On Saturday, Jan. 25, Sebastopol World Friends (SWF) hosted the Sister City Friendship Dinner. Almost 300 people, including SWF board members, dignitaries, and dozens of volunteers, gathered in the Memorial Hall at the Enmanji Buddhist Temple to celebrate the organization’s accomplishments of the past year and its sister city relationship with Takeo, Japan, and Chyhyryn, Ukraine. The dinner showcased food and cultural entertainment from both countries.
Among the guests were Acting Consul General Oleksandr Krotenko of the Consulate General of Ukraine in San Francisco, Vice Consul Ryo Aono and Political Assistant Kevin O’Donnell of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. From the Sebastopol City Council, Mayor Patrick Slayter and Councilmembers Sarah Gurney and Michael Carnacchi also attended.
SWF welcomed back two groups that represent cultural entertainment from Japan and Ukraine: Sonoma County Taiko, a local Japanese drumming group, and the Burevisnyky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble from San Francisco.
This year’s Honorary Memberships were presented to Chief Bill Braga of the Sebastopol Fire Department, Andy’s Produce Market and O’Reilly Media, in recognition of their continuing support of Sebastopol World Friends.
Proceeds from the silent auction will be donated to the people of Takeo for their rebuilding efforts after the recent flooding disaster in central Takeo.
Sebastopol Mayor Patrick Slayter, who supports Sebastopol World Friends as the city council liaison, reflected on the event and the organization:
“The Sebastopol World Friends Friendship Dinner is the organization’s largest annual event, showcasing all the different programs this dedicated group of community members provide to the benefit of our community. The Student Ambassador program is the heart of Sebastopol’s Sister City program and the SWF Board of Directors introduced the new Ambassador Scholarship Circle with the intent of increasing access to the program for qualified students by the removal of financial barriers. The Student Ambassador program builds confidence, awareness, empathy and understanding; all important traits in today’s multicultural world.”
SWF’s goal is to work toward “World Peace, One Friend at a Time,” by bringing sister city citizens together through youth and adult citizens’ homestay exchange programs.
— Submitted by Meg Mizutani