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CISV is a seasoned organization which stages (among other activities) villages: 28 days-long exchanges for children aged 10 coming from all the world.

I am considering letting my child take part in an exchange. The exchange itself looks very promising. I took part to a couple of meetings with the local branch of the organization: a technical one about exchanges dates, destinations and so on, another meeting to let newcomers like me get acquainted with other parents and with the organization.

But while I am very supportive of exchanges, CISV looks strange to me because it is a not-for-profit organization, its aims are really too vague (peace, people's friendship) and from outside there are some similarities to a sect. Moreover CISV is very elitist (I met only upper class international-minded people very far from the working class).

So: CISV raised some suspicions in me. Can you please confirm for me it is not a sect? And about elitism?

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    I suspect the reason most of the people involved are 'upper class' is because there is a preconcieved notion that putting children in an exchange system like this is something only the upper clases do, thus the working classes most likely avoid it based purely on that premise. – Pharap Dec 3 '15 at 18:55
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    @Pharap there are also logistical challenges (financial, time, awareness) -- it's a multi-faceted problem. – Acire Dec 3 '15 at 19:19
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    I remember this organisation from when I was a kid, I wanted to participate but never got to. However, I remember the school allowing them to hand our brochures and similar - this was more than 20 years ago in Denmark. It is a well respected organisation. – Ida Dec 4 '15 at 19:28
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CISV - the name used to be "Children's International Summer Villages" - is a partnership organisation of UNESCO.

UNESCO is a United nations organisation that promotes peace.

It is very unlikely that a partner organisation of UNESCO would be a sect or a cult.

Wikipedia has some information about CISV. The Wikipedia page does not list any criticism, and the talk page and the history of the talk page does not list any criticism. You would expect to see evidence on Wikipedia if CISV was a sect.

You might want to check different language versions of Wikipedia to see if there is any criticism there. You might want to search Google to see if there are any news reports from your country about problems with CISV.

You also ask about "elitism". It's true that poor parents often do not make use of organisations like this. I'm not sure there's much you can do about that. Your child will meet other people in other situations.

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I have been a part of CISV for over 15 years and involved with many programmes, unfortunately not interchange but I do know several people who have participated in interchange and found it very enjoyable and rewarding. The skills I have learnt from CISV have been invaluable and I have enjoyed the rewarding activities I have been lucky enough to participate in. I have also met so many wonderful people who 15 years later i am still in contact with from around the world.

CISV is in no way sect it is a volunteer led organisation. Whilst you may feel the aims are vague every activity is very well structured and must adhere to the charity's framework. The organisation itself is also very well structured and has good training for all volunteers leading any activities. Every activity is evaluated both by staff and participants to ensure it was a productive activity, head office receive all of the evaluations are carefully monitor these.

CISV Great Britain is currently working to widen our participation with lower income families, as many of CISV's activities are international it is difficult for lower income families to raise the funds to participate. However these upper class families bring a lot to these activities.

If you have any more questions I'm sure anyone at the branch that is running the interchange would be more than happy to speak to you about your concerns. I understand that sending your child away for a long period of time with an unfamiliar organisation is unsettling but it will be a worthwhile experience for your child.

You may also find it useful to look at the website http://www.cisv.org/cisv-programmes/interchange/

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(I am a CISV volunteer, but will be objective in my response)

As mentioned by the others, CISV is a non-sectarian UNESCO partner non-profit organisation. I personally only joined as an adult volunteer in 2013, and can understand how it may initially seem like a sect to outsiders (if fact, this is something we might joke about ourselves, sometimes) - we cultivate a very open and fun culture and that aims to build a comfortable environment for children to learn and share in, and this is pretty much uniform across all chapters throughout the world.

I haven't been involved in an "Interchange," but I joined as an adult leader to lead a delegation of 4 eleven-year olds to a "Village" in Portugal, and have since also volunteered to lead "Youth Meeting" delegations to Belgium and Portugal, and even staffed/directed "Step Up" and "Village" programs in France, Sweden and Norway. These programs are very well-structured with clear learning goals behind all activities, adult training and risk management are always a top priority, and programs are constantly being evaluated and incrementally improved to adapt to the changing times.

As for your concern regarding the apparent involvement of mainly "upper-class, internationally-minded" families, it has been mentioned here that there is a certain investment that comes with participation (primarily membership fees to maintain local chapter operations and travel expenses to/from program sites), but is also a matter of greater geographic and economic situations - for example, mostly only children from very rich families in Brazil can afford to participate, while participation is well within reach for normal middle-class families in Northern Europe (which might explain the remarkable popularity of CISV across the Nordics).

In the end, it is in the children that families and volunteers such as myself invest their time and resources. Lessons learned and connections made within these programs can last a lifetime, and we provide a venue where children can be themselves and gain greater awareness of the world, in the hopes that this guides their future decisions and attitudes toward constructive and responsible actions. I personally understand that this might not be the best or most feasible option for all families, and I am not connected with your local chapter to speak on their behalf, but I hope my response has been able to help in some way.

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