Young people from many countries meet at Springside
Gys Van Suchtelen, a young Dutch international delegate, pointed to a dutch cake that resembles pound cake.
“Ontbijtkoek – in Holland, we eat this for breakfast,” he said.
Van Schucthlen was one of many international children at a Friday evening dedication ceremony for the Power of Love Village hosted at Springside School for four weeks this summer.
The village is a collection of more than 50 boys and girls from countries around the world, such as Argentina, Ecuador, Israel, Italy and Japan, who come for four weeks at a host site – like Springside – to, according to its website, meet their peers from other countries and to form intercultural friendships.
“I grew up in this organization, and my sister and mother and I went on several trips because of it,” said Valerie Robinson, a local resident, who was able to visit Guatemala and Japan as a young girl through the program and is hosting a delegate at her home this weekend.
“I think there is no better way to bridge gaps between people and to know our differences are not as big as they seem than to be immersed in a different country’s culture and to see how other people live,” she said. “Now that I have children of my own I am introducing it to them.”
“It’s about having an adventure and being comfortable away from home,” said Sharon Jessar, a village planner.
Delegates – boys and girls, age 11, junior leaders, ages 16 and 17, and leaders older than 21 – spend their days doing educational activities and playing games and sports, but the core benefit for youths at the village is building relationships with people from around the world. It is learning who the others are, where they come from and how they live, according to Bruce Perlman, village director.
According to its website, Children’s International Summer Village (CISV) was founded in 1946 by Dr. Doris Allen, a psychologist who believed “the ultimate source for peace, long range, lay with the children.”
Dr. Allen could not agree with contemporaries who thought the focus for peace education should be in the field of adult learning. She envisioned children from around the world coming together to learn to respect different and common values, according to the website.
In 1951, her vision grew a bit, as delegates from eight countries gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the first CISV. Since then, more than 190,000 people have come together as a result of its volunteers’ efforts that bring together children in nearly 180 countries a year, according to the website.
The ceremony and this year’s Philadelphia Power of Love Village were dedicated to longtime CISV Philadelphia chapter member and volunteer Rose Gilbert, who died during the planning for this year’s village.
Philadelphia hosts a village every three years, said Jessar. Planning responsibilities include finding a site to host the village, finding funding, providing meals and finding families to host delegates when they first come off the plane and for one weekend during the program, which took place this past weekend.
“A lot of times you ask, what impact will what happens here at this village have on the bigger picture,” said Bruce Perlman as he addressed the crowd. “One person who understood that was Rose Gilbert. One individual person can make a difference. When all these people come together at once it is powerful.”
Perlman said delegates at the village learn about things like social justice and sustainability.
“It encourages the resolution of conflict through peaceful means,” he said.
Delegates from each country, who live Chestnut Hill from July 7 through August 3, provided the crowd of more than 50 with performances. Argentinean delegates offered a cultural dance. A Chinese delegate displayed his martial arts technique with solo form movements.
“This is my first time with CISV and I want to spend time with the great and beautiful and gorgeous kids,” said Yoonmo Nam, the 22-year-old leader of the South Korean delegation. Nam is a university student in South Korea who plans to teach English.
“I want to meet new people around the world,” she said “That’s why I am here.”
“I think it [CISV] gives you a real sense of ability that we can live in common and get past language and custom barriers,” said John Sall, whose 11-year-old daughter is currently at a Power of Love Village in Springfield, Mass.
Sall, an Abington resident who is hosting a delegate for the weekend, said his daughter heard a presentation about the program in school and was interested. When he asked around he learned a few of his friends already participated.
“This is a good opportunity to come out and see the kind of things they actually do at the village and meet people – especially because my daughter is at one now,” he added.
“This is the first time I tried CISV,” said Van Suchtelen, who has traveled to “oh, many places,” including Cuba, Thailand and South Africa. He said he learned about the program from the daughter of a friend of his father.
“I tried it and I just liked it,” he said. “I don’t know why.”
For more information visit www.cisv.org or www.philly.cisvus- a.org.