Making the African Connection

Josephine at Greentek

Josephine with Ethan Gilbert, CEO of Greentek Recycling.

International House had the honor of hosting two cohorts of Professional Fellows from Zambia and Zimbabwe this past year. Our most recent delegation featured 6 dynamic young entrepreneurs who spent three weeks with us in October. They enjoyed staying with their Charlotte home hosts and made the most of their time in the Queen City by networking and connecting to other entrepreneurs, business executives and academic scholars.

One example is Ms. Josephine Takundwa who runs ‘Earthlink Technologies’ in Zimbabwe. She distributes power surge protectors and IT Hardware throughout Southern Africa. During a meeting and site tour with Ethan Gilbert, CEO of Greentek Recycling, Ms. Takundwa learned about the business of IT hardware recycling. This is a service that is currently not provided in Africa, and she was able to broker a deal involving shipping containers of used IT hardware from Zimbabwe to be recycled by Greentek right here in Charlotte. Josephine also met with top executives at Duke Energy facilitated by our Board member Mr. Jose Merino and also toured the IT network system lab at CPCC, thanks to a meeting set up by Dr. Maha Gingrich, another IH Board member. Another member of the delegation, Ms. Misozi Mkandawire, who is starting a micro financing venture in Zambia, also found an interested investor at an entrepreneur meetup in the South Park area.

International House partners with the U.S. State Department and other national agencies to bring scores of emerging global leaders to Charlotte every year. These international guests are leaders in the government, business or NGO sectors in their home countries and are seeking to connect with their professional peers in the United States. This is “soft diplomacy” at its best. “People to people” connections break down barriers, build understanding, and promote prosperity and peace. Our Citizen Diplomacy program is an important part of how International House welcomes the world to Charlotte!

International Visitor Leadership Program Group from Thailand signs Agreement During Visit

International Visitor Leadership Program Group from Thailand signs Agreement During Visit


What started as a typical International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visit ended as an extraordinary event. International House (IH) was asked to coordinate the visit of nine park managers from Thailand through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a premier professional exchange program coordinated by the U.S. Department of State’s. When IH Program Director Johnelle Causwell arrived at the Knoxville Airport to pick up the group, which included Superintendent Krissada Homsud of the Khao Yai National Park, no one knew that the trip would end with such exciting news. Unbeknownst to the group, officials in the Thai and US governments were finalizing wording for the first Sister Park agreement for both the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and The Khao Yai National Park.

Although not exactly twins, the two parks share a number of similar resources and protected area management and operational concerns. The significant biodiversity of both Khao Yai and Great Smoky Mountains is at the center of their mission and programs. Both parks are the most visited National Parks within their respective countries, which presents similar challenges associated with high visitor use, along with potential impacts due to adjacent land use and development. Both parks are popular for spectacular wildlife viewing, streams and waterfalls, and lush mountain forests.

“We are honored to form this unique partnership with Khao Yai National Park which shares so many similarities with the Smokies,” said Park Superintendent Ditmanson. “There has already been an incredible exchange of information among our staff and Superintendent Homsud and we look forward to continued sharing and learning through this relationship.”

During their visit, the Khao Yai National Park delegation met with GSMNP Park managers, biologists, entomologists, educators, historians, and facility managers offering the opportunity to learn about resources in the field and to cultivate relationships for future information exchange.