FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Four cities across the globe share a partnership with Fort Wayne. Within this partnership is give and take, learning from one another. And it wouldn’t be possible without Fort Wayne Sister Cities International.

“I think that a lot of residents don’t even know that we have Sister Cities,” said Stephanie Mack, board member of Fort Wayne Sister Cities International.

Fort Wayne’s Sister Cities include Takaoka, Japan; Plock, Poland; Gera, Germany; Taizhou, China; and Friendship City, Mawlamyine, Myanmar. But what purpose does this serve?

“Anytime you turn on turn on your phone or computer or the television today, you see how divided individuals are. Whether it’s locally in our country or around the world. Sister Cities International’s sole focus is to promote peace. And Fort Wayne Sister Cities International is our effort at being part of an organization that connects individuals globally so that the cities can thrive culturally, educationally, and hopefully economically,” said Mack.

There are ways you practically see that in Fort Wayne. That includes a mural on West Wayne Street. Or an exhibit at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art called Poetry in Painting – Scenes from Fort Wayne’s Sister City Taizhou, China. The exhibit is on display until Sept. 17. Click here to learn more.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with a local organization. And also, I think specifically, China. We hear a lot of rhetoric in the news about China, and yet we don’t always see the beauty and culture that China [has] had for thousands of years. And this is just a little taste of what that can be, and bringing the greater world into Fort Wayne is always exciting,” said Jenna Giley, associate curator of exhibitions at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

Speaking of taste, you can whip up traditional dishes from the sister cities with recipes from a cookbook. You can click here to learn more and purchase the cookbook.

Or, you may have heard of the annual Taste of the Sister Cities Gala, an event designed to raise money for the organization but also share the food and culture of our Sister Cities. The money raised helps support a number of programs the organization hosts, like the student exchange program.

“This is an experience of a lifetime. This is a 3-week immersion. You will learn deep, deeply about the culture. You’ll stay with the families, you’ll go to school in their schools. You will truly become one of them. And you bring that home to Fort Wayne. It will change your life,” said Mitch Sheppard, president of Fort Wayne Sister Cities International.

The program is open to any high school sophomore or junior in Allen County. The applications for 2024 are open now. The exchanges will be in Taizhou, China, and Takaoka, Japan. It’s the first time the program has returned to the cities since the pandemic. You can click here to learn more and get access to the application.

But beyond the student exchanges, other exchanges between the sister cities remain a give and take. You can click here to learn more about the organization as a whole.

“From process improvement in manufacturing to different techniques for caring for our elderly to how we function in a society who are least able to care for themselves, it is completely different in each one of the cities that we visit. We take something very meaningful away from them, we hope we give something just as meaningful to them…I think every citizen should realize there’s a bigger world out there than what we see every day. You know we think that with these little devices in our hand, we’re connected to the world, those aren’t meaningful connections. They don’t have a smile, you don’t know their dog’s name, you haven’t had a tomato from their garden, everyone should care about it because it’s the opportunity to make meaningful, lasting, and impactful connections,” said Sheppard.