By Angela Higginbotham

Over the years, CISV (Children’s International Summer Villages) has become a worldwide movement working toward peace and intercultural cooperation and understanding. The St. Johns County chapter is thriving and continues to have an impact on local students and families.

The CISV organization works to educate and inspire thousands of children and young people, empowering them to achieve their full potential and to play an active role in creating a better world.

In the 1940s, Dr. Doris Allen, a child psychologist, developed the idea of an organization that would foster intercultural understanding and friendships as an essential step toward peace. Allen believed that by creating opportunities for children of different cultures to come together to learn about each other and make friends, they would grow up to become ambassadors for a more peaceful world.

The first Village program was held in 1951 and it brought together young people from Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and the USA. CISV Villages bring 11-year-olds together to learn from each other and the world around them. The children enjoy games and activities built around culture and trust. Children with disabilities work together to form close bonds. Stereotypes and segregation discussions provide a powerful learning experience for the children as well. Each delegation has two boys and two girls, accompanied by an adult leader.

The camp is coordinated by adult staff, supported by Junior Counsellors, aged 16 – 17 years. Over time, CISV volunteers have organized more than 7,000 international educational programs for approximately 300,000 participants.

“In addition to our summer program, we have winter camps that are open to the public. Monthly activities are organized by our Junior Branch and that helps to build leadership skills in our young volunteers. We also have a mini camp over Labor Day weekend,” CISV President Lisa Taylor said.

Interchange is another outreach program of CISV. While based on the same educational principles as CISV’s camp-based programs, Interchange encourages a deeper bond between two cultures by placing young people within families. The two way family exchange program is for 12 – 15 year olds and each exchange lasts between 14 and 28 days. Interchange is carried out into two phases. A child joins a delegation that visits another country and is hosted there by a CISV family. Then in return the opposite family will host a child via the delegation from the country their child visited.

Volunteers are the most crucial part of the success of CISV.

“I enjoy seeing the kids grow and thrive after experiencing CISV. Interchange has taught me a lot and I just want to give back. It’s such a diverse group of kids and it’s great to see how they really hit it off with each other and become life-long friends,” Florida State University sophomore and St. Johns County CISV volunteer Will Taylor said.

Visit for more information about how you can participate, volunteer, or contribute to the St. Johns County CISV chapter.


Photos courtesy CISV

A CISV Jacksonville delegation.

  • Support Community Journalism in Ponta Vedra NewsLine