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Point/Arc greets World Affairs Council international group eager to learn about social enterprise business

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

The Point/Arc has gone international. And the non-profit organization which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, never had to leave its Covington-based home – thanks to the World Affairs Council of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Several delegates from Tajikistan were selected by the Congressional Office of International Leadership (COIL) to participate in an exchange to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, earlier this month.

And this program was focused on inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities, according to Emily Rose, International Programs Lead for the World Affairs Council of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Brandon Releford, director of Point/Arc’s Zembrodt Education Center, with the delegates. (Photos by Andy Furman)

“A collaboration between the Hamilton County Developmental Disability Services Council and the group from Tajikistan was established and is in the first steps of becoming a partnership,” Rose said.

Tajikistan is a country in Central Asia surrounded by Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It’s known for rugged mountain, popular for hiking and climbing. The Fann Mountains, near the national capital Dushanbe, have snow-capped peaks that rise over 5,000 meters. The range encompasses the Iskanderkulsky Nature Refuge, a notable bird habitat named for Iskanderful, a turquoise lake formed by glaciers.

The delegates who visited The Point/Arc are professionals, at the top of their field, according to Rose. “Most,” she said, “were managers at their own organizations and were interested in learning about the types of programs Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky has to offer and the potential of creating partnerships and collaborations with groups here,” she said.

The delegates, said Rose, selected the Point/Arc – in particular The Point-Perk Coffee Shop – as their one and only stop in Northern Kentucky.

“The group,” Rose continued, “was highly impressed by the facilities at The Point/Arc. They relayed to me that there was currently no such facility like this in Tajikistan.”

They seemed interested in creating something similar in their homeland, Rose said.

“The delegates were truly impressed with all the resources and opportunities for students and adults with disabilities in the region,” Rose said. “They were also impressed,” she continued, “with the hospitality and their excitement in participating in a program such as this.”

The nine-day Open-World Program totaled seven Delegates and Facilitators and an assistant.

The World Affairs Council—Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky – is the local leader in the nationwide effort to involve citizens in international public diplomacy and promote global understanding and cooperation.

Headquartered at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, the WAC is a 501 © 3 nonprofit – it’s the bridge that connects the world to one of America’s most vibrant regions of individuals and organizations.

Judi Gerding,
founder and president of Point/Arc, with the delegates.

Through global education, international exchange and cultural awareness initiatives, the council strengthens Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s international identity and engages individuals with foreign affairs.

“We host more than 250 exchange visitors annually through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP),” Rose said.

The Point-Perk – one of four social enterprises operated by the Covington-based non-profit organization – was the only Northern Kentucky facility The Open-World group toured and visited.

“Certainly, we’re always thrilled to show-off our operation to guests and visitors,” said Judi Gerding, Founder and President of The Point/Arc, “but to be chosen by The Congressional Office for International Leadership is quite the honor. We now have spread the work of The Point/Arc internationally.”

The Point/Arc was founded in 1972 by a group of parents fighting for the educational rights of their children, who were diagnosed with an intellectual and developmental (I/DD) disability. The mission — to help people with disabilities achieve their highest potential educationally, socially, residentially and vocationally. More than this, The Point/Arc has been an organization that identifies gaps in services and provides care and support to fill these gaps – even when government funding sources are not available.

The Point Commercial Laundry, formed in 1996; The Point Commercial Cleaning Company and Employment Program to provide job training, placement and lifelong follow-up, in 1985; and in 2012 The Point Apparel Company was established.

The Point-Perk Coffee Shop opened in 2015 – all enterprises keeping the mission in action.

And who knows — we may see an additional Point-Perk in Tajikistan someday soon.

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