My first time CISV was nineteen years ago. At that time I was eleven, drove to Graz as a rather cautious and rather closed child and came home after four weeks rather dirty, rich in experiences and knowledge and with a bunch of new friends. (First of all I think I demonstrated my Egyptian bellydance to my family.) I was rather cautious, but in these 4 weeks I not only learned that different languages and cultures do not have to be obstacles, but that it was perfectly okay, as I was, in all my idiosyncrasies, completely independent of my familial, cultural, other socialization.
In the summer of 2014, I experienced my sixth CISV camp. I write “mine” because, as with any previous CISV experience, I have grown back a bit, from myself to the people I met, because I have faced new challenges. But actually I should write: “ours” – because I was allowed to accompany four great, eleven-year-old children as they made friendships, became more open, interested, self-confident; how they began asking questions and perceiving injustices, how they consciously learned their own origins and how they learned to think globally, how they behaved in solidarity and empathy, and how they helped make these 4 weeks an unforgettable experience for all.
Of all my CISV experiences, I appreciate my last two when I was allowed to be Leader at Villages, most of all: Because I helped shape why CISV was founded and because I’ve seen a well-functioning and harmonious Leaders Group (which also made up of very different personalities!) has created a safe and loving environment for a motley troupe of children, within which calm children suddenly voiced opinions, anxious children could forget their homesickness, self-confident children acted as ties of the group.