Based on the positive results achieved in the African Urban Poverty Alleviation Program, Urbana was invited to apply for a second Sister Cities International grant program funded by a Bill and Melinda Gates through Sister Cities International, the Sino-African Initiative (SAI). The Sino-African Initiative focus was to improve sanitation and waste collection in African communities. This new grant required the tri-lateral cooperation between Urbana, U.S.A., our African Sister Cities partner, Zomba, Malawi, and our new Chinese Sister City partner, Haizhu District, of Guangzhou City (the old Canton), The Peoples Republic of China.
Urbana had entered a new Sister Cities partnership with Haizhu District in Guangzhou City following contacts started by Mayor Laurel Prussing during a conference visit to China a year earlier. A delegation of party leaders from Guangzhou visited Urbana in May 2012, carrying a formal partnership agreement.
In March 2012 the Urbana Sister Cities Program was awarded a $100,000.00 SAI grant. In January 2013 members of the Urbana SAI team meet with the Zomba team members at a planning workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. They drafted a project for creating better city waste management, educational outreach, some sewer line repairs, and a composting program in Zomba. That March the representatives of the Zomba SAI team arrived in Urbana. They visited local schools, the University of Illinois campus, attended a City Council meeting, and paired with Public Works and Community Development staff to observe how Urbana handled its municipal tasks. Our Malawi visitors experienced a late winter snowstorm and attended a “Malawi Mixer” party held in their honor.
In July, 2013, Mayor Laurel L. Prussing and eight delegates associated with the SAI project traveled to China to invite Haizhu’s Municipal and Party leadership to participate in the SAI project. The group gained the approval Party leaders and connected with professors at Sun Yat-sen University’s Geology Department who were willing to participate. Work on the grant continued for two years. Trash collection bins were built in designated Zomba neighborhoods, a trash compacter truck was purchased, and an organic waste recycling and composting program was initiated near the city’s landfill.
In March, 2014, Urbana sent two delegates to the U.S–China Conference and Award Ceremony in Washington D.C. to celebrate the successful completion of the project.