I had the opportunity to interview Felicity Harley, Executive Director of the Worlds Affair Council in Connecticut, a nonprofit organization which is the largest in International Affairs in the United States. Felicity has a very extensive career that combines 30 years of experience in national and international affairs. She was born in England and has had the opportunity to travel and live in various other countries. She is a writer and a poet. Megan Torrey, Program Director of CTWAC, was also with us in the interview.

ER-Can you please tell us what is the mission of the CTWAC?

Megan Torrey- The World Affairs Council of CT has the mission to educate the public on international affairs. We are part of the World Council Affairs of America which encompasses 87 affairs councils throughout the US. The overall national mission is a grassroots movement to inform the public on international affairs and global issues.

ER- Who are your supporters?

MT- MT-We don’t have any federal or state grants. We do have grants for educational programs which are privately funded and financed and some grants that come from the Hartford Public School System

FH- And the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving also provides us some grants. We are a nonpartisan organization and we get a lot of corporate support as well as from the general public.

Woman’s Council Global Affairs

ER- When did the initiative of Woman’s Council Global Affairs emerge?

MT- The World Affairs Council in CT has been in existence since 1924 and we are the second oldest organization of its kind in the US.

FH- The new initiative is Woman Global Issues Forum which will begin in September with a focus on international issues for women.

ER- Are women the only eligible members?

MT- We are accepting members of both genders. They will be primarily female, however we do accept males.

FH- Both, but the focus of the programming will be women. I think that it’s also important that males understand women’s issues.

ER- Can teenagers get involved too?

MT- Yes. We encourage students to join the Student membership and sometimes, when we can, we offer special pricing for students by getting supplemental fees to give them the opportunity to come for free.

FH- Membership is very diverse age wise. We have young members, sometimes very young people from high school. Very diverse in terms of “global”, our membership comes from all around the world and we have a diverse representation of Asians, Indians, Africans, etc. We do a model United Nations Program and we do so by taking 9th through 12th graders. We take 700 hundred students and we run in 32 schools. The students come to the University of Hartford for two days and we have a US General Assembly and they work on specific issues affecting the World or in their community. They also go to New York and meet with delegates from the various embassies. This allows them to represent the countries and be well informed about the specific issues and policies which often are very different from the United States.

ER-Felicity, talk to us a little more about your personal experience & background.

FC- I was working in the Foreign Service and I had a lot of experience with non profits organizations. I complement my colleague Megan Torrey who has a Masters Degree in International Relations. I also have experience in Educational Programs & Schools.

ER-How did your passion to work in this area and your interest in international countries started?

FC- I traveled extensively and I was brought up in different countries. I grew up in England and my mother is from the Caribbean. I also lived in Nigeria and Mauritius, so I’ve also been traveling in other places like Tehran, Iran, just a great interest in those kind of issues. My father is a Diplomat so I understand those issues that I was exposed as well to those parts of the world.

ER- Are there any current issues/programs that you are focusing on currently?

MT- One of the most exciting things we are doing over the summer is a “Summer Institute for Educators” focused on Latin America. We have a four day intensive program for 20 educators, mostly from Hartford, and it will be an intensive study on how to approach Latin American Studies in the classroom with a focus on geography. Participants were chosen through an application process and we are working together with some partners such as the Latino Study Academy.

FH- One of our programs this year will be focused in Brazil.

ER-Why Brazil?

MT- It is an emerging economy and when they announced their formal consulate in Hartford, in May, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to make an event out of it.

FH- We actually invited the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet to open up our series but she communicated to us saying she was very sorry but due to time constraints she couldn’t come. She wished us the best of luck…but it would have been wonderful.

ER-Finally, I’d like to finish the interview by asking you what message would you like to relay to our readers of this education column?

FC- The community as a whole is our home. We would like to have more members from the Spanish community. The membership fee is $ 50.00 dollars for a person and $ 75.00 year for a family. You get the mailings and hear about the events. This is an important segment of the community to reach out to, even though the program will not be always focus in Latin America. But the community can become interested in global issues that we engage in every day. We encourage membership participation and we’ll be delighted to have more members.

For more information, please visit their website www.ctwac.org

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