An update from the Cultural Exchange Panel (February 2021)
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I hope this message find you and your families safe and well. Given my last update was a few months ago, I wanted to again reach out to our members to update you on the latest activities of the Cultural Exchange Sector Panel and what we are aiming for in the near future.
I am sure we all entered the new year with mixed feelings: the tough recognition that the pandemic will continue to have a lasting impact on our industry and a rising hope, seeing the enrollment of so many COVID-19 vaccination programs. Undoubtedly, these vaccines represent a sustainable response to the pandemic. And the only way to rebuild international travel safely and consistently is for governments to understand the importance of getting them equally distributed to every population across the world.
It is also encouraging that President Joe Biden has already moved to undo many of Trump’s immigration policies. As you know, the ban on J-1 visa is currently still in place until 31 March 2021. While the injunction is also still in place, the continuation of the ban is causing significant damage to sponsors, agents, and hosts of international exchange programs. It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will push the consulates and embassies worldwide to resume visa processing as before, but we are hopeful that the proclamation will not be extended.
In the live panel calls we held in the summer of 2020, it clearly emerged that many organizations within the Cultural Exchange sector had suffered many operational and duty of care issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on feedback, it was clear that there was a strong need for more collaboration in order to learn from each other. At the time, the panel suggested to form a working group with the aim to exchange knowledge and enhance collaboration on international crisis management. Pleased to share that this working group led by Robyn Walker (CENET) have been working diligently to set up a framework of guidelines, as well as best practice recommendations on how to best prepare for and manage an international crisis.
This working group consists of both agents and sponsors and has representation from different parts of the world. I am delighted to let you know that we will be holding a WYSE webinar next Tuesday, 23 February, Stronger together: best practice for crisis management in which this working group will be presenting the work they have been doing, which I will moderate. I strongly encourage you to sign up for the webinar if you want to know whether your organization is prepared to properly manage a crisis, or if you can contribute with your own experiences. The working group has done an excellent job putting guidelines together and are excited to share their findings with you.
On a European level, the Cultural Exchange panel is looking at ways to support the call for free movement and a confirmed UK visa route for au pairs coming from the European Union. Due to Brexit, there isn’t one, despite the many campaigns of IAPA and The British Au Pair Agents Association. The panel fully supports the statement that au pairs are not immigrants but take part in a cultural exchange program to the benefit of young people, as they live with a host family, improve their English, and learn about what it is like to live abroad.
The Sector panel is meeting bi-monthly, actively sharing the work of WYSE and is always open to any questions or suggestions. Please feel free to get in touch via the form below if you have any questions and/or suggestions, as we always appreciate your feedback.
The Cultural Exchange Panel
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