Monday, August 17, 2009

CISV, Children's International Summer Villages....

Quiet on the home front. Earlier this evening, a group consisting of three young adults and three young at heart adults gathered in my livingroom to share their thoughts and feelings about a thing called "Seminar Camp...." It is one of the kinds of "camps" associated with an organization called CISV (Children's Internation Summer Villages). Two of the young adults had just returned from a 3 week Seminar Camp in Mexico City. The other young woman took part in one in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. The program is designed for interested 17 and 18 year olds from around the world to come to live together, to connect, interact, discuss, debate, laugh, cry, dance, and basically figure it out. It's kind of like a multi-cultural "Big Brother" except that no one gets voted off the island, and its not filmed.

Participants plan their activities, make their own meals, facilitate the day, take turns leading and take turns following. They learn about other's opinions, how to listen, how to express themselves........ how cultures are different and how human beings are the same. It's a small manageable model of a global village, which promotes the open goodness of equality, human rights, independent thought.....

As far as I'm concerned every single 17 year old should have a chance to learn this way. And from what I heard tonight, the 3 week experience has the potential to be life changing at an age when there is such a desire to delve into the big moral questions..... at a time when personal values and life directions/options are shuffling as fast as a card dealer. Meeting and sharing deeply, thrown into a place of discomfort at the beginning where one's opinions are challenged, where secrets and new ideas are thrown out into the circle for consideration, contemplation, reflection, introspection.

CISV has become an important and very special organization for my family and I this year, and will continue to be front and centre from here on in, I imagine. We had heard of CISV through our friends when their children got involved and knew that the local chapter was very active due for the most part by one passionate woman. There are a variety of programs offered for all different ages, but was initially created by a another very passionate woman named Doris Allen, after World War 2 (yes, it's been around that long) who wanted to create a program that would promote cultural awareness and peace. Doris decided that the best age to promote these key values was 11 years old. At that age, they were still receptive to differences and similarities. Keen to learn and make new friends, 11 year olds were chosen as future "ambassadours of promoting peace on earth.

So, she started up a thing called a "village" and began to bring together 11 year olds to live in together multi-culturally for a month. Since then, it has taken off and other programs for all ages have evolved right around the world The purpose of the village for 11 year olds is to learn about one another by sharing of themselves and various characteristics of their home country. The real underlying SOUL purpose is to make friends.....lasting friendships with people from all over the world.

This time last year, my son began expressing his interest in attending a CISV Village. He had learned about it from friends at school and through our family friends whose children had attended Villages at age 11. Max is a keener when it comes to geography and history. Politics, which is a topic of discussion in this house came to life for him as he followed Obama's rise to Presidency. Ever since he was very young, he has asked a bazillion questions about countries, cities, capitals, flags, mountain ranges, oceans........ a large map of the world adorns one of his bedroom walls.

His interest in learning about other countries was flamed considerably by his Grade 5 teacher who orchestrated a year long project on Africa which included numerous interactive presentations ranging from music to poverty to topography. Because of his unflinching focus on all things CISV, this whole family began to take notice. We began to get involved. Throughout the last year, both of my children took part in various "mini-camps" run over winter weekends.... 25-30 kids, ages ranging from 10 to 25 came together for songs, games, discussions, learning, growing and becoming more aware of the issues and the need for global unity.... through peace and goodwill.

Last spring, when the "camp lists" were decided upon (ie. which ones the Fredericton chapter were invited to and would send delegates) both of my children put their names forward. My daughter, caught in a personal conundrum of applying for a summer camp for 15 year olds in Madrid or pursuing her original plan of applying to be a Counsellor in Training, finally chose the CIT route.......perfect choice for her at this point in her life. She is loving it.

Max, pushed forward and applied to be a delegate. He was interviewed by a parent whose own daughter had attended the year before, and had to explain exactly why he wanted to be a part of it. We were both so impressed with how much thought he had put into it, how he prepared his answers......made much easier because it came from his heart.

Well, he was chosen and will be one of 4 kids who will represent Fredericton and Canada at a 4 week CISV Village in Costa Rica (accompanied by a leader who is AMAZING btw). It takes place at the end of December. Our attention and fundraising efforts will support Max as he steps beyond his bedroom full of maps, sports paraphenalia and posters of Obama, towards a life opportunity that will most likely help mold his thoughts and feelings and actions as a member of this crazy world we live in. We are all so excited for him..... and he is beyond the MOON excited.

And as for the meeting tonight in my living room? Fredericton has been chosen as a CISV Seminar Camp for the summer of 2010. When they were looking for a volunteer to coordinate the planning of it, I found that my hand went up. Badabing! As much as I would LOVE to run the day to day show next be the coach and facilitator, my role is to set it all up and get them all there...... I'm psyched.

This is one organization I am very interested in becoming involved in. If you have any interest, or think your children would, I highly reccomend that you google CISV and learn more about it............find out if there is a chapter near you.

ps. The photo was taken on the site of the camp. I have a feeling there will be many heartfelt conversations that will happen exactly on that spot.....


murf said...

What a fabulous idea!! Our kids are too old to participate now, but I would have been all over this idea 10 years ago. Why is this not a more known organisation?

Awareness said...

Hey Murf! I don't know why its not well known. There is a chapter in Victoria, but I don't think there's one in Vancouver. The Fredericton chapter is very organized and active, but even then many people don't know about it. No one's too old! There is a program called IPP (individual participant program) for adults. :) Google CISV to find out more! YOu could attend.

It is solely volunteer driven, and it is time consuming. Maybe that's part of why it isn't as big as it should be? I really don't know.

Gilly said...

This sounds a wonderful opportunity for your son, and the whole system great for kids! Wish we had such a tradition here, the long summer holidays are too much for all concerned!