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    What is a Sister City?

    In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created a program that was designed to enhance relationships between cities in the United States and the rest of the world. The desired outcome of this program is to gain knowledge and understanding between foreign cities through community exchanges of cultural and ethnic ideas. Since its establishment, Sister Cities International has supported programs around the nation and has promoted more than 1,200 relationships between 780 cities in the U.S. and cities in 86 foreign countries.

    What is Grand Rapids Sister Cities International?

    Grand Rapids Sister Cities International (GRSCI) is a non-profit organization interested in coordinating, promoting and expanding international relationships and activities in the areas of trade, culture, and education. Specifically, GRSCI, through an agreement with the City of Grand Rapids, administers Grand Rapids' sister cities programs and interfaces with state- and nation-wide efforts to bring the culture of other nations home to the citizens of our area.

    Because of all the hard work and dedication of this group and the Grand Rapids community, we now have five sister cities:

    1. Omihachiman, Japan
    2. Bielsko-Biala, Poland
    3. Perugia, Italy
    4. Ga District, Ghana
    5. Zapopan, Mexico

    If you are interested in becoming involved with Grand Rapids Sister Cities International, send your name, snail-mail address and phone number to

    Learn more about sister city programs nationwide from Sister Cities International

    International Exchanges Creating Opportunities for Grand Rapids and You!

    Culture to Culture: Grand Rapids' sister city relationships abroad are important sources of pride for the city's many ethnic groups. Through the universal language of the arts, the people of the Grand Rapids area and its sister cities experience the many cultures, customs, and artistic treasures that make each city and each country unique.

    People to People: Whether it's an exchange of students working together on a community service project, artists from our sister cities teaching their native crafts to Grand Rapids youth, or community leaders and business people working together to share ideas and insights, sister cities activities promote lasting friendships and partnerships. Through participation in the program's exchanges, residents have a unique opportunity to foster cultural understanding and communication with people from around the world.

    Business to Business: The opportunities for business investment and expansion in Grand Rapids' sister cities are endless. GRSCI can arrange trade missions and meetings with business leaders in a variety of industries that may yield promising returns for all parties involved.

    Omihachiman, Japan
    est. 1986. Omihachiman is located near the center of the Japan islands on the shores of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan. Omi Rice and Omi Beef are its most important agricultural projects. It's main industries are havesting fresh water pearls, tourism, prayer beads, and shoe manufacturing. Local sake and speciality food welcome people from all over the world.

    Bielsko-Biala, Poland
    est. 1991. Located in the southern mountain region of Poland, Bielsko-Biala has a climate and population similar to Grand Rapids. The major share in domestic production belongs to the electro-equipment, textile, and chemical industries, food processing, and forestry.

    Perugia, Italy
    est. 1993. Perugia is located in Umbria, a hilly region in the heartland of Italy. It is admired for its wineries and historic architecture. Perugia is home to an important art school and two impressive universities.

    Ga District, Ghana
    est.1994. The Ga District is located in what was once called the Gold Coast I the southern part of Ghana. It boasts a stretch of sandy beach along the Atlantic Ocean. The district includes rural and urban areas adjacent to Ghana's capital, Accra. Pineapples, fruits, textiles, and wood products are the principal exports.

    Zapopan, Mexico
    est. 2008.  Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, is located in central Mexico.  Zapopan boasts thirteen college and university campuses and is known for its growing biological sciences and technology industries.


    The opportunities to tap into the Grand Rapids Sister Cities International Program are many:

    Committees: Each sister city is represented by a committee of volunteers who have a particular interest in a city, language, or part of the world. These committee members play an important role in developing and maintaining sister city relationships.

    Volunteers: Many additional volunteers, who share an interest in international affairs, provide home stays and hospitality for sister city visitors, assist with special events, and serve as interpreters and tour guides.

    Supporters: Throughout the program's history, Grand Rapids area business, civic, and cultural leaders have lent their support in a variety of ways including hosting receptions and fund raising activities, and sponsoring exchanges in the Grand Rapids area and around the world. We also receive support from the City of Grand Rapids is many different ways.

    Whether your interest is business, government, international relations and diplomacy, the arts, education, personal enrichment, or ethnic heritage, the Grand Rapids Sister Cities International program offers many opportunities to interact with people around the world.

    Send comments to  or call 616-951-1449