The Iowa – Yamanashi Sister State relationship has a rich history dating back to 1959.  The first such relationship between the United States and Japan, Iowa and Yamanashi have paved the way for cultural and economic exchanges and played an important role in easing post war tension.  This seemingly unlikely alliance arose on the selflessness and compassion of individuals and continues to be the centerpiece for this relationship.  Nobody better embodies these traits more than current Yamanashi Committee Chair, Chuck Safris.   

After his first trip to Japan in 1974, Mr. Safris was so grateful of the hospitality he felt that upon his return home, he decided to sign up as a homestay for upcoming visitors from Japan.  Uncommon in Iowa at the time, the experience of hosting an exchange student had a profound impact on him and his family.  “Home hosting really had an impact on every aspect of my life,” he said when asked about the experience, “it was significantly important to my entire family as it provided a better sense of cultural understanding.  We made some great contacts along the way and were even invited to Japan by our host child’s family.”

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Japan Outreach Initiative Request Form
Interested in holding a presentation or cultural workshop about Japan at your school, organization, or business? Perhaps you'd like some assistance with receiving a delegation from Japan? Alex Akiyama, our Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) Coordinator, is available to help with all of that and more.
Get started by filling out our new JOI Coordinator Request Form. If you have questions, you can take a look at our brochure or send Alex an email.

Volunteer Spotlight

What's New?

Kosovo Signs Agreements with Four Iowa Educational Institutions

ISS and the Consulate of the Republic of Kosovo in Des Moines hosted a delegation featuring Kosovo's Minister of Education, Science, and Technology, Dr. Arsim Bajrami. Minister Bajrami signed MOUs with four Iowa educational institutions.

​​​With the recent announcement of our Robert D. Ray Iowa Sister State Service Award winners, we have decided to feature a new installment on our website highlighting ISS volunteers, home hosts, delegates, and partners!  Our volunteers, affiliates, and home hosts work tirelessly to create mutually beneficial relationships with governments and organizations from around the world and we would like to provide further recognition for their selflessness and acts of citizen diplomacy. 

Interested in getting involved with Iowa Sister States? Check out our engagement opportunities!

Submit Your Nominations for the Robert D. Ray-ISS Service Award! 

Now is your chance to recognize an individual volunteer, host family, or a sponsor/affiliate for their outstanding work with ISS! Submit your nomination using this form. Nominations must be received by our office by noon on Friday, May 26.

Meet Chuck Safris!

2016 Annual Report 

Our annual report from FY2016 is now available! Take a look back at some of the amazing projects and delegations that our volunteers helped make possible. (Slow connection? A low-resolution version is also available.)

What We Do

Iowa Sister States (ISS) manages Iowa's official relationships with its 9 international partners. One of  the roles of ISS is to promote programs between our sister states and Iowa. These are a wide variety of programs, which can includes topics such as economic trade, professional development, agriculture, education, and many more. We host  a wide variety of delegations and groups from our sister states throughout the year. Check out our calendar for events from ISS and around Iowa!

Support Us

First and foremost, THANK YOU to the volunteers and financial supporters who have contributed to ISS programs over the years! We could not do what we do without your generous support of our international programs.


Consider donating to Iowa Sister States. You can donate with a check by using our donation formor donate online via our PayPal page.


If you're interested in volunteering with ISS, take a look at our engagement opportunities!

Who We Are

Iowa Sister States is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization based in Des Moines, Iowa. We strive to build sustainable international partnerships that connect Iowans to the world community. Iowa has a powerful history of citizen diplomacy, and our dedicated volunteers and staff are proud to continue this legacy. Learn more about us!

"If only people will get together, then so eventually will nations."


-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

CONNECTING IOWANS TO THE WORLD Community