In collaboration with Meridian International Center and the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State, Global Ties Sacramento implemented the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project for Türkiye entitled, Educational Resilience Following Natural Disasters. In February 2023, Türkiye was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, leaving a profound impact on its communities, which is why six professionals from Türkiye embarked on a transformative journey to delve into the realm of Educational Resilience Following Natural Disasters during their professional exchange program in the U.S. This IVLP from Türkiye, comprising professionals from diverse backgrounds including education, public health, and project management, sought to understand how communities in the United States navigate the complexities of post-disaster educational recovery.

From March 13th to March 17th, Global Ties Sacramento hosted the visiting group in the heart of California, where the scars of natural disasters are all too familiar. Their destination: Paradise, a town that endured the devastating Camp Fire in 2018. With nearly six years of ongoing reconstruction, Paradise provided a poignant backdrop for the Turkish exchange group to gain insights and exchange experiences. During their visit to Paradise, CA they met with Town of Paradise representatives Mayor Ron Lassonade and Recovery and Economic Development Director, Colette Curtis, at Paradise City Hall to discuss the 2018 Camp Fire’s impact on the town and the long-term community recovery efforts. They also engaged with Camp Fire Collaborative representative, Bruce Yerman, Director of Operations, and Disaster Case Manager Supervisor Abigail Mebrahtu to discuss how they created a realistic recovery plan and helped tailored to different survivors’ unique situations and needs.  Through candid conversations and shared narratives, they unearthed commonalities that transcended geographical boundaries.

A pivotal aspect of their journey involved dialogues with Paradise Unified School District where they met with Superintendent Tom Taylor and other elementary school educators. Each representative shared their turbulent yet courageous journey of rebuilding the educational landscape post Camp Fire. The emphasis on emotional well-being resonated deeply with the Turkish international exchange group, underscoring the vital role of psychological support in educational resilience. Throughout their visit the exchange group witnessed resilience in action.

As their journey drew to a close, the Turkish visitors unanimously expressed gratitude for the enlightening exchange in Paradise, CA. The parallels between their homeland and Paradise illuminated universal truths about resilience and community spirit. Through this cross-cultural exchange, they departed with newfound insights and a shared commitment to bolstering educational resilience in the face of adversity. Natural disasters leave deep scars on communities, disrupting lives and infrastructure. In the wake of such events, rebuilding isn’t just about physical structures; it’s also about reconstructing the social and educational fabric.