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Friday, January 12, 2018

It’s a Small World … When You’re a CISV Alum

Submitted by Karen Huelsman

Mark Homer is a Mt. Lookout resident and Children's International Summer Village (CISV) alum from 1983. His story  illustrates the long term benefits of traveling as a child for global peace. Please see information at the end to learn how your child can apply to be a CISV delegate. Mark tells his story:

CISV 2017 reunion in Frankfort, Germany

I wanted to share an amazing experience this past year that reminded me how CISV can carry with you throughout your life. I was very fortunate a school counselor told my mom about CISV back in 1982. I applied and attended the various interviews and play-days and was selected to attend a village in Lisbon, Portugal in 1983. 

At our village we had delegations from 12 countries and CISV, holding true to its global peace mission, even had a delegation from Czechoslovakia, a communist country in the Cold War era. Like most people who attend a CISV program, I know this experience had a huge impact on my life, and I am convinced I am a more outgoing and confident person because of my Village experience. But I forgot about how small the world can become because of CISV until this past year.

Of course, 1983 was long before email, social media and What’s App, so to keep in touch with all the amazing kids I met around the world we wrote letters. Yes, pen and paper and stamps. As I went from being the adorable 11 year old  into the typical teenage boy, my letter writing dwindled and I lost touch with most of my village. Nevertheless, I have moved many times all over the U.S. and, while I do not keep a lot of boxes from my childhood, one bin I have kept through all my moves is of all the photos and letters from my time at village. 

Fast forward to 2011 - everyone seems to be on Facebook now and Marina, our USA adult leader, created a Facebook group for our village.  Many have found and joined the group, posting photos and memories from our time together. When I found out last year that my son was selected to go to Bogota Columbia for Village I was very excited and posted a message to our Facebook group. That same day I got a Facebook Messenger notification from Bubu, a delegate from the Philippines.  She had looked at my profile and noticed I was part of a global entrepreneur association called EO. She told me she was also in EO and asked if I was going to a regional EO event coming up in Chicago. 

I was shocked.  First of all, it was great to get a message from someone I hadn’t talked to since middle school; but I couldn’t figure out why she would know about this U.S. based EO event. After chatting back and forth, I learned Bubu was not only a fellow EO member in the Philippines but, in fact, was on the global board of EO as the representative to the Central U.S. region. We also figured out I had attended an event a few months before in Bangkok that Bubu had also attended, but we were not aware each other was there. (small world, right?)  As representative to the central region, Bubu travels to all its big events including the on one in Chicago I would be attending.

We exchanged mobile numbers and arranged to connect at the conference. Also, because of the Facebook group, we learned Kim, one my fellow Cincinnati village delegation-mates, was living in Chicago. The three of us were able to meet for dinner one night during the conference. It was great to catch up, but I also learned Kim was living in Chicago the same time my family was there, and we were only one ‘el stop away from each other the whole time but didn’t know it (small world).

It was a great reunion, and between the three of us we were able to recount many stories and memories from Village. But things didn’t stop there. It turned out Bubu and I both would be attending the next global EO conference to be held in Frankfurt, Germany. This just happened to be right near where the German delegation was from and where the adult leader of my CISV Cincinnati delegation, Marina, was now living. 

CISV U.S. delegation in 1983

A side note about Marina; CISV is all about building global friendship; sometimes the global friendship that starts at CISV is just the beginning of something more. At our village in Lisbon, Marina and Georg, the adult leader from Germany, began a close friendship that continued to grow after village. They eventually married and settled down in Germany.  All their kids have been involved in CISV throughout the years, too.

Through Facebook messages, Bubu and I let Marina know we were coming to Frankfurt. Marina and Georg organized an evening dinner at their house, surprising us with the added attendance of three of the four delegates from Germany (Judith, Christian, and Malte). Marina and Georg, staying true to the CISV theme of global awareness, made some traditional German dishes from their region and had Cincinnati style chili for everyone to try.  My wife was able to join us and got to hear us recall and share many of the memories from 34 years ago, which certainly reinforced for her the benefits of sending our kids overseas with CISV each summer. 

If you have a child traveling in a CISV or similar program this year, encourage them to stay in touch. Fortunately, because of tools like email, Facebook, Instagram, Whats App, etc., it is much easier for the kids to stay in touch these days. But whether they keep lifelong communication or it dwindles away as they grow up, because of CISV, the world will be a little smaller for them.

Mark Homer attended Village in Lisbon, Portugal in the summer of 1983. He lives in Mt. Lookout with his wife Beth and two boys, Jack(14) and Ryan(12). Ryan attended Village in Bogota Columbia in 2016 and is participating in Interchange this summer in Austria. Jack did not attend Village, but seeing how much fun his brother had last summer, did not want to miss out and is attending Step Up in Lisbon, Portugal this summer. 

Information about CISV
Children's International Summer Village (CISV) is the pre-eminent children’s peace education organization in the world – founded right here in Cincinnati!  The program has grown over the last 60 years with over 60,000 participants from over 200 countries worldwide. The goal is to give children exposure and experience to educate and inspire action for a more just and peaceful world.
CISV is now recruiting for its Summer 2018 programs:

At a Village, a delegation of four 11-year-olds spend four weeks at a camp somewhere in the world with kids from 11 other countries. This multilingual and multicultural experience allows participation in a mix of educational, cultural and sporting activities emphasizing cooperative global and intercultural living.  CISV founder, Doris Allen, a UC psychology professor, found 11 the perfect age for a child to participate in Village as they are freer from prejudice and pre-formed notions than adults. Parents who have sent their children agree the experience was incredibly valuable, leading to greater independence and global awareness. 

The Interchange Program matches girls and boys aged 12-13 with a similar group from another country. This year, the six Cincinnati kids collaborated with families from Graz, Austria.  Our delegates hosted a boy or girl from Austria for 2½ weeks, then flew to Graz to experience a deep encounter with their matched families for the rest of the month.  

The Step-Up Program for 14-15 year olds is a 21-day village focusing on leadership development. Participants this year traveled to Lisbon, Portugal. Typically, four students plus one adult leader make up the delegation, joining students from nine other countries.  While the program location is part of the experience, interacting with people from all over the world is the primary focus. Activities center on ways to work out differences in a peaceful manner.  

Junior Counselors, 16-17 years old, serve as leaders for the 11-year old Villages.  

The Seminar Program for ages 17-18 is facilitated by the participants who develop their own themes to explore issues and form opinions about individual, international and multi-cultural matters within a framework stressing positive conflict resolution.  

The Youth Meeting for ages 16-19 features individual themes allowing exploration of intercultural issues and building leadership and organizational skills. 

CISV has a thorough application and screening process for delegates and host families to protect those traveling. This non-profit organization is able to keep program costs affordable with a strong volunteer base of dedicated families.  Travel costs are in the range of $3000-$4000 (including travel and lodging), depending on length and location.

The following Information Nights (advance registration not required) are scheduled, each held from 7 to 9 p.m. at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church, 5950 Montgomery Road 45213 (CISV is not affiliated with Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian, but we thank them for the use of their facility.):
1 - Monday, October 2
2 - Monday, November 6
3 - Monday, December 4

Experienced families will be available at the Information Nights to talk and answer questions. You also will hear from delegates who traveled abroad explaining how their unique experience shaped their outlook.  We have opportunities for children from age 11 and up. The 201 destination locations generally include locations in an exotic area, Europe and the Americas.

An Activity Day also will be held in November at The Summit Country Day Lower School for children to sample some of the CISV activities called energizers. 

To begin the application process, visit Applications are due December 15, 2017 for the year 2018 abroad season. Spots are limited.

For questions please contact or Karen Huelsman at . 

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