Area youths in delegation to Italy

Area delegates pose with two members of the Forli delegation in Venice, Italy.

Although social networking websites, such as Facebook, have the ability to connect people from one point of the globe to another, CISV International programs connect people face-to-face. Five area youths learned this firsthand as participants in CISV’s Interchange program in Forli, Italy.

“After exchanging e-mails for about four weeks, it was nice to finally meet the Matteuccis in person. I lived with them for two weeks. We swam in the Mediterranean, ate gelato every day, and learned a lot about each other,” says Evan Radivoyevitch, an eighth grader at Roxboro Middle School. Another area delegate, Ian Bartz, learned that “it was a lot easier to communicate than I thought it would be even though we didn't speak the same language. It was a lot of fun!"

CISV was founded over 50 years ago as an independent, nonpolitical volunteer organization. It promotes peace education and cross-cultural understanding through the interactive experiences of its participants. Local and international chapter programs are available for participants of any age, though most programs focus on age groups ranging from 11 to 30 years old. CISV programs do not focus on traveling, but rather on the opportunity to share time with people in places participant would otherwise know little about.

This year’s Northeast Ohio delegation to Forli was part of the Interchange program, which encourages a deep encounter between two cultures by placing young people within families. Interchange takes place in two phases with one delegation visiting another country and then reciprocating by hosting the delegation from that country.

Delegates are carefully matched with one another to ensure that the program is a mutually enriching one. “I loved the experience of being able to see another country and learn what their culture is like, and I love the family I stayed with” says Emma Bartz, a freshman at Cleveland Heights High School. “They made me feel like I was part of the family.”

After experiencing family life in Italy for two weeks, the American children returned home. Three days later, the Italian delegation came to the United States to experience life in the Heights. Anna Brock, an eighth grade student at Wiley Middle School, said “It was great to have the Italian delegation here! They were all really excited to be in America. They were especially excited to see how we live and to visit places that they had read about, like Niagara Falls. They all really liked that.”

Face-to-face connections are the focus of the programs, but modern technology makes them even more effective. Having participated in two CISV programs, Stephen Bell feels the world getting smaller and smaller. “I enjoyed learning what kids in other countries do, and I was amazed how many things we have in common. Thanks to CISV, I have friends in 12 different countries who I stay in contact with through the Internet!”

Summer 2011 presents another set of international travel opportunities for children and adults. An informational meeting will take place on Monday, December 13, at 7 p.m. at the Lee Road Library.

Photo: Area delegates pose with two members of the Forli delegation in Venice, Italy. Photo by Anna Brock.

Kirsten Radivoyevitch is an early childhood educator, mother of four boys and longtime Heights resident.

Editor's note: Some may wonder what the acronym CISV stands for. CISV was formerly known as the "Children's International Summer Villages," but has dropped the name because the organization has many other programs aside from the Village program.

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Volume 3, Issue 12, Posted 9:06 PM, 11.10.2010