Uzhhorod, Ukraine, and Gondar, Ethiopia — what do these seemingly random cities have in common? They’re both sister cities of our very own Corvallis, Oregon.
The Corvallis Sister Cities Association (CSCA) was founded in 1989, and Uzhhorod was chosen as Corvallis’ first sister city. About 25 square miles, Uzhhorod’s population was last recorded as 115,163 in 2016. Sitting at the Ukraine border, Uzhhorod is nestled before the Carpathian mountains. Seized by five different countries in the last 100 years, the majority of residents are of Ukrainian descent, with Russian and Hungarian ancestry strongly represented in the local population.
The Corvallis Sister Cities Association set up a pen pal program in 1990 for elementary students from Ukraine and Corvallis. In 1990, the Mayor of Corvallis also led a delegation to Uzhhorod, with the Mayor of Uzhhorod visiting Corvallis in 1992.
Even then, the Sister City relationship wasn’t just pen pals and mayoral visits; the CSCA was about to start some very important work that continues to this day. In 1994, the CSCA, along with the Benton County Medical Association, sent 27 tons of medical equipment to Uzhhorod. Sister Cities International recognized this project for The Best Single Project Award in 1995.
Corvallis continued developing the pen pal program and in 1996 received a grant from Sister Cities International for a school-to-school linkage program. This allowed Corvallis to send 12 students and 3 adults to Uzhhorod in 1997.
CSCA also received the Best Assistance Program Award from Sister Cities International for medical aid sent in 1997, while developing programs with Uzhhorod to help individuals with disabilities. In 1999, CSCA received a National Organization on Disabilities Award for outstanding programs promoting involvement of people with disabilities.
In 2000, CSCA once again received the Best Assistance Program Award from Sister Cities International for a shipment of medical aid. In 2001, one Corvallis Sister Cities Association member received the Medal of Honor from the Mayor and City deputies of Uzhhorod. The award is Uzhhorod’s highest honor for citizenship and service to the community.
In addition to continuing donations of medical aid, CSCA has also donated other humanitarian supplies like quilts, socks, hats, gloves, school supplies, and games. CSCA regularly holds fundraisers to pay for these supplies to be sent.
In 2005, Corvallis gained its second sister city, Gondar, Ethiopia. As of this year, Gondar’s population was recorded at 153,914. An 2007 census report shows over 83 percent of the population as Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.
The Corvallis Sister City Association has focused on fundraising efforts to help Gondar with its access to clean water. The biggest event that is put on is the annual Walk For Water 5K. This past May was the event’s eighth year. The event is a 5K because many people in Gondar have to walk a long distance to get water. Since 2010, the CSCA has completed 20 wells that serve around 100-200 families by providing them with a source of clean water. More than half of the residents of Gondar do not have access to clean water.
To get involved in helping out the residents of our sister cities, or to simply learn more about them, please visit the Corvallis Sister Cities Association website at sistercities.corvallis.or.us.
By Jonah Anderson