In 1964, Partners of the Americas was founded after being inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, a program of government-to-government economic cooperation across the Western Hemisphere. According to their website, Partners of the Americas “connects volunteers, international development professionals, governments, businesses, and higher education institutions to implement programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.” American states are partnered with a South American country to fund “opportunities and empowering citizens to become agents of change, we develop lasting solutions to our hemisphere’s toughest challenges, together.” The state of Kansas is partnered with Paraguay.
Closer to home, the City of Pittsburg has a partnership with the City of Encarnacion.
“We signed an agreement several years ago, as many as 5 years back,” said Bobby Winters, director of PSU in Paraguay and Paraguayan Student Association advisor. “We had been approached by some people in Encarnacion that thought Pittsburg would be a good fit for them in terms of having a partner city and so Dr. Paul Sagorsgy and I worked on this and took it to our city commission and they gave us permission to take an agreement down to Encarnacion and… They signed off on the agreement.”
Pitt State also has a long-running partnership with Paraguay and has the PSU to Paraguay program.
“We have several ties with Paraguay,” said Aaron Hurt, director of International Programs and Services. “Kansas and Paraguay’s (relationship) has stayed strong this whole entire time. Over the years, we’ve built an even stronger relationship where we have the PSU and Paraguay program and we teach classes in Paraguay.”
Pittsburg’s partnership with Encarnacion has provided opportunities for students from the partner city to experience the different cultures. Felix Llamosas, senior in civil engineering, is on exchange from Encarnacion this semester at PSU. One such opportunity was for Llamosas, who is a volunteer firefighter in Encarnacion, to visit a local fire station. Llamosas visited Fire Station No.3 on Friday, Jan. 6 at 1:00 p.m.
“I visited as part of the partnership so I could see how they do the things here, what are the differences between my fire department and the fire department here, so it’s like part of the process of the partnership,” Llamosas said.
Llamosas spent approximately two hours at the station during which time he was able to have a tour as well as present Pittsburg Fire Chief Dennis Reilly a gift, a T-shirt from Llamosas’ home fire department.
“It was a tour, so I saw the trucks, I saw the installations, I saw the equipment,” Llamosa said. “I asked about the process of becoming a firefighter, what’s the difference for becoming a chief… I hope to visit again another time with more time so I could see another activities at their department like training or other stuff.”
Llamosas heard from a colleague at his fire station in Encarnacion that their city had a partnership with Pittsburg as his friend is involved in Comité Paraguay Kansas (CPK), that works for cultural exchange between Paraguay and state of Kansas who then recommended Llamosas contact Winters.
Llamosas said he was encouraged to see how similar the fire stations here and back home are.
“My favorite part was finding we have more similarities than differences, because when I came here… I had in my mind that almost everything will be different from my country but it’s not that too much different… it really surprised me,” he said. “I was gladly surprised when I found of that it was similar to how we do the things back there in Paraguay.”
Hurt was glad Llamosas had the opportunity to visit the fire station as part of the broader cultural exchange.
“That’s part of the whole cultural exchange, it’s not just about the classroom or the ciriculum but it’s those experiences outside of the classroom that are probably the most important so I think it’s a great opportunity that he was able to connect with the local fire department and build that relationship and bond..,” Hurt said.
The partnership between the two cities is not only beneficial to students but also the city and community as a whole.
“Cities run into problems… all sorts of things you may never think of and it’s good when you can talk to somebody 5,000 miles away and they’re having the same problems that you are and you get to see how they approach it..,” Winters said. “They’re the same people that take care of things so that’s very affirming and sometimes you get new ideas any time you have other people who approach problems, they may have a different way of looking at it than you do.”
Partnerships like these can also provide the community insight into other cultures that they may not have otherwise.
“It’s important so that we learn how other parts of the world live,” Hurt said. “Many of us don’t get the opportunity to visit other countries or travel so it’s important that we bring those cultural aspects to our campus and our community so we can learn from others as they learn from us. It’s definitely a two-way street and Pitt State and Pittsburg and the community is very fortunate to have those opportunities to be able to interact with international students.”