NEW BREMEN – Diplomats might admire the entry-level peace education that 11-year-old New Bremen student Emma Eshelman has brought home from her month-long summer camp at Marseilles, France.
Emma and her parents, Tony and Judy Eschleman, learned about this unique camp and other opportunities when they began working with the Miami County chapter of Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV). There are two other Ohio chapters located in Columbus and Cincinnati.
Judy Eshleman, Emma’s mother, said she likes the CISV goals of educating and inspiring for peace and developing leadership skills while working on cultural diversity.
At the camp, Emma learned about international cultures as she participated in interactive projects with 10- and 11-year-olds from Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.
CISV International, founded in 1951 by Doris Twitchell Allen, have programs which offer young people opportunities to meet their peers from other countries, forming intercultural friendships and learning about what life is like in other parts of the world. The organization’s web site lists 69 countries participating worldwide. The organization’s four guiding principles are Human Rights, Conflict and Resolution, Sustainable Development and Diversity.
Emma said that Diversity was the camp’s overall theme this year.
She described learning about the quality of empathy during a Diversity activity called “Rich/Poor,” in which day they were divided into two groups for the day with very limited information about each other’s activities.
“I was in the Rich group,” she said, “and the Poor group didn’t know we couldn’t help with clean-up activities.”
Emma said she was surprised at first when the other group expressed some ingratitude when help was finally offered but she came to understand how lack of information can affect a person’s outlook.
Emma said all the activities they did emphasized interaction among the different nationalities, and learning about how their cultures differed. For example, one night had the young people create posters representing their countries, then those of different nationalities going around writing impressions of each country. They then discussed the misunderstandings each culture had about each other.
But, with all that, she said, “I was surprised how much we really were all alike.”
There was a lighter side to activities as well.
“We had a ‘national night’ where our delegation showed kids from other countries how to play baseball and to do the Cha-Cha Slide,” said Emma.
Other overseas activities Emma participated in were two home visits, one of which involved a picnic on a Mediterranean beach. There were excursions to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
Emma and her parents emphasized that CISV doesn’t just offer international opportunities for a children ages 11 to 18. Many activities can be done in the United States as well.
Emma said the best part is first-hand exposure to new cultures.
“I think it’s really cool to see how they do some things different from how we do things here. And it’s really cool to make new friends.”
Information on CISV can be found at https://cisv.org or cisvmiamicounty.org.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.