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  • Grayson Kilburn

Meet Steve Merkel-Hess, our newest Lifetime Member

Updated: Dec 5, 2022


Steve receiving his Lifetime Member Award at the 2022 Annual Meeting.

At our 2022 Annual Meeting, long-time volunteer Stephen Merkel-Hess was awarded the Lifetime Member Award for his years of commitment to Global Ties Iowa.


Steve started his career as a public-school teacher and went on to teach at international schools across the world in places like Egypt and Sudan. After his many travels as a teacher in these countries, he returned to Iowa City and retired from teaching, only to become a part-time substitute teacher and an Uber driver. Throughout all of these stages in his career, he was volunteering at Global Ties Iowa, which was named CIVIC when he first started.


He first started with Global Ties Iowa when he got connected with a former director of the organization who told him about the volunteer opportunities and Global Ties Iowa’s mission. He knew that he had always had an interest in international affairs and traveling, so when he heard about Global Ties Iowa’s purpose, he immediately knew it was something that he wanted to get involved with. Throughout his years at Global Ties Iowa, some of his most memorable volunteer experiences have been driving delegations to their destinations and sharing that time with them. Some of his favorite delegations to come through eastern Iowa have been the Brazilian groups because they are always so fun and full of life. An experience that he shared was when he escorted a Brazilian group to a hockey game, and they were so interested and excited by the game and especially by the music that they played. At this game, the group would get up and dance to the music, and he cited this as a very pleasurable and fun experience for his first hockey game.


When asked how Global Ties Iowa has impacted him over the years, he stated that it has exposed him to the world, to different cultures, and different ideas that he otherwise would not have known if it wasn’t for Global Ties Iowa. His conversations with people from different delegations have given him new perspectives on everyday concepts. By having these experiences and these conversations, he has been able to experience different cultures and become more aware of other countries’ circumstances that he otherwise would never have thought about or even considered. Being a part of Global Ties Iowa has broadened his horizons and made him a more knowledgeable and informed citizen of the world.


According to Steve, Sudan was the friendliest and most welcoming country that he has visited and a lot of the customs were very different from what he was used to. It was a new and exciting country for him to visit because it showed him some of the different courtesies and technology that other countries had. This love for travel and experiencing new things has encouraged him to keep coming back and volunteering at Global Ties Iowa, and we are so happy that he has been a loyal member for so many years!


We are so grateful to Steve that he has been supporting our organization for so long, and we are excited to keep working with him in the future! Thank you, Steve!

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