US State Department Grant brings Thai Visitors to Hartwick

Earlier this month, Hartwick’s Office of Global Education hosted a group of 12 Thai volleyball enthusiasts, thanks to a grant from the US State Department’s Bureau of Education & Cultural Affairs.

Awarded through the State Department’s Sports Diplomacy program via PH International, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization, the Sport For Social Change (SSC) group included coaches, youth influencers, community sports leaders and interpreters looking to expand equality and inclusivity through the unifying power of athletics.

“The US Embassy in Thailand had two primary goals for the trip,” said Noah Goldblatt, director of global education. “To strengthen gender equality and promote inclusive societies among young people in southern Thailand by using volleyball to bring people together regardless of religious beliefs and sexual orientation. The other goal was to increase the acceptance of gender-diverse people in southern Thailand by providing a safe space for LGBTQI+ youth to engage with community members through sports.”

An additional objective of the visit was to introduce the group to the region’s welcoming environment.

Noah Goldblatt, Ed.D., Hartwick College

“The visitors were not only embraced by the Hartwick and Oneonta community. They were amazed by the generosity of folks everywhere we went.”

Noah Goldblatt

Director of Global Education

Through an interpreter, Sulaiman Jeh-Ubong, a Thailand volleyball coordinator, said, “My overall experience made me fall in love with Hartwick College. The trip exceeded my expectations with everything we learned about inclusivity and volleyball.”

The group also spent time with President Darren Reisberg, who covered various topics related to diversity and inclusion, and spent many hours learning from the Hartwick volleyball players and staff.

Ben Simone, program operations manager at PH International, helped facilitate the visit.

"We are deeply grateful to Hartwick College for their invaluable work on this U.S-based exchange with the delegation from Thailand. Their impressive program not only enhanced the volleyball skills of our visiting Thai coaches but also instilled a deeper understanding of how they can build inclusive practices within their communities."

Ben Simone

Program Operations Manager, PH International

For Michelle Budwitz, professor of public health, who lived and worked in Thailand and who organized some of the group activities, it was the perfect time to show off some of the region’s attractions. She helped ensure that the visitors did a little bit of everything on this, their first trip to the United States. The group visited the Oneonta Boys and Girls Club, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Niagara Falls and SUNY Oneonta. They even stopped in at the Fly Creek Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch.

“Given that the program coincided with autumn, it was a great time to share traditional harvest-time activities at Fly Creek Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, “she said. “They selected pumpkins to carve and challenged each other in timed corn maze races, and they were treated to a trip to the local cider mill to taste cider donuts and drink hot apple cider.”

Hartwick College Global Education staff with Thai volleyball enthusiasts at the Oneonta Boys & Girls Club

Sport For Social Change (SSC) is a global program that fosters cross-cultural communication and leadership development through sport between youth athletes and coaches from the US and eleven other countries around the globe. A delegation from Hartwick College will go to Thailand in 2024 as part of the cross-cultural exchange.

October 26, 2023
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