By Dee Longfellow

Last week, a group of visitors from the country of Mongolia came to northern Illinois to learn about our system of government and various social programs by meeting with officials of several cities, villages and other entities including the City of Elmhurst.

The effort was coordinated by the Congressional Office for International Leadership, formerly known as the Open World Leadership Center, an agency of the U.S. Congress. The delegation included five professionals accompanied by a bicultural-bilingual facilitator along with an interpreter.

The local coordinator of the delegation’s visit is Dr. George Palamattam, executive director of the Council of International Programs in Chicago (CIP Chicago). A Bensenville resident, Dr. Palamattam hosted the delegation in his home on their first evening, where Bensenville Mayor Frank DeSimone stopped by to greet the visitors.

Prior to their arrival in Chicago, the participants completed an orientation in Washington, D.C. Delegates had policy meetings with members of Congress including staff and they were to hold a meeting with U.S. Rep. Danny Davis on Friday, Sept. 23.

The delegation spent time at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Field Museum, met with the Better Government Association, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and visited Allied Waste to learn about waste management as well as water treatment and management. The group enjoyed a Chicago Architectural Boat Tour as well.

A visit to Elmhurst

On the morning of Friday, Sept. 22, the delegation met at Elmhurst City Hall with Mayor Scott Levin, City Manager James Grabowski and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Dunn. Using a slide presentation, Grabowski gave the visitors an overview of how government works in the City of Elmhurst and the many programs and services available to residents. Thanks to an interpreter, a lively discussion ensued about various topics of government and social programs.

Levin talked about the various levels of government in Illinois, making note that Illinois has more units of government than any other state in the U.S.

Grabowski explained the demographics of the City and talked about strategic planning, the City’s challenges with storm water management and the Explore Elmhurst program to promote tourism, funded by the hotel-motel tax. He said that the City was moving toward more transient-oriented development (TOD) and seeking to provide more senior housing.

When the topic of COVID-19 came up, the interpreter helped describe how Mongolia handled the problems.

“The borders were closed immediately and stay closed permanently,” she said, quoting a delegate. “When we received the vaccinations, everyone received a shot.”

Off to Addison Township

Upon leaving Elmhurst City Hall, the group shuttled to the offices of Addison Township for a tour of the facilities, especially the food pantry, and to meet with Addison Township Supervisor Dennis Reboletti. A discussion about Township government and the services available to residents took place. Reboletti remarked about how busy the pantry was during the months of the pandemic.

“We easily had three times our usual demand for food items,” he said. “Our facility is open to anyone at least once. After that, those who live in other townships are directed to food pantries closer to them.”

About the Open World program

More than 30,000 current and future leaders from post-Soviet era countries have participated in the Open World program. Open World offers one of the most effective U.S. exchange programs to promote mutually beneficial options for depolarized engagement between future national leaders. It can serve as a powerful way for Congress to engage legislatures in critical regions of the world.

In addition to hosting similar short-term professional development and cross-cultural exchange programs, the CIP Chicago enables local businesses and nonprofits bring onboard highly talented professionals for work-work-place training.
Community members from Elmhurst and other Chicagoland areas have a variety of opportunities to join and be a part of various programs and services CIP Chicago offers, including leadership roles on its board or other international roles. For more information, visit


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