PIQUA — One summer evening in 1955, a contingent of 180 teenagers representing all races and religions congregated on a California mountaintop for a workshop where they reportedly “locked arms, formed a circle and sang a song of peace” beginning with a familiar refrain: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Ironically, it was also in the ‘50s when a woman named Doris Allen adopted a similar mantra and, in her quest to build global friendships, founded the Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV). After researching international travel for children, Allen expressed a desire to organize a village experience with rural children rather than in Cincinnati. After meeting with M.L. Routson, principal at Concord School, Troy, Allen visited the school to choose the first delegation to attend a village in 1954 and that’s how the Miami County chapter began. The first village in Miami County took place in 1956 and has been actively engaged in youth exchanges ever since.
Miami County has reportedly sent over 100 delegations to villages worldwide over the past six decades and, in turn, the county hosts a village every three years.
CISV International is a global organization designed to educate and inspire peace. Unlike the first 11-year-old village experience in 1956, today’s organization blends seven international camp-based, family exchange and local community programs for young people up to 18 years of age. This week, for example, will be the culmination of two programs, a summer village experience for four 11-year-olds and their leader who traveled to Vaasa, Finland, for one month and also an Interchange program for 12- or 13-year-olds who visited their counterparts and families in Italy earlier this month and reciprocated by hosting the Italian delegation and their leader in Miami County home for two weeks.
During a presentation at the Piqua Rotary Club this past week, Interchange Leaders Beth Hanes of Piqua, a Tipp City teacher and mother of three, and Jessica Scodro of Gorizia, Italy, were accompanied by two youth delegates, Hanes’ daughter, Katherine, and Rebecca Marchesan, also of Gorizia.
The foursome described the myriad experiences they’ve had visiting each others’ countries providing countless photographs of their adventures whether it include hiking, sightseeing or making s’mores around a campfire. It was explained that the Interchange program is based on the same educational principal as the camp-based program; however, Interchange encourages a “deeper encounter between two cultures by placing young people within families.”
Since arriving in Miami County, Hanes reports the Italians and Miami County delegates have attended a Dayton Dragons baseball game, visited the Newport Aquarium, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Art Institute and Young’s Dairy, and gone hiking near Yellow Springs. This past weekend, they were all looking forward to spending time with their host families visiting places such as Cleveland, Columbus, Indian Lake or other nearby venues.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hanes and Scodro greeted the youngsters at a mini-camp where they spent 1½ days in workshops discussing such topics as conflict resolution and creating a video on the Interchange experience in addition to participating in fun games, singing Beatles tunes and indulging in more s’mores at the home of Brian Williamson who’s grandson, Danny Lins of Troy, is one of seven Miami County delegates involved in the Interchange program.
Miami County young people participating in the U.S./Italian program this summer, in addition to Hanes and Lins, include Luke Anticoli, of Tipp City; Tyler Fetters, of Troy, Drew Sivon, of Tipp City, Mollie Bretland, of Troy and Annaliese Brockman, also of Troy. Italian youth, in addition to Marchesan, are Francesco Visconte, of Cividale, Tommaso Libutti, of San Giovanni, Jacopo Vicenzini, of Monfalcone, Matteo Leschiutta, of Monfalcone and Anna Pinelli, of San Martino.
“This experience has changed my life,” observed Italian Leader Jessica Scodro. “It (CISV) is another way to see another country and important to understand each other’s culture.”
Scodro is a student at the University of Trieste in Italy, where she is majoring in international relations and diplomacy. Her participation in CISV International and its global peace initiatives will undoubtedly help catapult her career.
Participants in Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) are enjoying their experiences visiting each others’ homes. Shown are Miami County Interchange Leader Beth Hanes, delegates Katherine Hanes of Piqua, and Rebeca Marchesan of Gorizia, Italy, and Interchange Leader Jessica Scodro, also of Gorizia.
Sharon Semanie is a journalist and longtime Piqua resident. She can be reached at [email protected]