When a guest arrives at Snow Mountain Ranch – YMCA of the Rockies, they are expecting an active adventure in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. What they don’t always know is that they will also have the opportunity to make an intercontinental friendship when they meet the international ambassadors that the YMCA hosts.

Every year, as a part of its mission, Snow Mountain Ranch welcomes the arrival of international ambassadors to participate in its International Training Program. This year there are 13 trainees from Ecuador, India, Mongolia, Peru, Philippines and South Africa.

The trainees are young professionals that have each completed a university program or have equivalent work experience in their home country. Under the J-1 Visa Program that is regulated by the United States Department of State, they receive permission to live and learn in the United States for up to 18 months.

During their time at the YMCA, the trainees are placed in one of five departments: Food Service, Human Resources, Internet Technology, Guest Services and Programs & Recreation. Each receives professional mentoring, management training, customer service classes and the opportunity to learn about American culture in the YMCA’s Global Friendship Program.

The Global Friendship Program matches trainees with community members, organizations and local families to spend time together sharing cultures. Whether they attend an art show or concert, hike, share a meal, bike the Frasier River Trail or see a movie together, conversations happen and international friendships begin.

Polly Gallagher, International Staff and Volunteer Coordinator at Snow Mountain Ranch, loves to match trainees with community members based on similar interests. She said, “I like providing the people of Grand County with an opportunity to meet people from other cultures. After the program, many friends have stayed in touch and even visited each other overseas.”

Gallagher also helped coordinate Cultural Passport Day at Indian Peaks Charter School. The trainees visited with local students and taught them geography, games, songs and dances from their home countries.

Local business owner and consultant Susanne Jalbert is a volunteer with the Global Friendship Program. She has hosted trainees for dinner in her home, included them in the LEAD (Lead, Educate, Achieve, Dare) Program that she organizes for young women, and helped them network in their field of study. An internationalist, she has experienced gracious hospitality while visiting and working in other countries and loves to make others feel welcome in Grand County.

“When we have an open heart, we can meet new people and dialogue with them in a meaningful way,” Jalbert said. “Everything we learn from each other is transferable, whether it is cultural awareness or business skills.”

The Global Friendship Program at YMCA of the Rockies connects cultures and creates opportunity for international relations to grow in many ways. If you are interested becoming a host family or host organization next year, please contact Polly Gallagher in the YMCA’s International Department at pgallager@ymcarockies.org or 970-887-2152 x4111.