Kate Helwig, SCNN’s Executive Director, noted that “after the move last Thursday (February 27) by Japanese Prime Minister Abe to close schools in Japan for the entire Month of March, the decision became more obvious.” She said that Japanese schools had a planned two-week break in March and closing schools for the rest of the month was “a strategy to prevent an outbreak of the virus.” Helwig added that she is not aware of any confirmed cases in the sister city of Neyagawa (Osaka Prefecture) however, there is a confirmed case in the city of Osaka.
Despite the cancellation of the exchange, local host families will gather for a scheduled meeting on Saturday, March 7 in the City’s office building at Fountain Plaza Two in City Center, Oyster Point. “We had planned to go over details of the exchange itinerary, but now we are getting together to determine ways we can conduct a virtual exchange,” noted Neyagawa Committee Chair Christine Peterson. Ideas include sending a care package and recording a video. Host families are also being encouraged to communicate directly with their Japanese delegates, all to show support from Newport News. “This a ‘reciprocal’ exchange program, and today we are proceeding under the understanding that Newport News’ delegation will travel out to Neyagawa in November,” said Peterson. “If concerns over COVID-19 continue, we will not.”
Sister Cities acts as the international arm of the City of Newport News. Organization president Katie Stodghill explained that the mission of the program is to offer cultural, educational and business exchanges that benefit the community. “We are a bridge for our citizens to the world. Today, that bridge has become more important than ever. We are here to show that Japan and the U.S. are not isolated from one another by this virus, our sister city partnership connects us. People think this virus is not having an effect locally. It is. All international travel is affected. We need to make sure citizens have good information, take reasonable precautions, and don’t fall prey to fear mongering. If citizens have questions about what is happening in Japan, I encourage them to find out by working with us on our virtual exchange.”
Meeting date is Saturday, March 7 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm; James Conference Room of FP2; address – 700 Town Center Drive, Newport News, 23606.
Neyagawa is located within the greater Ōsaka metropolitan area. It has a population of about 240,000 people. Neyagawa-shi is named for the Neya River which runs through its central region. Its hills are dotted with Paleolithic (Pre-14,000 BC) and Jōmon (14,000 BC -300 BC) era ruins. The City of Newport News sistered with Neyagawa in 1982 under the leadership of then Mayor Joe Ritchie. In 1999, Newport News’ sister city program was incorporated as SCNN, Inc. a 501 (c) non-profit whose mission is “to build and strengthen international cooperation, understanding and development between the citizens of the City of Newport News and those of the world”. SCNN is a member of Sister Cities International (SCI), the nation’s foremost citizen diplomacy movement representing over 500 U.S. cities with more than 2,000 partnerships in over 140 countries. More information is available at www.sistercities-nn.com Follow them on FACEBOOK @sistercities.newportnews.va.usa and Instagram @SisterCitiesNN