Grand Rapids Sister Cities International

Grand Rapids Sister Cities International (GRSCI) is a non-profit organization. We work to build relationships between Grand Rapids and our sister cities.

What are sister cities?
Sister cities are friendships between U.S. and foreign cities. When cities are looking for a sister city, they look for commonalities.

The concept was first introduced by President Eisenhower after the Second World War. The main purpose of the program is to get know and understand people from other cultures.

Sister cities create relationships through the exchanges of:
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Business
  • Humanitarian efforts

Today, there are more than 1,200 relationships between 780 cities in the U.S. and 86 foreign countries.
The City of Grand Rapids have 6 Sister Cities:
  • Omihachiman, Japan
  • Bielsko-Biala, Poland
  • Ga District, Ghana
  • Gangnam-gu, South Korea
  • Perugia, Italy
  • Zapopan, Mexico
Want to get involved with GRSCI? Here are some options:

Become a Committee Member
Each sister city is represented by a committee of volunteers. These volunteers have a particular interest in a city, language, or part of the world. Committee members play an big role in developing and maintaining sister city relationships.

Become a Membership Committee Member
Committee members help communicate, recognize, and engage Sister City Committee members. If you like to work on projects such as:
  • Creating newsletters
  • Event planning
  • Thank you campaigns
  • Encouraging new memberships
...this is the committee for you!
Become One Of Their Graphic Artist
GRSCI need talented artists to create:
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Newsletters
  • Supporters
Become a Supporter of GRCSI:
  • Provide home stays for visitors and guests
  • Show hospitality to sister city visitors
  • Serve as interpreters and tour guides
  • Assist with special events and programs
  • Host receptions and fund raising activities
  • Sponsor exchanges in the Grand Rapids area and around the world

Interested in volunteering? Email us at the email address listed in the Contact Information section of this page.


Omihachiman, Japan is a farming community. Rice and beef are its most important agricultural products. Omihachiman is also known for its furniture building and roof tiles.
It sits at the foot of the mountain of Hachiman-yama. The scenic views of the mountains attracts many tourist to the city. It is located on the east side of Lake Biwa. Similarly to Lake Michigan, Lake Biwa is the largest inland freshwater lake in Japan.
We have a student exchange program with Omihachiman. The program is the largest of the Grand Rapids sister city's relationships. Omi Brotherhood School and Grand Rapids Christian Schools hosts exchange students every year.
Grand Rapids also hosts Omihachiman government officials. Omihachiman officials come and observe how we run our government.
Our relationship with Omihachiman also includes cultural exchanges. Omihachiman is a renowned quilting town. They send us quilts for display at the American Quilters Society Quilt Week. Omihachiman artists and their works have also participated in ArtPrize.
Bielsko-Biała, is located in mountainous region of Poland. The city was once two cities separated by the Biala River. They united in 1975.
Bielsko-Biala is the 3rd largest textile industry in the Austro-Hungarian empire. The city is also known for being one of the most technologically advanced cities in Europe.

The Bielsko-Biala voivodeship is among the regions where folk culture thrives. These traditions are visible in buildings, sculpture, paintings, music, dances, and regional costumes.
Bielsko-Biala became our sister city in 1991. It's 48.1 sq mi, not much bigger than Grand Rapids (45.3 sq mi). The city also has climate and population similar to Grand Rapids.


Ga District, Ghana became sister cities in January 1994. The Ga District is located in the southern part of Ghana. It includes a stretch of sandy beach along the Atlantic Ocean. The predominant language is English. The native tongue is Twi.

The Ga District is in the Accra Metropolitan region. Accra is the capital city of Ghana.

Its economy is agriculturally based with pineapples as the principal crop.
They also produce:
  • Textile (kente cloth, tye dye, and others)
  • Wood carvings
  • Jewelry made of gold, bronze, beads and diamonds.
The area of Ghana around Ga District contains a wealth of mineral resources. The government is working to develop for the benefit of the people.


Gangnam-gu is one of the 25 autonomous districts comprising the City of Seoul. It has experienced significant growth in recent decades, both in terms of population and economic activity. Today, the population exceeds 560,000 and includes major industries such as banking and finance, technology, entertainment and health care.

Grand Rapids and Perugia, Italy has been sister cities since 1993. Perugia, Italy is the capital of Umbria. Perugia is a hilly region. It is located in the heartland of Italy. Perugia is admired for its wineries historic architecture.
Perugia's La Maggiore Music Academy and St. Cecilia Music Center exchanges students annually. Perugia host Grand Rapids students studying piano, violin, and cello.
College students also have academic exchange oppurtunities. The "Grand Valley State University-Perugia Committee Scholarship" is awarded to University of Perugia students. These students are enrolled in GVSU Political Science major. The Angela Ryan/UNISTRA Scholarships awards two scholarships to Grand Rapids college students.
The City of Perugia invites its Sister Cities to take part in an annual market. The market includes products from the cities. Over 50,000 visitors from Perugia and many European cities attend. Products we sell include:
  • Dried fruits and nuts from the Ferris Coffee
  • Nut Company and buttery caramel corn
  • Sandman’s Barbecue barbecued pork ribs
The Market offers a great opportunity to do business with many other countries. It promotes the industries of Grand Rapids and the city as a tourist destination.

Zapopan, which means “the place of sapodilla fruit", became our sister city in 2008. It's located in the central region of Jalisco. Zapopan is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Mexico.

The city is a mix of traditional and modern Mexico. It's rich in cultural heritage, yet progressive in technological advances.

Zapopan is known as the home of the Mariachi, traditional Mexican music.