The Children's International Summer Villages
program hosts kids in Pittsburgh from all over the U.S. and the world every three years “to make peace a habit of mind among very young people -- that's the only way to prevent wars in the future," says Kristin Kovacic, who heads the local chapter of this global organization.
"It's sort of like a church youth group, but without the church," she adds, with a program that teaches the principles of conflict resolution, diversity, social justice and sustainability. "It connects people who would not necessarily be connected -- certainly internationally, but also locally," bringing together youth across neighborhoods, political backgrounds and religious affiliations.
Each Village lasts a month because "a month is what it takes, minimally, to make a friend." She calls the whole venture “a global leap of faith.” Ten delegations of four kids each, ages 11-17, will form the Village here starting in June, coming from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, Sweden and elsewhere in the U.S. Even the counselors will be mostly international visitors, from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and the Philippines.
"We're going to take care of them like they're our own children," Kovacic says of the young visitors. And Pittsburgh children can expect the same treatment when they head this summer to Villages in Maine, Belgium, Guatemala, Detroit and Austria.
While Village activities include such camp staples as soccer and swimming, the focus is on helping kids create bonds and learn how the world works. This year’s theme is “footprints of peace,” which will lend itself to lessons on our impact on the earth and on one another. And there won’t be too many distractions: kids have to check all their electronics at the door.
"Kids are just as interested in being thoughtful as they are in being playful," says Kovacic, whose day job is teaching poetry at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12. Villagers, such as her own son, who went to Mexico, accumulate language skills along the way too, plus they trade a lot with their peers. "And they come home and teach us a lot," she says.
Pittsburgh’s Village chapter is still looking to fill its delegation to Guatemala this summer for another Village-sponsored exchange, in which local kids are matched with the same age and gender children in Guatemala, and families in both countries host each other’s children for two weeks each (although the program still includes lots of group activities). There are also chances for Pittsburgh families to take on a single weekend hosting duty during the Village. Says Kovacic: It's a great way to learn about Children's International Summer Villages and about the larger world."
Get in touch with your global side by contacting the organization here
, or call Kovacic at 412-683-1908.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kristin Kovacic, Children's International Summer Villages