International exchange promotes communication, cooperation

International exchange promotes communication, cooperation
Ron Ritchie, son Robert, guest Torbjørn Berthelsen, Valerie Ritchie

Families in Avondale, San Marco host students from Norway

 

The Taylor family of Riverside can greet you in five languages: Hallo, Hej, Olá, Ciao and, of course, Hello.

While knowing a little bit of Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese and Italian might serve Will, 18, Caroline, 15, and Kristin, 13, well as game show contestants, the greater benefit may be future opportunities to communicate with peers from other countries.

Kristin Taylor and her Norwegian guest Helene Sundfør

The Taylor family learned these languages through participation in Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV). This summer was their fourth “interchange” experience, where families from Jacksonville send their children to another country and in turn host children from those families.

“We have hosted kids from Denmark, Brazil and Italy previously. The families who have hosted my kids have been so warm and kind,” said Lisa Taylor. “I feel like my kids have now been loved on three continents.”

The Jacksonville chapter hosted the 2015 CISV Village at a local public school for a month, with delegations of 60 11-year-old students, six international junior counselors and five adult staff from 12 countries. For the month that they were here in Jacksonville, the delegates learned about each other’s lives and cultures and how to communicate, cooperate and live together.

“We find that the hosting phase is a lot of fun. We enjoy sharing our family life, visiting all the fun, touristy places in our area and getting to know children from other countries,” said Taylor. “The whole family has the chance to participate in the experience.”

These experiences also provide great fodder for college essays and have helped CISV youth win prestigious scholarships and opportunities, Taylor stated.

“My favorite part of the interchange is the two-day mini-camps where we do a lot of typical CISV games and activities,” said Kristin Taylor. “An interchange teaches that people from other countries are not so different from us.”

While in Jacksonville, the delegations enjoyed a variety of fun activities. “We visited the Magic Kingdom, toured downtown Jacksonville attractions and attended a Suns game, said Taylor, whose family hosted the farewell party for the Norwegian participants. “Families floated down the Ichetucknee River and enjoyed a day at St. Augustine.”

The students also attended Mayor Lenny Curry’s post-inauguration picnic in Hemming Park, made candy at Sweet Pete’s and spent time with the children at Sanctuary on 8th Street.

Olivia Nolan and her CISV partner Eira Nordli from Norway

Olivia Nolan and her CISV partner Eira Nordli from Norway

This summer Kristin hosted Helene Sundfør, one of 10 students ages 12 and 13 from Norway, for two weeks and then lived with Helene’s family in Oslo for another two weeks.

Kristin’s friend Olivia Nolan, 12, also went to Norway and it is her family’s first experience with the organization. Nolan said, “I was excited to learn about Norway, its culture and its people. I hope to create a lifelong friendship with my host family.”

Sally Barksdale, 12, went to a CISV Village in 2014 in Dallas. “My best friends at Village were from Egypt and El Salvador. The kids shared their different countries and cultures. I just really liked getting to know all the people at my Village,” said Barksdale, who went to Norway, too.

San Marco family hosts Norwegian student

Sunburn was top of mind for the Ritchie family of San Marco this summer. Although they are used to Jacksonville’s hot weather, the Florida sun was especially cruel to the very fair skin of their Norwegian guest.

Walker Hutto participates in an interview with Jessica VanCleve

Walker Hutto participates in an interview with Jessica VanCleve

This summer 12-year-old Robert Ritchie hosted Torbjørn “Toby” Berthelsen, one of 10 students ages 12 and 13 from Norway, for two weeks and then lived with Toby’s family in Oslo for another two weeks. It was the Ritchies’ first “interchange” experience, where families from Jacksonville send their children to another country and in turn host children from those families.

Keeping Toby lathered up with sunscreen was a must as many of the activities were outdoors for the USA and Norway delegations of Children’s International Summer Villages.

Robert’s mother, Valerie Ritchie, said the family got involved with CISV last summer when he was one of four Jacksonville students who represented the United States at CISV’s Peace by Piece Village in Roskilde, Denmark.

“Robert spent four weeks in Denmark as an 11-year-old,” said Valerie. “Now it’s a different venue here geared to his age group, still with yearly themes, such as conflict and resolution. I like to think of it as a little bit more like school than a vacation.”

Rushil Sai and Robert Ritchie at Sweet Pete’s

Rushil Sai and Robert Ritchie at Sweet Pete’s

She said that most of the Norwegian students are from outside the city of Oslo. “Toby is the only one from inside the city of Oslo so city life is something that Robert is looking forward to,” Valerie said.

Toby shared that this was his third trip to America, but the other times were for vacation. “The [CISV] mini-camps were my favorite part; we had a lot of fun,” he said about this trip. “We went to Rebounders, the trampoline place. We don’t have any of those in Norway so I really wanted to do it.”

The Jacksonville chapter of CISV was founded in 1976 and is the only one in Florida. CISV Jacksonville will announce its 2016 summer programs on October 25, 2015. Visit www.cisvjax.org for more information.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

The CISV group gets a photo op with new Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry at his post-inauguration picnic in Hemming Park.

The CISV group gets a photo op with new Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry at his post-inauguration picnic in Hemming Park.

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