by Shraddha Kharel-Pandey, director, Asia Programs, ICMA
It’s not often that ICMA staff members have an opportunity to visit alums of ICMA’s global exchanges in their home countries and see how they’re doing. When my staff colleague Harleen Kovela and I were in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February to attend the 9th World Urban Forum, we had the privilege of reconnecting with three past participants in the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program, which ICMA manages for the U.S. Department of State.
Calvin Ng and Wai Siew Teh (Sabrina) took us out to dinner for delicious traditional Penang street food. We were able to catch up and learn about what they have been up to lately. They also showed us around the Kuala Lumpur City Center. Calvin is a nutrition officer at the Selangor State Health Department and was placed in the city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, for his fellowship in 2015. Sabrina also worked for the State Health Department and is now pursuing her Ph.D. degree in nutrition.
Another Fellow, Sreedaran Raman (Sree), invited us to visit his hometown of Melaka and see the famous Melaka River project. Sree is a senior assistant director at the Department of Irrigation and Drainage of Malaysia and was placed in Dubuque, Iowa, for his fellowship. Two of Sree’s friends, Lawrence and John, were gracious enough to drive us to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur.
Interestingly, the Melaka River Walk was inspired by the San Antonio River Walk, and Melaka’s slogan of “Don’t Mess with Melaka” was inspired by the Texas slogan “Don’t Mess with Texas.” To me, this was a reminder of how small the world really is and how inspiration knows no boundaries. The city center of Melaka has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which protects the original culture and historical architecture.
Sree is managing the second phase of the development of the Melaka River. The river, which was once called the “Venice of the East,” was historically a port of entry for traders. It is the main tourist attraction in Melaka, and visitors come from all over the world. As in San Antonio, an hour-long river cruise provides a great view of the heart of the city. They are expanding the development, and Sree has been focused on this.
Sree mentioned the importance of what he learned during his fellowship about citizen engagement because as the manager of the expansion of development, he has had to engage many stakeholders who will be affected. We also managed to squeeze in a scrumptious South Indian lunch at the famous Banana Leaf restaurant in addition to touring other historical sites.
ICMA has hosted more than 250 Fellows, mainly from Asian countries, in the past eight years under the auspices of a series of Professional Fellows programs. If you are interested in hosting an international fellow in your community, click here to learn how.