Two years ago, I received an email from an old friend of mine asking me if I would like to send my 11 year son to Norway for a month. Truth be told my friend had told me about CISV ten years before when his first daughter was leaving for Finland. At the time, I told my husband that I couldn’t believe what an amazing opportunity for a child – but I could NEVER send my child away, what kind of (Indian) mother would I be ???
Fast forward to 2010, I decided that I would ask my son what he thought about going to Norway without his family. I explained that it was the same program that our family friend’s three daughters had participated in. Being the typical 11 year old boy on the go, he thought it was a cool idea because Norway was the home of Thor (eh ??) and ran off to play with friends.
Amidst much maternal angst, I remembered a quote by Gandhi “be the change you want to see in the world” and I realized that I needed to provide my son with opportunities to grow – even if it meant he would be a million miles away from me with people I didn’t know. This was about him – not his paranoid mom. Okay, okay so I’ll admit I checked for security clearances of the staff, googled the places he would be staying, grilled my old friend about his daughters experiences and I only called the Village once (hey, we didn’t get immediate arrival confirmation. In my defense I did wait 36 hours and only called after one of the other dad’s called me in a panic – naturally I had to provide him with reassurance that his daughter was fine).
Looking back it has been one of the best family decisions in terms of the friends we have made and the impact on our son. The first thing my son did when he arrived back in Canada – he turned to his 8 year old brother and said “You’ve gotta go – believe me it was a blast”. Not only did my son become more independent but he grew in terms of self confidence, realizing the world was a much bigger place than our local neighborhood but at the same time small enough for him to find like-minded friends across the globe. The following summer (2011) he went to Ecuador with the CISV Interchange, opening up a whole other world of new experiences for us (a story for another time).
So before you decide against an international summer experience for your 11 year old, come have a coffee and speak to some of the families who took the leap of faith.
Vani Edwardson is a totally paranoid East Indian mum who experienced a change of perspective…and actually grew from it.