Sister Cities of Columbia, IL

The Goal of our Sister Cities Program:  All sister cities programs are trying to promote understanding and friendship across boundaries of geography, language and culture.  Our local goal is to provide the means to develop friendships with citizens of Gedern, Germany on a personal and community level.  We have had exchanges involving firefighters, students, musicians and folks in all walks of life.  To date, over 600 adults and 400 students have taken part in an exchange -- quite impressive given Columbia's population of about 10,000 and Gedern's population of about 7,500.  Our program, along with Verschwisterungsverein Gedern, has received awards both in Germany and the United States, including Illinois Sister City of the Year for 2013.

The Columbia / Gedern Relationship:  We have a significant historic connection with our sister city of Gedern, Germany.  In 1842, the ship "Mimer" arrived in New Orleans with 118 adults and 38 children from Wernings, a village in Germany near Gedern.  They traveled up the Mississippi and most of the group settled in the Columbia/Waterloo area.  All that remains of Wernings are the house of the Count of Solms-Laubach and the ruins of a church.  After losing touch with family and friends in Germany, communication was resumed between Columbia and Gedern in 1990.  In 1991, eleven Gedern representatives came to Columbia to explore the relationship.  The following year, A Columbia group traveled to Gedern to sign a Declaration of Friendship.  In 1993, the official sister city relationship was formalized in a signing ceremony in Columbia, attended by a German delegation of adults and students.

Since 1993, cultural exchange visits for adults have taken place every two years in alternating cities.  Generally, folks stay with host families, but can also stay at a local hotel with a day host.  Also, student exchanges between Columbia High School and Gesamtschule Gedern have taken place annually in alternating cities since 1993.  The students live with host families, attend classes and tour the local area.  We will celebrate our 25th anniversary with an adult delegation traveling to Gedern in September, 2019 for ten days.

Why would you want to join our group?  We not only travel to Germany, but meet monthly on the first Thursday in local restaurants to socialize with our membership.  We have semi-annual meetings to keep current on sister city events in Columbia and Gedern.  Our group enjoys sharing time, talents and interest in an organization promoting international fellowship and in participating in local events like Columbia Days and FestiFall.  Membership allows you the potential to participate in all aspects of our organization; your level of involvement is up to you.  Click here for a membership application.