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Stoddard: Global Vermonter, Ann Martin

(Host) Fran Stoddard is a long time Vermont journalist who's taking note of a remarkable number of innovators in business and non profit ventures who make Vermont their home. They bring the best of Vermont to international development. Project Harmony International's Ann Martin is one of them.

(Fran) Project Harmony began with song, as choir exchanges between Vermont and Russian youth during the depths of the Cold War. 26 years later it has a new name and 60 employees offering technical assistance from offices in 7 countries. Ann Martin originally became involved after her son went on an exchange to Russia more than 20 years ago and then she helped host a group that came to Vermont.

(Martin)It changed my life as much as it changed his. When the Russian students and teachers came... I took all my vacation time to be with them... I was just like a sponge, soaking up different perspectives, their culture, the experience of being with people that had a very different life than mine and yet we had so much in common... despite what we thought were differences. That really moved me... It was as if that experience opened the door for me and it just kept getting wider and wider over the years and I know many others have had similar experiences.

From then on, Martin volunteered her skills in management, human services and consulting until eventually, in 2006, she shifted gears from directing a Morrisville family service center to becoming director of what is now PH International.

(Martin)Our mission today is to build strong global communities by building civic engagement, cross cultural learning and increased opportunities in the digital age.

Martin says that Vermonters' rich history of progressive policies and experience in juvenile and restorative justice, entrepreneurship, democratic practice and use of technology in education, are sought after by emerging democracies.

(Martin) We have trained over a half million teachers in how to integrate IT into their pedagogy across the disciplines of the things that they teach... There are police officers, (there are) school teachers, (there are) doctors and nurses who have done professional exchanges and been consultants and trainers for us on our programs whose world view have been completely changed because they've had the opportunity to learn from other people and to share what they know with others in a way that they know, they can see, really makes a difference.

But Vermont is not yet well known in some parts of the world...

(Martin)...when they hear they are coming to VT they are worried bout it. They want to be in NY, Boston , Washington and it's an amazing thing. They come; they all stay with Vermont families and believe me it's Vermonters that changes all of that. Their heads and hearts get completely turned around and when they leave, Vermont is the best place on the planet. Talk about citizen diplomacy! ...It's an untold story about the millions of ways that Vermonters are contributing to the things we all care about...

Still headquartered in Waitsfield, PH International has moved from sharing a little culture to building strong communities around the world with the expertise and strong vision of Vermonters. The word is getting out.

Fran Stoddard was the co-host of Switchboard.
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