CISV Atlanta Newsletter – Winter 2005
I am excited about the fact that you are reading this – CISV Atlanta Area’s first-ever newsletter. You have received a copy of this newsletter because you have in some way helped, supported, given words of encouragement, volunteered, donated, shared our vision, showed interest, become involved with or otherwise tangled up in our enthusiastic bunch. And if you have not yet done any of the aforementioned, now is a great time to start.
I have been involved with CISV since the age of 14 when our family made the decision to host two 11-year old boys who were on a weekend home-stay from a CISV Village in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Bruno was from Brazil and Ian was from the USA. In the beginning, I remember my dad being wary about bringing these two strangers into our house. By the end of their three-day, two-night visit, my dad did not want to give them up (nor did my mother, sister, or I).
They had grown on all of us in true CISV-fashion. We had spent a short amount of time (a weekend) with two human beings that we would remember for the rest of our lives.
I remember Bruno speaking Portuguese to my mother and her using her knowledge of Spanish to translate for the rest of us, and was amazed when Bruno simplified the whole process by putting pen to a napkin, and drawing pictures which communicated his questions and interests far more quickly than our previous efforts.
This introduction to CISV led to further experiences. At age 16, with the permission of my sister (she had been accepted first and then a male position opened up), we became involved with an Interchange with a CISV group from Naantali, Finland. The first summer our partners traveled to our home and spent a month out of the summer with us. I learned that my partner, Matsu, was far quieter than I, but that I should not underestimate his great sense of humor and the fact that he needed some time to adjust to his “new home” and the draining jet lag from his long journey.
Through his broken understanding and speaking of English (much better than my Finnish), I took the first hour or so to learn all of the words and phrases in Finnish that I possibly could. Most of these words and phrases are unrepeatable in polite company. The summer was fantastic.
The very next summer our group traveled to Finland and I was able to stay with Matsu and his family for a month. Now it was my turn to learn about jet lag and the trials of navigating a household that speaks a language other than yours.
I was welcomed warmly from the moment I arrived, but soon learned that I would need to get used to going to sleep while it was still light out. Nothing like finding out you are close enough to the Arctic Circle to extend your daylight hours and shorten your time in the dark. I was in “The Land of the Midnight Sun.”
After a very full and wonderful month’s experience we sadly said our goodbyes and our USA group headed home. To this day my mother and Matsu’s mother are in touch and we get glimpses of each other’s lives through scattered, but consistent correspondence.
Having whet my appetite for this thing called CISV, I traveled for Seminar Camp to Balsta, Sweden at the age of 18, and then could not wait until I was 21 to become a leader. I brought four 11-year olds with me to Padova, Italy, and had the pleasure of having one of those children be the daughter of our San Francisco Chapter founders, Vicki and Peter Tejada.
After a seven-year hiatus, I was invited to be staff at a San Francisco Village under the direction of my good friend Carolyn Shavel, and two years later was back in San Francisco, this time directing a Village. For this last Village, I had to leave behind my lovely pregnant wife in a wonderfully hot and humid Atlanta summer. When relaying that story she usually ends it by saying, “I tell you that so you know how important CISV is to him.”
Joni also told me that my next CISV experience would need to be much closer to home. So, we started our very own chapter here in the Atlanta Area in June of 2004, calling together an unusually large number of experienced CISVers, representing several existing CISV chapters, both nationally and internationally.
A more wonderful group of people you could not handpick yourself. All of them had been wondering why there was not an Atlanta chapter, and together we made that thought obsolete. “Together We Are Better” and “Begins With You and Me,” themes for the last two villages I was a part of, rang true with our newly formed Atlanta Area Interest Group and we made “our dream a fact.” At the 2004 CISV National Board Meeting we were given Steering Committee status, recognizing our commitment to becoming a full-fledged chapter in the next 2-4 years.
We are currently preparing and working to fill our very first summer programs. We have a Village opportunity for 11-year olds to Paris, France; a Domestic Exchange for 12-13 year olds with our San Francisco Chapter; and an Interchange for 14-15 year olds with Vestfold, Norway. The excitement is growing, and we continually relearn the lesson that CISV is passed on by word of mouth—not fancy advertising, not mass-mailings, but by one-on-one contact and the opportunity to share the enthusiasm.
So I encourage you to share our dream which is quickly becoming reality. Use those wonderful talents to help us find families to share our vision, help with volunteer hours, fill our programs, and enjoy the unique camaraderie that is CISV. Step forward and tell at least five friends about what we have to offer and that we are always looking for wonderful families.
See you soon, hope to hear from you sooner.