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Suffolk Sister Cities gives update

Suffolk Sister Cities International is an organization with a goal to unite the world through personal connections, and will not let a global pandemic stop it from doing so.

Suffolk has two sister cities: Suffolk County, England, and Oderzo, Italy. These cities have made personal connections over the years through visitations and student exchanges. With COVID-19 making travel stop, the organization had to adapt.

“We still want to remain engaged with our Sister Cities and express solidarity as well as support,” said Suffolk Sister Cities International President, Bruce Spiro, in a recent newsletter.

Usually, the organization raises money for events, activities and scholarships. However, this year, the organization felt the need to help those struggling due to the pandemic. Therefore, the organization made donations of $1,000 each to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia as well as to a fund set up by Oderzo’s mayor. The donation of $1,000 was given to each.

Sister Cities participants in Oderzo have kept their friends and former host families in Suffolk up to date on what they are facing overseas. Their letters were published in the latest newsletter with firsthand accounts of what was happening.

“There are many students who came here for the exchange program who came back to shadow physicians at Obici Hospital,” said Maryanne Persons, member of the executive committee for Suffolk Sister Cities International. “Now, all of these students are on the frontlines during the pandemic.”

Albert Marcuzzo was one of these students. He now lives in Triste, Italy, and works as an otolaryngologist. He wrote a letter in January that had an update on the status of the pandemic in Italy.

“Entire wards have been emptied to prepare for new intensive and semi-intensive therapies,” said Marcuzzo. “The operating rooms remain open only for emergency or cancer surgery, and everything that is deferrable is not done in order to free respirators for new arrivals.”

Other friends in Oderzo shared similar stories. Maria Teresa Miori shared how she could not leave her home except for work or health reasons in March. She is also a nurse and was working 12 hour shifts seven days a week. Martina Manzato and Marco Calogero shared their concerns for the economic impact of the shutdown.

Suffolk County, England, also felt the impact of COVID-19, but not like Italy. Suffolk County was in a stay-at-home order similar to the one here. Angela Rossi wrote in her letter about making the best of their time at home as she and her husband took care of her parents with Alzheimer’s.

Tim and Nita Jenkins noted how a woman Tim works with contracted the virus, and now his work is shut down.

“Not much chance of things being relaxed at the moment, because we had 980 deaths in the past 24 hours,” the Jenkinses said in their letter.

Suffolk Sister Cities International is now looking for ways to continue civil diplomacy and develop relations in a new way.

“Suffolk Sister Cities is having to consider the new normal and new world we live in,” said Persons. “We don’t know what that will look like quite yet, but we want to explore the new possibilities of how to keep developing these relationships.”

Donations are still open for anyone who would like to give to the COVID relief fund. The checks can be directed to Oderzo, Suffolk, or left to the Board’s discretion.