Minutes of Seventh Meeting of VINN (Vermont International Nonprofit Network)

Tuesday October 21, 2003 Global Health Council, White River Junction 3:30 – 6:00 pm


Animals Asia: Andi Mowrer
ECOLOGIA: Carolyn Schmidt
Global Health Council: Nils Daulaire, Annemaire Christensen, Tina Flores
Population Media Center – Kriss Barker, NaHyun Cho, Christopher Lytle
Salzburg Seminar: Scott Atherton
Save Our World - Vermont: Marion Leonard

Absent with Notification:

Green Across the Pacific – Peter Lynch
Institute for Sustainable Communities – Barbara Felitti
Peter Ames Non-Profit Consulting – Peter Ames
Project Harmony - Barbara Miller
Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, Middlebury College – Charlotte Tate
Vermont Council on World Affairs – Bonnie Tangelos
Vermont Refugee Resettlement Council – Stacie Blake

1. Networking / Introductions

Global Health Council - Nils Daulaire, President, summarized Global Health Council’s evolution and goals. GHC links health care practitioners and policy makers who work on international health issues, especially focusing on women’s health, child health, HIV/AIDS, Infectious Diseases, and Emerging Threats. GHC’s headquarters have been located in Vermont for five years. GHC has been advising the US government on its planned Global AIDS Initiative. GHC also recently received a substantial grant from the Gates Foundation, for use in its health programs.

Animals Asia Foundation - Andi Mowrer, Director of the US Office, had recently returned from AAF’s annual meeting on black bear rescues, held in Chengu, Sichuan Province, China. The Chinese government continues to support the black bear rescue program. However, Andi also reported that the marketing of animals in China (which had dropped off last year due to SARS) has returned nearly to its previous level.

Save Our World Vermont - Marion Leonard, Director, outlined the history and mission of her organization. Save Our World started on eastern Long Island in the 1980s, primarily in support of the nuclear freeze movement, and then became involved with environmental issues as well. Five years ago, the Vermont branch of Save Our World was founded. They work at the grassroots level to raise earth consciousness, with programs such as distributing and explaining Earth Flags and getting local businesses to display them. Save Our World’s current project is starting an Earth Literacy Center as part of the new Community Wellness Center in Rochester.

Salzberg Seminar – Scott Atherton, Deputy Director, Asian Affairs and Universities Project, described their new program of developing week-long intensive study-abroad seminar sessions designed for students from American community colleges. This is an addition to the Seminar’s traditional emphasis on programs for mid-career professionals.

Population Media Center - Kriss Barker, Vice President for International Programs, informed us that PMC recently received a grant from US AID to develop popular media (soap operas for TV and/or radio) to highlight the problems of exploitative labor practices in the cocoa-producing industry in West Africa (the plantations using unpaid labor are mostly in Ivory Coast; the population they draw from includes neighboring countries such as Mali). This is a new content-area for PMC.

ECOLOGIA – Carolyn Schmidt, Project Director, described a recently-completed international exchange program on industrial air emissions and the regulatory process, which ECOLOGIA organized for members of the Kazakhstan Environmental Ministry and Business Association. During two weeks in Pennsylvania, they visited regulators, businesses and citizens groups dealing with these issues.

2. Shared Information: Practical Issues – Effective Use of Media and Publicity

Among the strategies discussed were:

  1. Public Access Cable TV (you can prepare and get to them a video, up to 30 minutes long);
  2. participating in VPR talk shows and commentaries;
  3. highlighting your organization at local restaurants’ ‘non-profit’ fundraiser days;
  4. making yourself and your organization personally known to local editors;
  5. identifying and defining the topics you specialize in and be prepared to give
  6. buying and employing locally;
  7. always having a Vermont focus when preparing a story;
  8. preparing stories to reach editors for Monday and/or Saturday time slots since these are traditionally slow news days.

3. Shared Information: Regional Focus – Cuba.

Annmarie Christensen, Director of Publications for Global Health Council, analyzed the health care situation in Cuba, based on her recent visit and participation in a medical conference which focused on treatment of HIV/AIDS in Cuba. Starting in 1983, in response to the news about HIV/AIDS, the Cuban government stopped imports of blood, started testing soldiers returning from Angola, and developed a system of sanitariums and quarantining for those testing positive for HIV. The government informs partners of those testing positive. These measures, though taken at the cost of patients’ privacy, are credited with keeping the AIDS rates in Cuba far below those in other Caribbean nations.

Living in a sanitarium is now optional (not mandatory) for people who are HIV positive. The sanitarium which Annmarie’s group visited is located 15 km outside Havana. It provides a government-run ‘safe house’ with nursing care. Difficulties in transportation make it difficult (though not impossible) for residents to travel to jobs in the city. In the category of AIIDS prevention, a recent innovation is a mobile “AIDS awareness van” which goes to rock concerts, providing testing and condoms free of charge.

Through answering questions and providing first-person anecdotes, Annmarie was able to clarify a number of points about the Cuban health system, and the current state of Cuban society. Many thanks for this presentation.

4. Criteria for Membership in VINN:

  1. A tangible Vermont connection – maintaining an office and having Vermont
  2. Demonstration of a commitment to international work, as shown in the mission statement or in specific programs
  3. Participation in VINN meetings, or other ways in which the organization can add value to VINN. Any organization which misses three consecutive meetings without notification loses its membership status.
  4. Contributing financial support. Those organizations now listed in the Brochure and on the website have each contributed $50. New members are expected to contribute $50 upon joining.

5. Benefits of Membership in VINN

  1. Networking opportunities
  2. Publicity - Listings in Brochure and on Website
  3. Participation in VINN activities and events - Favorable publicity for VINN will benefit its members

6. Suggestions for Publicity for VINN

  1. Create a display board; locate display in libraries and other public places;
  2. Organize media events, such as radio commentaries on “Internationalism in Vermont”, an international debate every quarter on Steve Zinn’s NPR “Switchboard” program which would feature different VINN members; participate on Vermont Public TV talk shows)

Everyone at the meeting agreed that we needed more time to discuss these important issues of most effective ways to use to promote international concerns, and to increase awareness of the work done by VINN members. This topic was put on the agenda for the next meeting.

7. Next Meeting: Wednesday January 28, 2004 at Population Media Center in Shelburne. This will be a lunch meeting (bring your own lunch), from 12:30 – 2:30 pm.

  1. Networking /Introductions
  2. Shared information: Practical Issues – Effective Use of Media and Publicity, for individual members and for VINN as an organization.
  3. Make decisions; choose time-frame for developing and implementing them.
  4. Other issues and topics as time allows
  5. Schedule next meeting time/place