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In the Pipeline: Sister City program is worth nurturing

August 06, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Students from Huntington Beach and Anjo, Japan, take a walking tour of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
Students from Huntington Beach and Anjo, Japan, take… (Courtesy Chris…)

Ten years ago, the city of Huntington Beach decided to cut all funding for its Sister City program. As you may know, Anjo, Japan, is our sister city. We also have a new sister city: Manly, Australia, which is known as Surf City down under.

While I know that our city has many budget challenges, it always seemed a shame to me that Sister City was cut out. At $10,000 a year, it represented just .0001% of the city budget.

Thankfully, Carmen Erber refused to let the program go away. She and her husband, George, have been involved in the program for decades, and for the past 10 years, Carmen has been president of the Huntington Beach chapter. The couple chaperoned their son's trip in the early 1980s, and he returned to teach in Anjo and eventually met his wife there (they now live in Long Beach).

Some background on the Sister City program: It is an outgrowth of the People to People program established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Sept. 11, 1956, to "enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures."

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In 1982, the original Huntington Beach sister city agreement was signed by then-Mayor Bob Mandic. Anjo was chosen because it is similar to Huntington Beach in size, population and economic development.

Over the years, Anjo donated nearly $100,000 toward the rebuilding of our pier when it was destroyed. It has also hosted hundreds of our students as part of the exchange program, at its own expense, and the 75 cherry trees by the library and at the Police Department are a gift from Anjo, as is the stone lantern at the head of the City Hall fountains.

Recently, I had the pleasure of giving a tour of the wetlands to a group of students visiting from Anjo along with the Huntington Beach students who are in Japan as of this writing. Carmen was also along for the walk, and while she expressed frustration that her organization is now fully responsible for generating all needed funds, she remains just as enthusiastic about the importance of the Sister City program.

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