Haven't found the answers you are looking for? Try here for a list of CISV Ottawa Frequently Asked Questions.

CISV in General

What is CISV?
CISV is a non-profit, non-government, non-religious organization that was developed in 1951 by Doctor Doris Twitchell Allen. The aim of CISV is to promote peace through education and understanding through a variety of programs both locally, nationally and internationally.
Is CISV religious?
No. We openly accept every religion, we allow every belief. For us, religious freedom is just as important as freedom from beliefs.
Is CISV political?
No. We are not encouraged or supported by any political direction. We are open to any political attitude. Different points of view enrich the cultural diversity. Tolerance against other people's ideas promotes living together.
Is there an overview about CISV somewhere?
Yes, in the about us section you can find more detailed information about the organization's structure.
What are the goals of CISV?
The goals of CISV are:
  1. To give individuals opportunity to learn to live peacefully with many nationalities. CISV seeks to achieve this goal by conducting educational programs and activities. These programs and activities are designed to achieve one or more of the following specific goals:
    1. That individuals will make close friendships around the world, that is, that countries will become known to them in terms of close friends rather than as abstract places on a map, or as stereotypes built from ignorance or limited experience.
    2. That individuals will become aware of basic likenesses of all humans, and at the same time that they will come to know and appreciate differences.
    3. That individuals will acquire an active desire for world peace and a desire to work for it.
    4. That individuals will acquire skills of communication with individuals and with groups, even when many languages are represented and when no common language exists.
    5. That individuals will acquire skills of administration and organization.
    6. That individuals will develop personalities that are essentially free from barriers, for example, essentially free from the barrier of prejudice.
  2. To contribute, through research, to a science of international relations.
  3. To cooperate with other groups having similar purposes

  4. (CISV Constitution, 1996).
What issues do you talk about in CISV?
CISV discussions cover all sorts of issues including poverty, race, war, current world events, prejudices, the media, and ethics. Discussions are geared toward the age group that the activity or program is being held for.
What kind of activities do you do in CISV?
CISV Ottawa hosts a variety of activities ranging from running games, cooperation games, trust games, simulation games and light-hearted activities. A simulation activity is one in which participants role play to help learn about a world situation. These activities are highly researched prior to being conducted. As they often touch on world situations, these activities are always debriefed to ensure that no one is upset upon the completion of the activity.
Is there a cost to participate?
CISV requires that you become a member of CISV Ottawa in order to participate in activities. To join CISV Ottawa or renew your membership, sign up online. The membership application includes CISV Ottawa membership policies if you have any questions. Family memberships are $130 and individual memberships (for students, young adults living on their own, or Seminar Campers paying their own way) are $50. There is a volunteer membership of $25 for leaders and volunteers for mini-camps and homestays Each program has a program fee that the delegate is responsible for paying. Personal airfares, travel outfits, vaccinations (if applicable), delegation supplies and costs incurred by the leader are all apart of the delegate’s responsibility. Costs incurred for the delegation and by the leader are split evenly amongst all delegates in the delegation.
How much does it cost to do an international program?
International program costs vary depending on which program you are attending and where the program is being held. If you need additional information, you can contact the Program Coordinator) for more information on specific programs.
Is International Travel a requirement of CISV?
No. Your family may chose to participate only in local or national events. There is never any pressure to participate in any program.
What do all those letters mean?
In CISV, we find ourselves using a lot of acronyms. Here are some CISV acronyms you might hear:
  • AIM = Annual International Meeting
  • ARM = America’s Regional Members
  • CISV = Children’s International Summer Villages
  • IC = Interchange
  • IJBC = International Junior Branch Conference
  • IJR = International Junior Representative
  • IO =International Office
  • IPP = International Peoples Project
  • IYM = International Youth Meeting
  • JB = Junior Branch
  • JBB = Junior Branch Board
  • LMO = Like Minded Organisations
  • Merch = CISV Swag/Merchandise
  • MWM = Mid Way Meeting
  • NA = National Association
  • NJR = National Junior Representative
  • ReCos = Regional Coordinators
My child doesn't know anybody else in the organization and is reluctant to get involved.
Not a problem. Often when kids arrive for their first camp they feel a little uneasy about being away from home for the weekend. More often than not, this feeling dissipates quickly as your child meets the other kids at camp and meets some new friends.
What is the Junior Branch?
A Junior Branch (JB) is a group of young local members, typically aged 11-25, who are developing intercultural skills, such as awareness of international matters, global environment and social sensitivity, through educational and social activities consistent with CISV's goals. These young people act as a link between other CISV program and activities, and often work together with like-minded organizations (LMOs). The Junior Branch organizes their own programs and activities on a wide variety of themes. Although they constitute an integral part of the Chapter, Juniors are encouraged to assume administrative responsibility and to be self-governing. International Junior Representatives (IJRs), are elected at the time of CISV's Annual International Meeting (AIM). IJRs inform, coordinate and support all Junior Branches worldwide electronically, enabling them, if they so wish, to focus their activities around themes decided at Regional Meetings or the annual International JB Conference (IJBC). In Ottawa, the Junior Branch Board coordinates and plans mini-camps as well as local activities for the JB members to attend. All juniors are encouraged to attend JB activities and mini-camps!
What is a JB Meeting?
JB Meetings are generally hosted once a month. They are designed to get the JB Exec, and any other JB Members interested in attending, together to plan upcoming activities and mini-camps.


Which language is spoken on camps?
English. Depending on the camp, the children come from five to twelve nations. English is the "common denominator".
My child or others can hardly speak English. How will this work?
In direct conversation the children quickly learn to express themselves non-verbally or in rudimentary English. Their counterpart is usually faced with the same problem. The leaders support whenever necessary. Before each activity, time for translating is scheduled. Even the 11-year-olds usually do without this "translation time" from the third week on and get along very well with English.
So CISV hosts English learning camps?
Oh no. We do not teach a language. At the same time, the children learn a great deal, simply because they use language, feel its value, live, play, communicate in this language. And precisely because not taught, because no mistakes are counted and no marks are given, they come back with a lot of new, valuable language experience.

Application / Program

When can I apply?
You can apply at any time. Generally, the deadline for applications to participate in summer programs is in late December of the previous calendar year. Sometimes we don't fill programs or youth decide to give up their spot after being accepted, so we accept applications after the deadline for programs that aren't full and for waitlists on full programs.
For which program can my child apply?
Our Programs have strict age limits. The child must be of the required age to apply for the program.
How was that again with the age limits?
The child must be of the required age on at least one day between 1 June and 31 August for summer programs. For the winter programs, the limits are from 1 November to 31 January. An example? If the age limit is 11 years, the child is allowed to join even if it is already 12 on 2 June; as well, if it has its 11th birthday on 31 August. The age restriction ensures that the children can "get along" well on the programs.
Is my child guaranteed a spot if they apply?
No. All applicants are asked to attend Selection Camp, which typically takes place in late January. At this camp, youth participate in an overnight experience and get a flavor for the CISV program. At the end of camp, the youth are asked to write down if they are interested in continuing with a program. During the camp, leader candidates and CISV volunteers have an opportunity to meet and assess the youth for suitability. Generally, most youth say "Yes!" and are good candidates for the program. Occasionally the youth or the CISV volunteers might recommend waiting another year or so to attend a program.
What happens if there are more selected candidates than spots?
We do our best to provide CISV opportunities for all selected candidates, however; occasionally there are more program applicants than spots. In this case, the names of selected candidates are placed in a hat and pulled at random. Candidates not selected for international programs are put on a priority wait list, should a spot become available, either this year or in the following calendar year.
Cancellation of an event by CISV?
In this case, paid programme fees will be refunded in full.


When and how do the children of a delegation get to know each other?
The delegation will meet several times, usually at a family's home or in a restaurant. The children get to know each other and get in touch with their companions. The adults also get to know the leader and discuss organizational matters.
What does "PreCamp1" mean?
The "PreCamp1" is the first camp information from the hosting nation. It is available for summer programs at the beginning of March the latest. Within the "PreCamp1" the following information is given:
  • Which chapter of the partner country will host the camp?
  • When shall the participants arrive?
  • When should they depart?
  • Which airport?
  • What other countries were invited?
The flight must be booked for the whole delegation at the same time.
Forms, forms, forms?
During preparations you have to fill in some forms. The programme chair or the leader will help you. You confirm that the leader is responsible for your child, and you provide information on the health of your child (medication, allergies, ...), so that in case of an emergency (which will hopefully not occur) the staff and the leaders can react immediately and adequately.


Who books travel for Villages, Interchanges and Step-Ups?
International travel for delegates and leaders for Villages, Interchanges and Step-Ups is booked by our volunteer travel coordinator, who is a registered travel agent. Bookings are made as a group, to avoid any issues with changes to the itinerary.
What about for the other programs?
You are welcome to book travel for other programs on your own, or reach out to our travel coordinator for assistance.
Do you book the cheapest flight?
We don't always book the least expensive flight. Wherever possible, we try to book the most direct flights, with reasonable arrival and departure times while balancing costs to the delegates. We do our best to book flights with sufficient layover times to ensure that there is enough time for the leader to successfully navigate the airport with the youth.
Concerned about your child's safety?
So are we! CISV takes the safety of its participants very seriously. It is ultimately up to the delegate and/or parents to decide whether they feel comfortable attending or sending their child to a program. Here is some information that should help you feel comfortable to send your child on a CISV program. Checking the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's Travel Reports and Warnings is a good reference. You can also contact us for more information on previous experiences. CISV will cancel a program if it feels that the risk is too high. Ultimately, however, whether or not a program goes ahead, it is the decision of the parents/participants whether to participate or not.
CISV manages risk by being pro-active. Rather than waiting for something to occur, CISV take steps in advance to reduce the risk of incidents occurring. Despite these precautions, we acknowledge situations arise and unexpected events may occur. We prepare by establishing procedures to follow if necessary. As an international association, CISV exists in over 70 countries. It must therefore observe the laws of Great Britain, where we are headquartered, as well as the laws of jurisdictions where the program is being hosted.
Read more to find out about our chapter's past experiences in "risky" locations and how CISV ensures your child's safety through planning, screening and training.
CISV Ottawa has sent delegations to Columbia, Guatemala, Brazil and Israel (countries that some people might consider as risky) with no incidents and lots of good experiences. The local CISVers understand the issues in their countries and are very diligent about ensuring their guests' safety and comfort. The feedback from our delegates and their parents has been that safety was always considered and they were not concerned for their well-being. The local CISVers understand the security threats and realities in their countries and are very diligent about ensuring their guests’ safety and comfort. The increase in security precautions can often be eye-opening for our youth and can be a source of much cross-cultural learning. For instance, when our interchange delegates toured city hall in Bogota, Columbia they were accompanied by an armed guard. The hosts' homes all had security gates and armed guards. They were in Columbia for the national day of kidnap victims and saw their messages to family members televised all day. This provoked much discussion.
CISV program hosts are generally parents themselves and take the responsibility of hosting children/youth very seriously. They will be the first to cancel a CISV activity if it is not safe.
All adults with whom your child will interact have been screened and trained. All adults interacting with youth in a supervisory role (i.e. staff, leaders, host and interchange family members or chapter members at sleepover events) must pass a criminal record check (or the equivalent in that country). Families hosting interchanges or home must also pass a home inspection by the local CISV organization. All program leaders and staff receive intensive local and national CISV training as well as first aid training. Interchange delegates and families will correspond with their partners before the program to clarify expectations about the experience (health concerns, supervision, eating habits, typical daily life in the family, cultural considerations, dealing with homesickness, etc.).
All CISV facilities are expected to meet CISV and local public health standards.
CISV International officials visit the site for countries hosting their first CISV program. For experienced hosting countries, local CISV officials make inspection visits if requested.
If there are security concerns in a country where a program is planned, CISV relies on its people on the spot to give a realistic assessment of the situation and to provide information on precautions to be taken. CISV trusts its local organisers to take all reasonable steps to create as safe a program environment as possible. Local organizers in each country are very sensitive to people’s concerns and understand that people need to feel confident of the organisers’ grasp of the situation and their ability to respond to it. CISV Ottawa delegations can register with the Canadian embassy if a program is taking place in a country with higher risk. Should there be an emergency, be it military or a natural disaster, embassies will assist their citizens in the host country. In the event of such a terrible situation, parents and the sending Chapter can also be in contact with the embassy for any news of the region. See the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's list of Canadian Offices Abroad.


How many kids are accompanied by a leader?
The children travel in small groups (4-6 children) and each group is accompanied by an adult, trained "leader" over the entire duration of the camp. Exception: host family stays.
Who is the leader?
We are looking for the best possible leaders, many of them experienced CISV people, some are pedagogical students or in training to a social profession, and all are trained in preparatory courses for the CISV program. It is important to us that the leaders can deal with in difficult emotional situations, look after the children reliably and affectionately, help them to interact with the other children and offer the children an optimal camp experience.
How do you become a leader?
An application is possible at any time. We are looking forward to dedicated adults who are 21 years of age or older at the time of travel.
What is a leader's income?
Nothing. The travel costs travel are paid by the parents, food and lodging is taken over by CISV, Interchange activities are also financed by the parents. We do not offer any payment. Leaders can get a certificate for their experience.

CISV Programs

What do the children do all day?
While involved with CISV, your child will be learning to integrate with their peers both locally and internationally. They will be participating in activities designed for their age group to teach and to simulate world issues. Discussions will be held on the activities to debrief emotions or ideas that were generated during the activity.
Activities are not all heavy brain-thinking activities. We do like to incorporate lighter activities to allow participants to run around and be kids. These activities are usually team building or trust building activities.
What issues do you talk about in CISV?
CISV discussions cover all sorts of issues including poverty, race, war, current world events, prejudices, the media, and ethics. Discussions are geared toward the age group that the activity or program is being held for.
Is the age of the children considered?
Of course. Camps for older young people have more opportunities to participate democratically. Camps for the younger ones, on the other hand, are designed by the leaders and the staff.
What's for dinner?
Regional food. Special needs of the children (vegetarian, allergies, no pork, ...) are taken into consideration.
What about religion?
CISV is religiously unbound. This means that if your child is religious, it is by no means prevented from exercising their religion. If possible, their needs are also supported. On the other hand no kid will be encouraged or ever forced into any unwanted religious activities.
Can I call my child on the mobile phone?
No. No direct contact is possible during the camp. This allows the children to more easily become comfortable in their new environment. They are, however, always happy to receive mail from home; Sporadic e-mail/texting is also possible via the leader. Please understand that no answer from your child is most probably a sign that it feels very comfortable.

The staff is also available for emergencies.

And if something happens?
Our leaders are prepared for unforeseen things as much as possible. Each program has at least one staff member trained in first aid. In addition, there are experienced risk managers who handle crisis situations in each chapter and country. Our greatest interest is in the welfare of all participants.
What is covered by CISV insurance?
  • Costs due to illness or accidents
  • Travel expenses incurred by cancellation or program cancellation by CISV or by accident or illness of the participant or the leader (up to 1000 GBP)
  • Loss of travel baggage
  • Cost of travel delay
  • Crisis management in an emergency (political, natural catastrophe)
  • Liability insurance for damage caused outside CISV

Host Families

For which camps are there family stays?
In a Village, the children spend their first and third weekend with a host family. A Step Up also starts with a host family weekend. During the Interchange the child lives with the host family and meets with the rest of the group again and again to perform CISV activities with the group.
How many children live with a host family?
During an Interchange usually one kid, as there should be the same number of children in both groups. For the other programs, children stay with their host families in groups of two or more children.
Who can be host family?
Usually these are CISV-affiliated families, sometimes also individuals. Most of them have children who take part in CISV activities, some of them have been CISV children fifty years ago. But people interested in CISV and cultural exchange are also willing to share their home for with children from other countries for a weekend.
What are the requirements to be a host family?
Room for the guest children, but not necessarily single rooms. Mattresses are sufficient. Time to sleep, understanding for possible jetlag, a warm welcome and sufficient food should be self-evident. The children should get to know local customs, and experience the host country a bit more "close up". Very often the host families get to know each other before and meet for common leisure activities (swimming, museum, ...). The host families are informed in advance about CISV practices and rules.
How much money does a host family receive?
Nothing. It is a purely voluntary activity - like all activities at CISV Ottawa.

Local Events

I'm not interested in travelling. Can I participate locally?
CISV’s Mosaic program is the perfect opportunity for chapter members to participate locally within CISV. Each year the Mosaic committee determines a theme for the chapter to follow. They then plan a handful of events for the chapter to participate in throughout the year. These activities may be held in conjunction with a like-minded organization.
Families who are not interested in traveling may also chose to participate in local Junior Branch activities, mini-camps, or become a part of the many CISV committees.

There is also an affordable National Camp held every summer.
What kind of local activities are there and how often would the kids get together?
Generally speaking, the JB likes to hold activities or meetings once a month, or every second month.
Activities can range from baking cookies to deliver to a shelter to dancing to collect money to donate. Anything is possible depending on what the chapter’s theme for the year is and what the JB comes up with.
JB Meetings are generally more business oriented and have members of the JB Board working to prepare camps and activities for the rest of the chapter. Although the name of the game is to complete some of the chapter’s business, everyone is welcome to attend a JB Meeting.
How many meetings/mini-camps can you go to before you have to join CISV?
Those interested in CISV may attend one mini-camp OR activity prior to becoming a member. This is due to our National Insurance Policy.
What is a mini-camp?
A mini-camp is a program organized by a local chapter with the intention of simulating what it would be like to spend time at a national or international CISV program. In Ottawa we typically have two a year for those aged 10 and older. They are one weekend in length and are a wonderful chance for CISVers, new and old, to experience CISV in their own backyard.
How will my child benefit from involvement in local chapter activities?
CISV participants benefit in a variety of ways from being involved in CISV. One key benefit it that participants gain experience as leaders within the organization and can then take their leadership skills to outside groups to further develop them.
CISVers also develop friends locally, nationally and internationally. Participants are introduced to the world around them and begin to see the rest of the world in a different perspective.
How can parents participate in CISV?
There are many ways for parents to get involved in CISV:
  • Join the adult board and help the chapter run and grow
  • Participate in CISV events just as often as your children! Mosaic and Interchange events are family oriented in hopes that the whole family will attend.
  • Participate in an International People's Project
  • Attend the various family oriented activites (dinner dance, open house, silly chili, going away party, etc.) throughout the year for both members and non-members.
  • Assist with kitchen duties at mini-camps
  • Volunteer to help when our chapter hosts a program here in Ottawa. Parents are needed for tasks which include making phone calls prior to camp starting, doing laundry for the participating delegates, providing homestays to delegates, and helping with meals at the camp.