It is good to be reminded that our programs make a difference around the world. This week, we heard from Kris van der Veen of Amsterdam, who came to San Diego two years ago under the auspices of the U.S State Department International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Kris is an advocate for global LGBTQ rights in the Netherlands and came to San Diego to learn about local initiatives to promote and protect LGBTQ rights and connect with national and international counterparts. He has kept in contact with us here at the San Diego Diplomacy Council and this week sent us an email sharing the incredible impact that his visit to San Diego and the United States had on his life and on other LGBTQ alumni around the world. Here is his letter:
“Dear colleagues at the San Diego Diplomacy Council,
In the beginning of this year, I met Rasel in Amsterdam, who is staying in Washington, DC after he had to leave Bangladesh where two of his friends and colleagues were murdered. Rasel also attended the IVLP project like me in the United States and we stayed in contact. Rasel and his two friends all worked at Roopbaan, which is an LGBT magazine…I often think of his situation and also about the awareness and information Roopbaan offered to LGBTQ persons in Bangladesh. Without his magazine and services, it would be more difficult to find a place for help, advice, get together, building communities, etc. Another example is the one of Mariusz Kurz, editor of Replica and IVLP alumni from Poland. He interviewed me in 2016 for a Polish LGBTQ-magazine. He said the article raised awareness in his country on the situation of the LGBTQ community in the Netherlands. Although we have a situation of equal rights- I became deeply aware during the IVLP program in the United States that “it isn’t a gay paradise.” I talked about my own personal experience with bullying, thinking about suicide, and related it to the high numbers of LGBTQ people who think about suicide and how harsh the environment can be.
Our IVLP group is still in contact with each other through Facebook, Instagram, and What’s App…I can’t deny we talk about American politics a lot. The lectures and sessions we had at the State Department about politics, the U.S system, and how it all works were really good and had a lot of impacts. I realize that the IVLP project was one of the best experiences in my life, and got me connected to the Unites States. So, let me thank you for that. I also send you lots of energy and light to keep on working for human and civil rights and equality. Especially nowadays.
I have been blessed to have met you and through you so many other beautiful people. Thank you!
Hope to see you all again one day, with love and kindness
-Kris van der Veen”