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The Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation programs epitomize citizen diplomacy in action. Our programs cover a broad spectrum of community affairs with a focus on sustainable youth, education and humanitarian endeavor.

Our programs acknowledge and address the fact that all communities share many of the same aspirations, issues and challenges as well as the power of collaboration to achieve successful, beneficial outcomes.

As a community these programs allow us to learn how other people live. In doing so, we also create more small threads that reinforce the fabric of our societies that enrich us all.

Ultimately, these programs are testimony to our passion and commitment to advance global cooperation and awareness through cultural understanding to the mutual benefit of the residents of Palm Desert and her Sister Cities.

Through the Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation, the City of Palm Desert is actively embracing a greater role in effecting positive change beyond our region and immediate sphere of influence.

Here’s how we do it…



Palm Desert Sister Cities inaugurated their “Artist-in-Residence” program with Gisborne, New Zealand in 2003. The program demands that artists-in-residence undertake seminars educating the host community in their artform and also produce an artwork to leave, as a gift, with the host city.

Our Artist-in-Resident programs have exchanged artists between Palm Desert and Gisborne in the mediums of sculpture, weaving and painting.

Art & Music

Student Art Competitions have been organized at local Palm Desert schools to create awareness of the beauty of Palm Desert and environs.

Student Photo Exchange Programs have been conducted between schools in Palm Desert and Gisborne as a means to educate students about their sister city.

Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation has partnered with The McCallum Theater to showcase New Zealand art and musical talent for local Palm Desert schools.


Youth development is a strong focus for the Foundation and we are proud of our endeavors to provide unique and stimulating opportunities to further their development.

Youth Leadership Summits

Foundation Youth representatives regularly attend the Youth Leadership summits that are run concurrently with Sister Cities International annual conferences. Youth representatives participate on panels and in discussions concerning diplomacy, new media and models of youth engagement, gain a mentor and learn leadership and networking skills within the Sister Cities International community.

The Everest Project – a Joint Study Exchange

Students from Abraham Lincoln School in Palm Desert teamed up with their peers at two Gisborne schools to undertake a joint course of study based on the book “The Boy Who Conquered Everest – The Jordan Romero Story”. At the age of 15, Jordan Romero became the youngest person ever to summit the planet’s seven highest mountains. The book provided the basis for “Goal Setting and Strategies”, a two-week course of study which utilized internet communications to facilitate interaction between the Palm Desert and Gisborne students. The program culminated in a presentation by Jordan Romero to a captivated student audience represented by all Palm Desert schools at The McCallum Theater. A lively Q&A session followed.

A total of 650 students participated but the program impacted some 2700 people including siblings, parents and teachers.

The McCallum Theatre Aesthetic Education Program (AEP)

The AE Program is a multidimensional arts education program developed by New York’s Lincoln Center Institute and offered annually by The McCallum Theatre to teachers from throughout the Coachella Valley. Through dance, theatre, music, and the visual arts, educators gain the tools and techniques to integrate all forms of art into the classroom. Each year, in partnership with the McCallum Theatre, the Foundation facilitates the presence of selected teachers from Gisborne and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo who travel to Palm Desert for the week-long course. This provides the program with the opportunity for cross-cultural interaction and learning as well as enriching the lives of school children in our sister cities.

Click here to view the Aesthetic Education Program brochure.

Student “Key Pal” Program

Electronic Exchange programs between local Palm Desert and Gisborne schools enable students to share information about themselves, their communities and their lives via email exchanges.

Student Photo Exchange Program

Photo exchanges including student and community profiles and murals depicting life in Gisborne and Palm Desert were compiled by and exchanged between the two local school communities

Sister Schools – Palm Desert and Gisborne

Currently, Palm Desert’s James Earl Carter Elementary School and Te Hapara Primary School in Gisborne are in the planning stages to introduce a new E-Exchange joint study program. Designed to stimulate curious minds and encourage students at each school to learn about each other and their respective communities, the ultimate goal is to create a sister schools relationship that will provide sustainability and student enrichment for years to come.

While the vision for a sister schools relationship has been a long held and cherished objective of the Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation and Gisborne Sister Cities, this latest enterprise has been driven by a Gisborne teacher and School Principal who is an alumni of the McCallum Theatre’s Aesthetic Education program together with the enthusiasm of the Principal and his team at James Earl Carter Elementary in Palm Desert.


Community-based trips and Exchanges

Various visits between Palm Desert and her sister cities result in productive exchanges of ideas and life-long memories which enhance the understanding between our cultures.

View Gallery

Food & Wine

Over the years, the Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation has organized various events to showcase cuisine from the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo region and wine from Gisborne.


El Refugio de Potosi, Zihuatanejo

Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation became a sponsor of this project. In 2007. development began on an eight-acre ecological preserve, breeding and learning center in Palm Desert’s Sister City of Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Objectives include:

  • To preserve wildlife and natural areas
  • To achieve a sustainable use of natural resources
  • To emphasize the biodiversity of the area
  • To create a new tourist attraction
  • To generate jobs for local people
  • To promote environmental awareness
  • To provide space for scientific research
  • To preserve, reproduce and repopulate local rare, threatened and endangered species
  • To generate and participate in activities supporting the protection of the environment


Golf & Soccer

Visiting senior golf groups from Gisborne have enjoyed Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert’s magnificent municipal golfing facility, and the other wonderful courses in the Valley while members of a local Palm Desert country club have enjoyed a soccer match hosted by residents of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.


The Bombero Program / Firefighter Training Program

In collaboration with the Riverside County Fire Department and the Palm Desert Fire Department, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo became the regional hub for intensive one and two-week training courses in Fire and Paramedic Training, Maintenance, Operations and Aerial Ladder set up. For a decade, firefighters from Palm Desert have visited Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo to conduct the training sessions, resulting in the certification of 1865 Mexican firefighters from 18 states in Mexico.

Public Service Vehicle and Equipment Donations

As part of the “Bombero” firefighter training program, Palm Desert Sister Cities, in collaboration with The Riverside County Fire Department, has transferred two fire engines and four ambulances, various paramedic/medical equipment and supplies as well as providing consultant and planning services for a new fire station in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.

Lifeguard Training

In collaboration with the American Lifeguard Association, Palm Desert Sister Cities coordinated the effort to initiate a comprehensive lifeguard training program in Zihuatanejo. This program resulted in the first lifeguard certifications in Mexico for many of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo’s beautiful beaches. The number of drownings was reduced from 18 the year prior to the training to one the following year.


The Palm Desert Sister Cities Foundation “Honorary Ambassador” program is our major fundraising event, organized to honor a member of our community who exemplifies the true spirit of giving and whose vision, dedication, passion and tireless efforts, over a lifetime, has enriched the lives of those living in our communities.

Previous awardees include Jean M. Benson, Robert A. Spiegel and Mary Helen Kelly.