Seeking siblings in community partnership

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BRATTLEBORO — The idea of having a "sister community" is not necessarily new here.

But Jim Levinson was inspired to think bigger after Doug Cox showed him a signpost from San Francisco that featured 18 different "sister sisters."

"I think it would be great to have a signpost like that in Brattleboro, pointing to a bunch of different towns we have different connections to," Levinson said. "I don't think any town just wants to be on a receiving end of a relationship."

Cox and Levinson are on a committee that came together after voters approved an article asking whether Brattleboro should sign the Charter for Compassion in March 2017 then the Select Board signed a resolution two months later. They are looking for feedback on what relationships might be explored, who could lead on each one and what criteria should be used.

"Sister city" is defined as "one of two cities or towns in different areas that have a special relationship and are usually similar in some way." A legal or social agreement is formed between the communities.

Cox said they may resemble one another in size, values and challenges.

"Sister communities require the commitment of a citizen of each community to act as a liaison or ambassador to the other, conveying what each community has to teach and to learn from the other," he wrote last month in some notes about the project.

For instance, with a link between Kenya, teenagers could help orphans born with AIDS and go on "green" safaris — planting trees and seeing animals. But they also could share thoughts about drug issues affecting their area.

Levinson said another plan could see Brattleboro getting a supply of thank-you notes or birthday cards from a community in Haiti known for its "wonderful" homemade paper products.

"There's talk of possibly linking up with a Native American reservation," he said. "Marlboro College has a relationship with the Standing Rock community, where that pipe drilling business has been going on in the Dakotas."

Levinson suggested anyone with ideas email compassionstory@gmail.com or submit letters to local newspapers. A timeline has not yet been established.

"I don't know whether this is something that requires a town vote like joining the Charter for Compassion or whether it can go right to the Select Board," said Levinson.

He shared a list of people and possibilities: Miriam Dror wants to collaborate with a Native American community, Rev. Scott Couper has links to Haiti and Rev. Lise Sparrow has some to Kenya as both have been involved in charitable initiatives in the countries, and therapist Paul Rodrigue would like to engage in listening workshops with a place in the United States with more conservative-leaning residents. And Levinson's son and daughter-in-law are in India, working with health workers in slums, arranging prenatal care visits and making sure children and mothers are up to date on their immunizations.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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