New Global Name, Same Global Mission
New York or Washington might make their own claims, but no American city is as truly international to its roots as New Orleans. It’s not just the varied influences – Indigenous, European, African, Caribbean, Asian, to name a few – it’s the way we have blended them together and spiced them up into our daily gumbo of life.
In turn, this makes New Orleans one of the most popular U.S. destinations for international visitors, and no local organization does more to bring guests from all around the world to our city than Global New Orleans.
The organization has been a local presence for more than 75 years under various names, most recently the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council. While an independent nonprofit, it has a formal partnership with the U.S. State Department through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The State Department assembles visitor groups (some from individual countries, some from regions or continents, some truly worldwide) focused on a specific topic, such as Coastal Restoration, Women in Business or Community Engagement, then escorts them to three or four American cities. At each location, the visitors meet with leading local professionals from that specific field.
Mix in opportunities for Global New Orleans members to host informal dinners for visitors in their homes, additional receptions and other events, and the result, as the organization says, is “ordinary citizens helping shape foreign relations one handshake at a time.”
The recent name change is part of a fairly extensive reimagining of the organization over the past two years, spurred in part by bringing on a new Executive Director, Sarina Mohan, in June 2020. This of course coincided with the closure of virtually all international borders, halting all IVLP work. Mohan and the board of directors saw this as an opportunity.
“There have been so many changes in the landscape of nonprofits and the city of New Orleans,” Mohan observed. “As we assessed the needs of the community and the possible impacts of the pandemic, we realized there was so much more we could do.”
In Mohan’s words, the new name “reflects the rich connection with the diverse people of New Orleans and the priorities of our organization. As citizen diplomats, our work has the potential to be so broad, and we wanted our name to convey how broad the connection between New Orleans and the global community can be. We want to go beyond the IVLP to engage residents with people around the world.
“New Orleans is not a buttoned-up city in the way diplomacy is often perceived,” she added. “New Orleanians build connections everywhere they go, and we want to recognize the beauty of connectivity in those informal moments when we break bread together and just hang out together.”
While the IVLP remains the core of Global New Orleans’ work, the organization is increasing its focus on opportunities for its members and everyday residents to get a taste of the international experience. This is literally true in the World Explorer Supper Club program.
“The program supports local immigrant chefs with international ties,” Mohan explained, as the program begins with dinners created and prepared by the chefs for local participants. “As people eat, they also learn about the chef’s home country.”
Global New Orleans also presents programs on various international topics as well as subjects that link to global aspects of New Orleans culture. A recent example was an exchange with speakers in Recipe, Brazil, who discussed the history of street music and dance in that city, and explored the connection to New Orleans second lines and street music.
While the pandemic has forced most Global New Orleans programs to be conducted virtually, Mohan is optimistic that in-person events will resume in 2022. Many will be hosted in the organization’s new headquarters in Central City, in a renovated 19th century house on Baronne Street.
With the return of guests will come more opportunities for local residents to interact with the visitors. Global New Orleans is actively seeking volunteers to meet with delegations on a professional basis as well as people to participate in the informal dinner hosting. More details and contact information can be found on the group’s website, www.globalneworleans.org.
Few experiences in life are as enriching and instructive as traveling to other countries. Yet few of us are in a position to do that on a regular basis. The next best thing is meeting people from all over the world here in our home city, and no organization offers more, and more interesting, opportunities to connect with our fellow travelers on this planet than Global New Orleans.