Currently, the new Kokolopori – Falls Church Sister City Partnership is the ONLY sister city link between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Proposed by President Eisenhower in 1956 to promote international peace and cooperation, Sister Cities International’s nonprofit citizen diplomacy network includes more than 700 US cities, towns and villages with sister communities in other countries, 103 of them in Africa.
On February 13, 2006, the City Council of Falls Church, Virginia, approved a resolution naming Kokolopori, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as its “sister city.” Falls Church City is a small independent town of 10,000 people known for the quality of its schools, located in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area.
Kokolopori is an indigenous community of approximately 8,000 people in Equateur Province, DRC, located in Central Africa in the world’s second largest contiguous rainforest, sometimes called “the second lung of the earth.” The Mongandu people of Kokolopori manage a rainforest reserve, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, which is 1200 square miles or three times the size of Fairfax County, Virginia. This reserve is home to many native plant and animal species, including bonobos, the least known and most endangered of the four great ape species, native only to the DRC.
The purpose of the Kokolopori- Falls Church Sister City Partnership is to promote friendship and cooperation between the two communities, help build a more peaceful and just world and preserve our planet’s rainforests and wildlife for future generations. A voluntary citizen-led initiative funded mainly through grants and donations, the Kokolopori – Falls Church partnership was established as a program of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), a US and DRC-based 501(c)(3) great ape conservation organization. We are always looking for partners to help in any way that they can, whether it is offering your own time (thanks to countless individuals), supplying equipment rentals (Rental Force), or donations, every little bit helps.
While our homes and lives are worlds apart in some ways, citizens of Falls Church City and Kokolopori recognize that our future depends on the well-being of our children and the health of our environment. Kokolopori and Falls Church each have unique lessons to offer one another, and each can open a window into another culture. We can learn from the Mongandu land ethic, thrift and community spirit; and by sharing our friendship, skills and resources, citizens of Falls Church can help the people of Kokolopori increase their livelihood options and economic security. Together we can help protect the rarest of the great apes, help prevent tropical deforestation that contributes to climate change, and teach our children valuable lessons about global citizenship.
Second Annual Kokolopori Student Art Contest!
Coming up in January, students in Falls Church are invited to draw or paint what they imagine life is like in Kokolopori or the surrounding rainforest. Any student between the age of 5 and 18 who lives or goes to school in the City of Falls Church is eligible. Submissions may be sent by March 30, to Falls Church Public Schools at 803 W. Broad Street, #320.
Falls Church Arts provides us with judges for the Kokolopori Student Art Contest. The criteria used for choosing the winners are use of color, creativity, artistic merit, and relevance to our theme. Three top winners are selected from each of four age categories. Winners receive a certificate and a Kokolopori-Falls Church Sister City Partnership t-shirt.
Last Year, a huge amount of talent and creativity went into this assignment! More than 60 pieces of artwork were submitted, all of them showing wonderful empathy, demonstrating that our kids really did try to walk in the shoes of the people of our sister community. Artworks were displayed throughout the summer at Capital Area Pediatrics through the Gallery without Walls program of Falls Church Arts.