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Take Five: Meet Liddy Paulsen, president of the Newport Beach Sister City Association

By AMY SENK

Earlier this year, I was reading a City Manager update about recent Public Works improvements at the Sister City Garden in a corner of Irvine Terrace Park, where sculptures and benches reside to commemorate the friendship between the Newport Balboa Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Okazaki South in Japan. The “Sister City” was formalized in November 1984 through the Newport Beach Sister Cities Association (NBSCA), and according to the report, the garden includes a stone temple, three dedicated benches, a statue, a stone lantern and six memorial Japanese Black Pines dedicated to the city and its citizens. I stopped by to check it out, and then I reached out to Liddy Paulsen, president of the Newport Beach Sister City Association, to find learn more.

Take Five Meet Liddy Paulsen

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos by Amy Senk

Liddy Paulsen

Q: You are the president of the NBSCA. Can you tell me more about the organization’s history?

A: Dwight D. Eisenhower felt we should have people-to-people diplomacy, which is how Sister Cities International, which began in 1956. In Newport Beach, two gentlemen, Sam Tate and Wendell Fish, went to the City of Newport Beach and said they were interested in getting involved in a Sister City program with Okazaki, Japan, and the city agreed. We’re the group that runs the Sister City organization for the city, under their policies. Later, we also became a Sister City to Antibes, France and Ensenada, Mexico.

Q: What is your role with the organization?

A: I’m the president. We have a board of directors that meets once a month at OASIS. Our goal is to work with youths between the cities. We work on the student exchanges. We have three vice presidents, one for each Sister City, and we have a secretary and treasurer. We are a 501(c) organization. We plan fundraisers, although lately we’ve been pretty quiet because of COVID. Connie Skibba, who is vice president, did go over to CdM and Newport Harbor high schools to talk to them about student exchanges. We have exchanges with eighth grade students at CdM Middle School and at Ensign. And for France, we have 10th graders who travel to France. We usually have eight to 10 students, and then over in France or in Okazaki, they would choose eight to 10 students. Our students travel there during spring break, in Okazaki, and stay in the home of a family, go to school and participate in all the family activities. One year, my husband, Scott, and I were chaperones. It was great. We had a lot of fun. We stayed at a teacher’s home, and they wined and dined us while we were over there. The kids went to school with the students and stayed in their homes. And then that same student in October comes to Newport Beach and lives with our student who lived with them. We also take the students on outings when they come to visit. The visiting students are presented at a City Council meeting and present something to the council. They are also honored at one of the meetings in Japan. 

Take Five stone lantern

The garden, tucked into a corner of Irvine Terrace Park, features a statue and benches along with this stone lantern presented to the city in June 1989, celebrating the 15th anniversary of Rotary Club of Okazaki’s charter

Q: I saw a City Manager’s update that mentioned the Sister City Garden in Irvine Terrace Park. Can you tell me more about the history of that garden?

A: This was not the first garden. One of the gardens we had was in front of the old City Hall, with roses given to the City by Antibes. When that City Hall closed down, the roses were going to be taken out. I went over and looked at them, and they looked terrible, so I went to Sherman Gardens and asked, “How do you take care of roses? What do you do?” It ended up that we were able to save some of the roses, and they are now at a private home. Irvine Terrace Park’s garden began because Wendell Fish lived there. They donated pine trees and things like that, and it was a perfect place to put them, in the park near Wendell Fish. I think Wendell was involved in having it there, and then they also put the statue and \ benches in so people could sit and look out. It’s a beautiful view, sitting on that bench, looking out at the bay. We also have two statues and the Bamboo (Courtyard) garden at the library. And the Japanese Sister City participants paid to have those statues and things all shipped over and planted.

Q: What gifts have we given to the other countries?

A: This is our concern. Not very much, and this is what we’re focusing on now because we have the 40th anniversary coming up with Okazaki. We need to go to the city and say, “We need a substantial gift to send to Okazaki.” One year, when they came over here, our mayor gave them a gold pen. And at the same time, they donated this big marble statue that was worth thousands of dollars. It doesn’t need to be like that, but I think our officials aren’t as aware of how important these relationships are and what they do for us.

Q: Why are Sister City relationships important?

A: It makes our kids more aware of other cultures. It’s a more intimate appreciation of other cultures when you live it for a while and know someone who lives there and it’s a contact. A lot of friendships have spread from that, from the visits here, or their visits to their Sister City buddies over in the foreign country. It’s like Eisenhower wanted it to be. It’s a face-to-face, people-to-people experience – learning how you live in your country and what you’re like and being appreciated and then vice-versa. Building better understandings. We believe in the program and think it does a lot of good. 

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Newport Beach Sister Cities Association and student exchange program, visit www.nbsca.org/okazakistudentexchage.html.

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Amy Senk is a long-time resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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