Photo by David Colburn
A Sunoko and Trissyana Angelina prepare a food basket as part of their International Visitor Leadership Program tour of Community Care Center in Granite City. Along with Rachmat Papine Razyed and Yuliati Umrah, Sunoko and Angelina were selected to experience the diverse social climate of the United States in accordance with the Child Welfare in the U.S. Justice System theme of their program.
GRANITE CITY — Standing in a food pantry, an interpreter explains that “we’re here to show how America is a lot different than Hollywood.”
On March 17, four Indonesian visitors — Trissyana Angelina, Rachmat Papine Razyed, A Sunoko and Yuliati Umrah — toured Granite City’s Community Care Center as a destination on the International Visitor Leadership Program. Along with two interpreters, the group heard the center’s history, operation and mission from Manager Debra Homyer and her husband, Pantry and Warehouse Coordinator Russell Homyer.
The leadership program traces its roots back to 1940, when Nelson Rockefeller initiated the “exchange of persons program” with Latin America upon being named coordinator of commercial and cultural affairs for the American republics. The program underwent a series of name changes before being deemed the International Visitor Leadership Program in 2004. The program’s main purpose is best described by the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, which explains the mission to “promote a better understanding of the United States in other countries, and to increase mutual understanding” between Americans and foreigners.
The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the selected visitors are “current or emerging world leaders from across the world.” Visits generally consist of four diverse U.S. communities that relate to the visitors’ field of interest over a span of three weeks. The theme of this particular five-city visit is Child Welfare in the U.S. Justice System and the specific program was arranged by the Institute of International Education to run March 7-25. The World Affairs Council of St. Louis assisted the State Department in serving the local programmer for the visit.
According to an outline of the program, the project’s objectives are:
• To examine the process of juvenile suspect incarceration, rehabilitation and recidivism reduction efforts;
• To examine the process of investigating crimes of child abuse, child neglect and missing or exploited children;
• To understand the cooperative roles played by government institutions and private sector organizations during the investigative, rehabilitative and advocacy stages of child justice cases; and
• To explore the juvenile justice system pertaining to juvenile suspects and victims.
A group interpreter explains that many heads of state and members of parliament once participated in the program, and that each of the four visitors are “incredibly special,” given their selection among an Indonesian population of 250 million.
Each of the visitors holds a professional position related to child welfare — Trissyana Angelina is the vice principal of marketing and communication for SMA Negeri Bali Mandara, Rachmat Papine Razyed is a staff member of Child Protection and Healthy Growth for the Jakarta Provincial Government, A Sunoko is a community organizer for Women and Children’s Urban and Rural Poverty through SPEK-HAM and Yuliati Umrah is the founder of the Arek Lintang (ALIT) Foundation.
On the tour of Community Care Center, the visitors learned how the center operates — the roughly 3,000 people served each month, how each 50- to 90-pound food basket is arranged by ticket, food rotation by date to ensure freshness, special birthday cakes and personal care products provided when possible, donations of leftover food to a women’s shelter, and Wednesday night church dinners, just to name a few tour highlights — and spent the latter half of their visit creating food baskets and organizing clothes donations.
“I’m very impressed by how Granite City treats its residents,” Sunoko said. “This service is an inspiration to me. When I get back to my country, I want to pressure my government to really reach out to women and children.”
Angelina shared similar sentiments following the tour.
“After coming to the center, I’ve seen how American people are really helpful and support underprivileged families by providing food and shelter,” Angelina said. “Whenever I come back, I hope I can give some different ideas for community service.”
“This is the best way to solve the problem of the peer community,” Razyed said. “The center goes a bit further than what we have in Indonesia by providing clothes and shelter along with food.”
“I’ve always thought that Western people look so solitary, but I’ve seen very good solidarity from rich to poor,” Umrah explained. “Helping people is the most important thing, and I have a lot of information to share about what they’re doing here whenever I get back home.”
The visitors next will travel west to Montana to further increase their understanding of the United States outside the Hollywood stage.
Community Care Center is located at 1818 Cleveland Blvd. and is open 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For more information, call (618) 876-8770 or visit gccommunitycarecenter.org.