Projects and Events

Mayan Melipona Bee Sanctuary Project 

Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico

The Mexican Yucatan is home to the Mayan Stingless Melipona bee. She is called Xunan Kab which means Royal Lady Bee in Mayan language. There is a documented 3,200 year old tradition of honey harvesting in Maya lands. Xunan Kab is the only honey bee native to North America and has a distinctively unique pyramid-shaped comb. The Melipona Bees are crucial rainforest pollinators and the pollinator of the Vanilla Orchid.

Women of the Yucatán have recently begun honey cooperatives from what was once a men only practice. This new development has encouraged a few women to create their own MELIPONA HONEY BEE SANTUARIOS and honey businesses which continue the preservation of their ancient Mayan bee tending practices.

Women of the Yucatan have little opportunity for starting eco-businesses mainly due to low or no income, limited education and resources, and society traditions.

The Mayan Melipona Bee Sanctuary Project is specifically dedicated to funding Women in rural pollinator areas of the Yucatan Peninsula with Melipona Honey Bee Apiary start-ups, by providIng funding for education. This model allows women to sell their rare and valuable medicinal honey in local markets and abroad, thus creating opportunities to sustain this ancient cultural practice and revive declining Melipona Bee populations.

“Bee the Future” and grow a network of Meliponarios throughout the Yucatán—a whole corridor of pollinator sustainability can be achieved—with your help!

Robert Burns Birthday Celebration

Dunkeld & Birnam, Scotland

To commemorate the bard’s life and works, the date of his birthday, January 25th, is celebrated as Burns Night in which Scots-at-heart around the world come together to share in a Burns Supper.  Although the format of the evening can change from supper to supper, the general ceremony remains similar to the first Burns Supper held in 1801 at the King’s Arms Hotel, in his birthplace, Alloway, at the invitation of Reverend Hamilton Paul, the Laureate of the Alloway Burns Club who and gave the first “Immortal Memory” speech about the poet.

Reverend Paul held the Suppers for nine years in Alloway as they began to spread each year throughout Scotland.

Robert Burns Night Suppers are now held around the world in celebration and recognition of the enjoyment he brought in a time when spoken and written words were the only form of communication and entertainment.

A delegation from Asheville and Asheville Sister Cities delivers medical supplies to midwives in San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Wheelchair Project

San Cristobal and Valladolid, Mexico

In 2017, members from both San Cristobal and Valladolid, Mexico committees will be delivering 110 wheelchairs to members of the communities with mobility issues.

The Wheelchair Project began almost two years ago with conversation in San Cristobal de las Casas around the huge need for mobility for many in the community.  Partnering, the two Mexican Committees (Valladolid and San Cristobal de las Casas) met with the Asheville Breakfast Rotary club to begin the process of raising the funds to cover the cost of a container of wheelchairs to be sent from the Wheelchair Foundation to be sent to our sister cities in Mexico.  We have been fundraising for a year, accepting personal donations as well as hosting a “Mercado Night” at 67 Biltmore Downtown Eatery and Catering which featured collected items from artisans in Mexico as well as live auctions. We are close to our goal of sending 110 chairs and hope to place our order by July 15th of this year.  Shipping and delivery will take 3 ½ months.  The chairs will be trucked to San Cristobal from the Port of Entry, and unloaded and stored by the Rotary Club in San Cristobal in Mexico and by DIF.   50 chairs will then be sent by truck, cost covered by a private grant from Bepensa, to Valladolid, again to be stored by DIF and IMA, a US based medical group.  Each chair costs $150 ( and there are 110 in the shipment) plus the cost of customs and port fees.  We are close to meeting our goal, but still have a little ways to go.  We are currently selling vouchers for an Asheville Tourist Baseball ($7 to get you to any game besides July 4th and any Thirsty Thursday game).  We are also still accepting donations on our website and all donations go directly into this project.

For anyone interested in purchasing Tourist vouchers, contact Lori Davis withe the subject line “Tourist Voucher”

Sister Schools Program

Saumur, France

Building on established relationships, we hope to continue programming and partnerships with Asheville High School/SILSA and Lycée Duplessis Mornay to build a Sister Schools Relationship through SCI.

To learn more about Sister Schools go here.

Fan Project

Valladolid, Mexico

A small delegation of 8 members from Asheville traveled to our sister city, Valladolid, Mexico the first week of February 2020 to celebrate the culmination of what has now become Phase 1 of the Tom Jones Fan Project. Our initial goal was to raise money to purchase 70 ceiling fans for 5 schools in Valladolid, however, we raised enough funds to purchase over 150 fans for 10 schools! These funds were raised in addition to both committees’ efforts, with the help of Asheville Breakfast Rotary, Mars Hill Rotary, the City of Valladolid, and Bepensa. We enjoyed a beautiful welcome dinner upon our arrival to Valladolid. The following morning we all gathered at one of the elementary schools to formally recognize the success of this amazing project. Both Sister City Committees were in attendance, as well as numerous rotary members, representatives from each of the 10 schools and important figures in Valladolid City Government, including the Mayor. It was incredible to witness the delivery of the actual fans to each group. The warmth and energy that warm morning was palpable. Some members of our delegation attended a breakfast with the Club Rotario de Valladolid, where club banners were exchanged with Rotary members from Asheville. The entire delegation group, along with the Valladolid Sister City Committee, enjoyed an authentic luncheon with the Mayor at Cenote Zaci. A few Asheville sister city members met with Rick King, executive director of Chosen International Medical Assistance, a US based organization, about potentially collaborating on some future projects, especially another wheelchair project next year. On our final day we were sent off with an absolutely fantastic, authentic brunch at Casa de los Venados, complete with a mariachi band; where Sister Cities, Rotary and City members all gathered together. We also immensely enjoyed the other activities that were arranged for us in our Sister City of Valladolid. We visited Ek Balam, nearby ancient Mayan ruins, that also included a swim in a cenote onsite. We had so much fun playing Loteria, a traditional Mexican game similar to Bingo, with both committees and some others at Casa Hamaca, one rainy night, to benefit the Valladolid English Library! A couple of tourist activities were also super interesting and informative: Choco-story, a museum about the history of chocolate in Mayan culture and Xkopek, Parque Apicola, a beekeeping farm and educational center. Cesar and Lisa at Luum Ayni, a permaculture ranch, also invited us to see their amazing, working home. On our last day, a few of us also went to visit a couple of small farms including an herbalist, in a small village outside of Valladolid.
Asheville Sister Cities’ Valeria Watson-Doost, second from left, visits one of the 29 wells that ASCI helped construct in Osogbo, Nigeria.

Well Construction

Osogbo, Nigeria

In conjunction with the Sister Cities organization in Wilmington, Delaware, we helped fund and manage the construction of 29 wells in Osogbo, Nigeria. Valeria Watson-Doost, chair of our Osogbo committee, served as the Asheville Sister Cities liaison. She assisted with grantwriting and visited Osogbo three times over the course of two years. The wells were completed in late 2012. Click here for an article by Asheville’s Urban News.

Asheville Sister Cities’ Valeria Watson-Doost, second from left, visits one of the 29 wells that ASCI helped construct in Osogbo, Nigeria.Asheville Sister Cities’ Valeria Watson-Doost, second from left, visits one of the 29 wells that ASCI helped construct in Osogbo, Nigeria.

Currently, Asheville Sister Cities — in conjunction with Raleigh and Xiang Yang, China — is working on the upgrade of a clinic in Osogbo. This is part of a two-year Sino-African Initiative, which seeks to create projects that address community needs, safeguard human rights and safety, and promote transparent business practices and government accountability.

The clinic, which focuses on maternal health, will be expanded and refurbished and running water will be added to the facility. This will make the clinic the first in sub-Sahara Africa to be brought up to World Health Organization standards, making it a model for basic maternal and infant care in Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Sister Cities $1.5 million to help implement the people-to-people Sino-African Initiative, which builds on Sister Cities International’s African Urban Poverty Alleviation Program to address urban poverty in African cities through water, sanitation and health projects.