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Recent Interview About CISV

February 14, 2009
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A few weeks ago I was asked to participate in an interview with a Junior Branch member for a final paper assignment in high school. He approached me as an “expert” in the field of peace education from my experience in CISV. Needless to say, I was quite flattered and took a bit of time to share some of my thoughts, feelings and experiences in answering his questions. To those of you out there who haven’t heard of CISV or its goals, I hope it will provide you with a basic introduction to the organization and how it’s changed my life.

Q. What is the role of peace education in today’s society?
A. As technology improves and the world continues to grow smaller, the need for peace education becomes ever more apparent in politics, business, religion and in personal life. With only a few clicks, I am connected to a global network of people that have both similar and conflicting interests to my own. In the near future, I’ll be joining a global workforce that will require the use of conflict resolution and problem solving skills I’ve learned through peace education activities in CISV.

Many people find it very hard to ascribe to the idealistic beliefs of true world peace. I myself grapple with my own beliefs that true peace is impossible in our modern world. I know that conflict is inevitable, however, violence and hatred arising out of conflict is not. Conflict resolution is where peace education has played a role in my own life, whether amongst friends, co-workers or other collaborators.

Q. How does peace related organizations promote understanding?
A. Organizations whose mission is to spread the idea of “peace” promote understanding through many different avenues. A simple case study of CISV International provides an example of many different activities and projects that promote the idea of cross-cultural friendship and understanding.

On a very basic level, understanding in CISV is achieved through the simple act of gathering groups of people from several different backgrounds and origins together for programmes. Through normal human interaction in a Village or Seminar Camp, participants are able to broaden their view of the world simply by getting to know one another. When participants return home from their experiences, news stories from _____ (insert country here) no longer are about some far off country–they are now about their friend from that city.

Fortunately, a three or four week summer camp where everyone sits around and becomes friends with one another is only the basic building block of CISV. Deeper understanding of peace and the world around you comes from participating in activities having to do with peace and understanding. Through many already-established and brand new activities, participants at CISV camps are introduced to aspects of understanding and peace. The simple act of being confronted with the world’s sterotypes (positive and negative) of the USA turned my own personal view of my country and its people on end.

I think the best area in which peace-related organizations promote understanding (especially CISV) is by giving individuals the opportunity to sit down as individuals to discuss the world around them. These interactions are both formal–part of the debrief of a peace education activity–or informal–one-on-one or in small groups outside of the structure of a meeting or programme. These interactions are where the meat-and-potatoes of my own understanding originate. I’ve had amazing, insightful discussions with friends and colleagues that have not only improved my knowledge base but have also provided me with new points of view I had not been exposed to.

Q. In your own words, what does CISV stand for?
A. CISV is understanding through friendship. I’m approaching my seventh year as a member and participant in the organization. As I look back over the numerous local, national, and international activities I have participated in during that time, the friends I have made and the experiences we have shared together have had great bearing on my life up to this point. I think most CISVers would say the same.

Q. How has CISV shaped your personal image of the world?

A. I always like to reference my life before my religious school teacher asked me to be a counselor at a minicamp for CISV Rocky Mountain/Denver. At the time I was fifteen years old and nearing the end of my freshman year of high school. I had only a basic view of the world around me, limited experience traveling or working with people outside of the USA, and was a bit lost at the time, still recovering from an awful three years in middle school. Looking back, CISV’s activities (both local and international, including Junior Branch and programmes) were a perfect fit. If you were to approach me at that time and say that within ten years I’d have attended or staffed four CISV international programmes, represented the USA at three international CISV meetings or traveled to fourteen different countries as a direct result of the friends I’ve made at these meetings and activities, I’d likely be hard pressed to believe it was true.

CISV is my personal image of the world.

As mentioned earlier, when I read the news, I no longer think of faraway lands with strange sounding names. I read about strikes in France, and think of how it affects the many friends I have there. Watching the news about conflict in Colombia transports me back to the three and a half weeks I spent in and around Bogota.

CISV has made the world a much smaller place thanks to the opportunities and friends I’ve had within the organization.

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