The COVID-19 pandemic threw a bucket of cold water on everyone’s plans, causing cancelations and postponements across the board. At Amizade, among many of these travel disruptions, we had to cancel one of our most exciting programs, one highly anticipated by our educational and community partners: the Heart of Appalachia with the Fulbright Program.
We can’t travel now. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t continue the conversation.
Thanks to the support and ideas from our friends who work with the Fulbright Program, and to the new Amizade VSL platform, we were able to convene our partners from Appalachia in a virtual space along with some of the Fulbrighters who visited the community last year.
For almost two hours, participants reminisced on beautiful memories from their time together in Williamson and caught up on what happened in each other’s lives over the past year. As part of the conversation, scholars and community ambassadors addressed how COVID-19 impacted everyone from East to West. Unfortunately, we found out that some of our friends are stuck in the United States until borders in their countries are open, and others had their job positions cut indefinitely. But amid many challenges, everyone is supporting their home communities in the ways they can, whether assisting in healthcare or providing meals to families in need.
It was impossible to not discuss the ongoing events of police brutality in the United States. Amizade Appalachia Site Director and community organizer Nate Siggers led us to talk about how the group can support the Black community over difficult times. Some of the scholars also shared how they’re supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and helping break the cycle of disinformation abroad.
Amizade wants to thank everyone who could join us in this call. After hearing everybody’s thoughts, we left this meeting reinvigorated and with the hope that better days are not far ahead of us.
The Heart of Appalachia is a storytelling project created in 2016 by Amizade in partnership with the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, and The Fulbright Program. It features the voices of Williamson community members and the Fulbright Program participants.