EMC News - For 11-year-old Troy Martin, this past summer was like no other he's ever experienced.
Troy was among several local youth to participate in a program courtesy of Children's International Summer Villages (CISV) Ottawa, one of 12 CISV chapters across Canada that enable children and young people in more than 60 countries to experience different cultures and build international friendships based on understanding and respecting cultural differences.
"For more than 50 years now, CISV has brought together children and young people from around the world to allow them an opportunity to get to know each other better,to understand different cultures and to build friendships," explained CISV Ottawa publicity chair Chris McKillop. "The Ottawa chapter was founded in 1962 and, every year since, has given local children the opportunity to participate in different CISV activities such as our Villages program for 11 year olds."
The Villages program, which Troy took part in this summer, saw 30 to 35 children from around the world take part in group activities in either Korea or Sweden. Troy was among a group of four local children to spend the entire month of July in the Scandinavian country.
"It was an amazing experience," Troy said. "It was mostly about making friendships, so we did a lot of team-building activities. We spent a lot of time together and went on excursions to Stockholm where we did lots of shopping. We also went to a medieval tournament, which was a lot of fun."
The youngster, who stayed in the city of Mariefred during his time overseas, went on to note that contrary to popular belief the children did not live with a host family during their stay.
"We did have two seperate weekends where we stayed with a family, but for the most part we stayed at a school and slept on air mattresses," he said.
While CISV promotes the fact that its participants gain greater self-awareness and understanding of their capacity to make a difference and become global citizens in a more peaceful world, this is primarily achieved through the number of friendships that are formed amongst children who normally would never have had the opportunity to meet each other.
"Half of the camp is already on my Facebook," Troy noted. "I hit it off with kids from places such as Norway, Brazil, Mexico, the U.S.A., Hong Kong, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and more."
"With social networking, some of these kids will now be friends for life," Mr. McKillop said. "One thing they seem to realize once they get to know each other is how much kids in different countrues are like them. They realize they like the same bands and such, but they also discover the many interesting differences between their cultures such as the different foods, activities and general way of living."
Mr. McKillop went on to note that, for many participants, CISV is an "adventure" because they get to take part in something that doesn't involve the rest of their family. This is not always the case. however, as CISV Ottawa activities often involve current and past program participants, their families and other in the community who appreciate the value of cross-cultural friendships and understanding. CISV has a range of programs, each oriented to a particular age group.
"There is the Interchange program for 12 to 13 year olds where you get to stay with a family for the entire month, and there is a summer camp for 14 to 16 year olds," Troy said. "Anyone can become involved in CISV Ottawa it's not just for kids. When you're 21, you can always become a leader and go with kids like me on these programs. My leader was really amazing."
Another local youth to spend a portion of the summer in Sweden was Hannah Michel.
"I think it was really a great way to realize that even though we live so far apart and are so different in so many ways, we're really also very similar in just as many ways as we are different, and that really helps us connect to each other," Hannah said. "I made a really good friend named Natalia from Mexico, and ever since then, Mexico seems a lot closer than I thought it was."
Hannah said she will always remember the moment when the new friends had to say goodbye.
"After only knowing each other for a month, it seemed as though we had been friends for such a long time," she said. "To any kids who are considering going to a CISV village, the experience is definitely worth the plane ride."
Other local children to participate in the Villages program this summer were Emma Klemets and Sophie Sobol, who attended a program in Calgary. As for the Interchange program, Anacapri Le Blanc and Johan Westeinde had the opportunity to spend a portion of their summer in Forli, Italy while Louis Sobol took part in a CISV summer camp in Norway.
For more information about CISV, visit www.cisv.org or www.cisvottawa.ca .
CISV Ottawa is holding a dinner dance fundraiser at the Lone Star Ranch on Saturday, Oct. 16 for all ages. It will be a chance for people to get together, share some food, hear stories from the kids who travelled to CISV activities this summer and have a good time.
The evening will also feature a silent auction, which will be the chapter's first fundraiser to prepare for the next village to be hosted by the Ottawa chapter in 2012.