The World Affairs Council of Harrisburg

By Joyce M. Davis

The World Affairs Council of Harrisburg is part of the national network of World Affairs Councils of America created in 1918 with a mission of engaging Americans in international affairs and promoting global peace and understanding. This prestigious network of organizations hosts lectures and events featuring diplomats, authors, political leaders and international activists, and the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg (WACH) has been instrumental in bringing such distinguished guests to Pennsylvania’s capital.

In its first five years, the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg has touched the lives of hundreds of men, women and children, mentoring dozens of interns during summer programs, sponsoring international travel for youth in the region and bringing in ambassadors, authors and global scholars to interact with associates.

Fundamental to the mission of all councils is youth education and outreach through academic challenges, mentorships, internships and travel.  But WACH also seeks to promote in our community an appreciation of diverse peoples and cultures, religious tolerance and global understanding.  Key to that mission is the annual Torch of Global Enlightenment Awards ceremony, which honors organizations and individuals that have demonstrated the highest values that WACH seeks to advance in the region.

Some of the area’s most distinguished scholars, educators, intellectuals and activists have been honored at the Torch ceremonies, which were first held in May 2013 at Dixon University Center in Harrisburg.  For the past two years, the Torch Awards have been held at Penn State Hershey Fitness and Conference Center and sponsored by the school’s Dean’s Diversity Council, a long-time supporter of WACH’s programs. Behzad Zandieh was awarded the 2015 Torch Award, with other honorees, including Graham and Esmeralda Hetrick, Dr. Barbara Terry, Carla Christopher and Peggy Grove.  Among the organizations honored were the Peace Islands Institute, Survivors, Inc., Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The Torch Awards is the council’s signature event at which it also honors its Global Scholars – high school students in Central Pennsylvania who have committed to a year of collaboration with the council to deepen their understanding of the world and current events.  Thirteen students received Global Scholar certificates at the recent Torch Awards, representing public and private schools throughout the Harrisburg area. The students participated in the many activities and programs that WACH sponsors throughout the year, including its Academic WorldQuest competition, the International Poetry & Storytelling Competition held on MLK Day and the summer internships program for high school and college students.

This year’s Torch Awards also provided WACH an opportunity to celebrate its 5th anniversary, having been founded in the spring of 2010 by a coalition of colleges and universities as well as community leaders eager to advance international understanding in Central Pennsylvania.  WACH’s board of directors honored those organizations that were key to its founding, including Harrisburg University, Temple University Harrisburg, Messiah College, Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, Elizabethtown College, Keystone Human Services, Harsco, the World Culture Club of Central Pennsylvania and International House. These “founding institutions” continue to provide support for the council and host many of its forums and conferences.

The World Affairs Council of Harrisburg is committed to fulfilling its motto of “connecting Central Pennsylvania to the world!” We encourage anyone to join our organization that wants to stay informed about world events, support our efforts to educate our youth and promote a more peaceful community at home and abroad.

For more information about our programs, please like us on Facebook and go to our website at wacharrisburg.org.

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