LOWELL — Political and educational leaders visit Kalamata, Greece, on Wednesday night for the second phase of their sister city expedition.
Boasting an extensive Greek-American history and community, Lowell became a sister city to Kalamata after Mayor Athanasios Basilopoulos visited Lowell in April. Vasilopoulos toured his Boott Mills and he UMass Lowell’s Research Center, greeted children at the Hellenic American Academy, and shopped at the Market Basket.
Seven people, including spouses and other family members, are now spending a week in Greece, gaining a similar cultural richness and understanding of a city nearly 5,000 miles away.
Bill Kafkas, president of the Greek American Association of New England, said the organization “helped” bring the two cities together. She said she looked forward to introducing her sister city to others.
Kafkas said it was important for Lowell’s Greek community and the city as a whole to maintain a fruitful and long-term connection with Kalamata. The program could also serve as a model for other sister city partnerships, he added.
“Other organizations want to use the Lowell Kalamata project as a guideline, and that pleases me,” Kafkas said. “I think we can pave the way for something good to happen for people of other nationalities as well.”
The Caucasus was the first to introduce the idea of forming a sister city in 2018, former Lowell Mayor Bill Samaras, Mayor Sokhaly Chau, State Senator Ed Kennedy, UMass Lowell Vice Chancellor Arlene Parquet, Middle Judith Hogan, dean of Sex Community College, and Dimitrios Mateos, board member alongside the federation, visit the city.
The 12-person delegation will depart Boston on Wednesday evening and arrive in Athens on Thursday at 12:30 pm local time. It takes about 2.5 hours by car from there to Kalamata.
During the first four days of the trip, Lowell leaders will visit the Peloponnese University’s Kalamata campus to discuss the formation of a study abroad program between the two cities, and meet with business people to discuss imports and exports. They will leave Kalamata the following Monday to see the ancient Olympia and the ancient theater of Epidaurus, the site of the first Olympic Games.
Prior to departure, the group did a historic tour of Athens at the Parthenon, the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum before heading to the Greek Parliament for an official visit and meeting with US Ambassador George Tunis at the US Embassy. increase. They are scheduled to return to Japan next Wednesday.
Chau said Greece was “the foundation of democracy” and contained a lot of ancient history waiting to be explored. He said he finally understood how Vasilopoulos felt when he first visited the United States some time ago.
This partnership is all about exchanges, Mr Chau said. It is an exchange of ideas, commerce, culture, etc. And with dozens of countries represented by Lowell, including Chau’s native Cambodia, there is an opportunity to further establish sister city programs to foster international connections.
“I think this works because there is definitely real interest on both sides of the ocean,” Chau said. “I can see this as an upcoming model.”
Samaras said the Greek community is actively investing in this partnership and hopes the university and local government can establish a relationship that will sustain this relationship for many years to come.
“You send the paperwork and it speaks to our closeness and what you have. That’s great, but we wanted to go beyond that.” One thing that makes me happy is that the Greek community supported this.”
Parquette, who will represent UMass Lowell, met Kalamata officials during a tour of the university’s innovation center, housed in an old factory building, and learned more about UMass’ research and technology operations.
Lowell and Kalamata may not have much in common on the surface, but academics already understand how the two complement each other and broaden their educational and cultural horizons. Parquet said.
“Whether it’s interdisciplinary or having to think about things in a more global way, having these kinds of partnerships and relationships really helps us do that,” Parquet said. “There are so many things we can do to learn from each other.”
Kafkas said he hopes the partnership will be more than just a photo opportunity, but a meaningful and mutually beneficial exchange of culture, business, tourism and education.
“We worked very hard to make this twin city project a success,” Kafkas said. “We are now coming to the beginning, not the end, because we hope that this will be the beginning of many good things.”