with the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is a great way to start. The nonprofit organization builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information and exchange of people and ideas.
Awarded the 2012 Best of the City Award from Cincinnati Magazine, its more than 1,600 supporters include individuals, corporate, civic and academic members, and community volunteers who host visitors in their homes. It has welcomed visitors to our Greater Cincinnati region from over 100 countries; about 300 visitors annually. And about 9000 students have increased their global skills through its programs. It is affiliated with the National Council for International Visitors.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please click here.
“Just” Dinner with international guests through the US Department of State premier exchange program, The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) with Greater Cincinnati volunteer host family. It is a wonderful two-way exchange of politics, similarities and differences, culture, family, professions, & more! Hosting is one of the most beneficial ways for Americans and visitors to put a true face to countries.
In life, we learn so much from our experiences. They shape and teach us, how to see our world and those who share it with us. When we get to know one other, we break down stereotypes, open communication, bridge understanding and come to appreciate the unique gift each person offers.
I was 11 years old when I went through my first interviewing process. I was applying to be one of four students selected to represent Cincinnati, and the United States, in an international friendship program known as Children’s International Summer Village. Founded right here in Cincinnati in 1951, CISV chapters across the globe host summer camp-like villages where delegations of 11 year -olds from diverse countries learn about peace by gaining understanding and building friendships. Impressionable minds come to see beyond differences to realize how alike they are as human beings.
I was a finalist that year which meant that, while I didn’t attend a Village, I and my family began the process of welcoming to our home Irene, a girl from another country, Sweden. While she was here, she and I attended a day camp similar to the village only we went home every night, where we spent our days among dozens of other young people, many of whom spoke limited to no English. And the following year, at 12 years of age, I boarded a plane with other Cincinnati children to spend five weeks in Sweden with Irene’s family.
I will never forget those early experiences and the influence they have had on my life. It is an incredible gift to come to know someone different from yourself. You grow as a person. You grow in your perspective. You appreciate differences. You thirst for learning and you become more welcoming to those whose cultures, religions, backgrounds, and ways of life are not like your own.
Since then, I continued my journey. In high school, I became involved with AFS, an interchange program. Camilla, who I still consider my Swedish sister, lived with us for a year. I was president of the Wyoming High School chapter my senior year. As an adult, I volunteered as a driver for the Tennis Masters Tournament in Mason for about 17 years getting to meet people from around the globe, even opening my home to a young tennis player from Brazil one year. I served on the board of the CISV Cincinnati Chapter for several years, and my brother and his wife adopted my niece, Kalianni, from India. Through my career and personal life, I am involved with causes that bring people together through and celebrate difference.
The lessons that you learn from getting to know and appreciate people who do and say and experience life unlike yourself truly are transformational. Stereotypes are dispelled as you come to know people as individuals, human beings who have their own unique qualities and share a common need for being seen and welcomed. Communication barriers are broken down, replaced with open conversation. Workplaces and communities are strengthened by diverse people participating together. World peace is given new perspective as places on a map and cultures that are foreign to us, represent individuals, relationships, and feelings.
You need not have to wait until adulthood to enter this classroom. Teaching young children to value and include others who are different from themselves is an incredibly important lesson. There are so many opportunities through school and the community to get to know others with different beliefs, ways of getting around, learning styles, backgrounds, ages, and cultures. As adult role models, we have a great responsibility to be setting an example, to be encouraging those experiences, to be helping children navigate the journey and grow into caring, welcoming adults.
And, as adults, we too can learn and grow so much from each other. When we include people who are different from ourselves, we are all better for it.
I remember so well that day when United Pet Fund held its grand opening of its then new 8,500 sq ft Blue Ash Resource Center. In a warehouse building that would come to be stocked with pet food and supplies, dozens of people who shared a common interest in the welfare of animals were standing. All eyes were on a man and his dog, and the connection that spoke to the hearts of everyone in that room.
Dr. Zekoff, a Blue Ash veterinarian, founded United Pet Fund to support the work of dozens of local animal care and service organizations including dog and cat shelters and rescues without the resources to maintain their very important, difficult, and often emotional work of saving lives.
Next weekend, you are invited to attend UPF’s Garage Sale with tons of household items, sports equipment, toys, pet supplies and more…all to benefit UPF’s work – and ultimately over 85 regional animal shelters, rescues and advocacy groups. Below are more details.
UPF Garage Sale Preview Party
When: Friday, June 9 from 4 to 8 pm
Where: UPF Resource Center, 11336 Tamarco Drive; Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
Cost: A $10 donation
UPF Garage Sale
When: Saturday, June 10 from 8:30 am to 4 pm
Where: UPF Resource Center, 11336 Tamarco Drive; Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
Gene Armentrout was surrounded by family when his heart beat its last pulse March 10, 2015. He was an avid tennis player, an amateur bridge partner, sometimes golfer and passionate runner for 25+ years. He was the guy running in Eden Park or on bridges across the Ohio River at lunchtime – in a Santa suit during December. Gene was also a respected businessman and philanthropist. A graduate of the first class of Leadership Cincinnati, his last position before retiring in 2012 was as president of Gradison Financial Services (later acquired by McDonald & Co. Securities, then Key Bank; currently owned by UBS). He was president of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, and served on the Boards of the Urban League of Cincinnati, the Northern Kentucky University Foundation, the Business Advisory Council at Xavier University, and many other arts, humanitarian and educational organizations.
But more than that, Gene was a family man. He met Rita, the woman of his dreams, in first grade, and 58 of his 78 years were spent married to her. Together they enjoyed five children and eight grandchildren, and many lifelong friends.
It took just a few short months for Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) to rob friends, family, and a community of a man whose brain helped him achieve great accomplishments, who lived with passion and heart, who loved and gave love generously.
Gene’s daughter, Tish Hevel, had been living in Columbus for 20 years when her father became ill and she became a caregiver. It was during her search for more information that she learned of the critical need for brain donations to study the growing and vast number of neurological diseases and disorders. The decision was made to give that piece of her dad to benefit others.
Only it was a decision that came with far too many complications. In his final four hours, a time when Tish would have liked to have spent holding his hand, she researching how to ensure her dad’s final gift would be carried out.
More than 50 million Americans are estimated to have some form of neurological disorder, among them Parkinson’s, autism, dementia, schizophrenia, and CPE from concussions. In other words, about one in six of us will experience or know someone who is experiencing one of these disorders in our lifetime. Research has come a long way but human tissue is necessary in the quest for answers, and there simply is not enough of it being donated. Part of that reason is due to the complication of the donation process, part of the reason is a lack of knowledge and misunderstandings.
A New Chapter
Less than a year later, the Brain Donor Project, was an official 501C3 with a mission of raising awareness of the need while simplifying the process for human brain donation for research. Tish is its founder and president.
In just about seven months, already the Brain Donor Project has had almost 500 brains committed from 46 states and the District of Columbia, representing some 45 categories of brain disorders.
Brain Donations Simplified: How the Brain Donor Project Works
Arranging to donate your brain for research may be the most valuable legacy you can leave to improve the health and wellbeing of future generations. The first step is visiting http://www.braindonorproject.org to have your questions answered. In one stop you can register to donate your brain when you die, receive authorization and consent forms, and tell your friends
The Truths About Brain Donation
Registering as an organ donor IS NOT the same thing, and just because you have registered to donate your organs to science does mean you have also registered to give your brain. There is a different consent process for donating a brain.
You DO NOT need to have a brain disease in order to donate your brain. In fact, ‘control’ brains are in just as much demand and are just as valuable for research.
There is no additional cost to your family for donating your brain.
Bodies are not disfigured when brains are donated. Families can still plan for open casket funerals.
Hear Tish’s Story at TEDxCincinnati
And on June 17, she will be sharing her story at TEDxCincinnati.
This year, for the first time ever, TEDxCincinnati will be on a Saturday with new times and more ways to connect and learn. The Main Stage Event will be Saturday, June 17 at Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St. Cincinnati, OH 45202 and will feature the same show at two convenient times:
Pre-Dinner Show at 5:00 pm (registration opens at 4:00 pm)
Post-Dinner Show at 8:30 pm (registration opens at 7:15 pm)
All guests are encouraged to attend the networking cocktail hour from 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm. Food trucks and entertainment will be on site while guests network with the evening’s speakers and performers.
It is funny that Dona Jean Gatwood, director of community inclusion programs at Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD, Inc.) told me one of the perks of her job is that it gives her the opportunity to laugh a lot, as, it is because of people like her that I’d have to say that is definitely a job perk for me as well (I do public relations for LADD). I can always count on being uplifted and welcomed. And, especially if DJ is around, I know there will be a lot of smiles.
LADD is a 41 year old Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization that is guided by the belief that every person has ability and value, and that there is great strength in diversity. It works to propel the inclusion and success of nearly 500 adults in Hamilton County who have developmental disabilities through housing and employment options, life skills training, and advocacy leadership. I really think of LADD as a pioneer in this work, always forging new ideas for building a more inclusive community where everyone can contribute and belong.
In her job, DJ oversees many facets of LADD’s work including supportive housing, adult foster care, a unique Community Connections that engages adults with developmental disabilities in decision making and community involvement, and more.
She has many long days but I think it is pretty obvious that her time spent is more than a job, it is her passion. It is no surprise that her career there spans 19 years and prior to LADD, she worked for another nonprofit agency for 16 years.
“The work just kind of found me,” she said.
It all began when the son of her mother’s friend mentioned he needed help at a group home. DJ and her parents drove to Cincinnati, she interviewed, was hired as an assistant and moved in.
If you are one of the fortunate ones to have DJ a part of your life, you know she isn’t one to take relationships lightly. Her ear is always open to listening. Her heart is always full with love. Her arms are always available for hugs. And her door is always open for others to walk in.
It has just been a part of her upbringing since growing up in a rural farming community of Circleville, Ohio. Her parents were the extra parents for any kid who didn’t have a good home. There was an extra plate at dinner for an extra family or family member. DJ even read in her great grandmother’s diary about that family doing the same thing. And it was that way on DJ’s dad’s side too. “I’m blessed that way,” DJ told me. “You learn your values early on.”
And so, of course, DJ called her parents from work one day to tell them she would be bringing the Gena, the youngest girl living in the group home where she worked, back for a visit. When funding shifted, that girl moved into DJ’s home as a foster for twenty years. At 34 years old now, Gena is living in an apartment with support from LADD, and in every way except biological, she is DJ’s grown daughter.
“I’ve learned so much through Gena. She has taught me about resilience and curiosity, and to never put a limit on what you can do. Gena never holds a grudge and she is so passionate about having a vibrant life,” DJ said.
Hmm, I have a feeling DJ has taught Gena those same lessons.