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San Francisco Event Highlights the Benefits of Cultural Exchange

In early July, the San Francisco International Program (SFIP), with the sponsorship of Amnesty International, Global Exchange and other organizations, hosted its 2007 Alumni Leadership Awards Ceremony to celebrate past program participants. According to SFIP, these people are making “significant contributions to promote peace, democracy, and equality in their home countries.”

The San Francisco International Program is a cross-cultural exchange and professional training program. Over its 47-year history, SFIP has sponsored individuals from 147 countries.

According to Amourence Lee, Executive Director of SFIP, “What is really unique about intensive exchange programs is that they provide an outlet for travel outside of the realm of tourism, and the superficial and commercial experience tourism often provides. There is a huge difference between going temple-to-temple or museum-to-museum and really sitting down to dinner with people and learning about their lives and cultures. Thinking of travel as a deep and dynamic exchange and as providing a connection that is meaningful and life altering, cultural exchange is an incredible model.”

The event featured three international human rights advocates: Nanda Soobben, a graphic artist, muralist and political cartoonist who remained in exile for years from apartheid South Africa due to his cartoons; Birute Karaleviciene from Lithuania, who is working to promote peaceful economic development of the former Soviet countries; and Jihad Abu Zned, who was born in a refuge camp in Palestine and is working on the frontlines of the human rights and women’s rights movements in the Middle East.

Finally, the ceremony featured a past participant from Zimbabwe, Lizzie Mkurazhizha, as a way to highlight SFIP’s Human Rights and HIV/AIDS leaders. After losing 20 members of her family to AIDS over the past 10 years, Mkurazhizha spoke to attendees about the epidemic, calling the disease a “death sentence” in Zimbabwe, with very little, if any, resources available for treatment. Currently, around one-quarter of the population in Zimbabwe is living with AIDS.

Working in Britain, Mkurazhizha currently supports upwards of ten members of her family, all orphaned by AIDS.

To learn more about SFIP, visit, or go to, to learn more about cultural exchange in general.

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