Children's International Summer Villages

By: Candace Ruiz and Cristin Tarr Issue: Conscious Capitalism Section: Collaborator Profile

Raising Conscious Citizens from Youth to Adults

Childrens International For over 50 years Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV), has transformed the word “conscientious leaders” into a lifestyle. As a non-profit organization, CISV is a world community of dedicated volunteers creating opportunities for all ages to experience the excitement and enrichment of cultural diversity, experiential learning and global friendships. Through educational programs, CISV is founded on the belief that peaceful collaboration is possible through friendship – and that the real difference can be made by starting with children.

CISV aims to prepare individuals to become active and contributing members of a peaceful global society and it stimulates the life–long development of amicable relationships, effective communication skills, cooperative abilities and global leadership development towards a world that is both just, fair and contributing.

CISV was founded in 1951, by a child psychologist, Dr. Doris Allen. Following WWII, during a time of turbulent unrest, Dr. Allen believed the only way to world peace was through our children. Doris Allen said “Children should know others through friendships rather than an abstract place on the map”. Since that time, CISV has offered over 6,000 international programs in over 100 countries with 250,000 participants through out the world. Childrens International CISV offers 8 distinct programs and all encourage and promote personal, cultural, intercultural and international learning (see chart below). Participants can develop the outlook, skills and knowledge to live, play and work with others; irrespective of their cultural and economic backgrounds. CISV's programs use the experiential education model, giving children the opportunity to learn from direct experience and take this knowledge back home to their classroom, neighborhood, business, city, state and world.

Describing CISV and its founder, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the U.S. said, “Doris Allen had a simply beautiful and beautifully simple idea 50 years ago when she launched CISV. In their summer villages, the children grew to understand, even celebrate, their differences, to appreciate their common humanity, and to pull together for the good of all of the people. They returned from their CISV adventures equipped to be youthful advocates in the cause of world peace and global citizenship.”

Global Citizenship

Childrens International

The Village is CISV’s flagship program. The Village is a unique four week international camp where two eleven year-old boys and two girls, and an adult leader called a delegation, come together from 12 different nations. Here they live, eat, play and learn from one another. Delegates to this multilingual and multicultural experience participate in a mix of educational, leadership, cultural and sporting activities which emphasize cooperative global and intercultural living.

During these four weeks, the international youth participants at The Village create a bond through experiential activities that unite friendships, promote cultural understanding and build long-term relationships. Throughout the world, the daily structure of each Village is basically the same. A typical day may include, two eleven-year old girls from Israel and Lebanon playing in the swimming pool not thinking about wars of the the past. Another might be two boys, one from China one from Brazil, building a “peace” structure together while not speaking a common language. Or a girl and a boy looking at a map, showing each other their homes, as far away as the Faroe Islands to the Ivory Coast. The world is no longer a strange place, but rather each country or continent now represents a new friend.

Once the CISV youth return from their Village experience they are expected to give back to their community through the CISV Junior Branch a local youth-run program. Junior Branches, throughout the world host forums on social thinking and sponsor CISV mini-camps, bringing together culturally diverse youth from their own cities and run a shorter version of the CISV Village. Children learn quickly that skin color and socioeconomic background don’t matter when you are playing games and making friends. Upon his return from a Village in Brazil, Charlie Henry organized cultural awareness and inclusionary activities at a local Muslim school during the Iraq War. Charlie Henry (now 17) and Junior Branch President of the Rocky Mountain Denver Chapter said “…the best way to become a great leader is to become a great citizen. I live my life like that every day.”

By encouraging respect for cultural differences and the development of self-awareness, CISV empowers each participant to incorporate these values into their everyday lives as they become business leaders and strive for a more peaceful and collaborative world. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General welcomed and greeted them at a peace Symposium in Korea. He said, “By bringing young people together in a spirit of tolerance and understanding, CISV helps lay the foundation for a peaceful tomorrow.”

Community Leaders

CISV is also committed to offering programs locally. The local program is called Mosaic, a project based program that aims at supporting local chapters of CISV to cooperate with local partners, volunteers, governments and businesses in a way that is particularly meaningful for that community. Mosaic empowers individuals to reach out, involve others and be an agent of change.

Faces of Jacksonville

In Jacksonville, Florida the Mosaic chapter holds a multicultural two week camp for youth each summer called Faces of Jacksonville. Through collaboration with  more than 20 non-profits and youth participants from a wide range of cultural, religious and economic backgrounds all gather together for diversity training, inclusionary practices, developing leadership skills and cooperative play. Vickie Breedlove, Director of the Faces project says, “The camp is a way for our youth to build global leadership skills right here in Florida. Two weeks of activities allows relationships to flourish that wouldn’t normally happen. As the camp progresses the children unite and become more conscious about diversity, inclusion and the people of our own community.”

Quito Painted in Green

In 2008 the Quito, Ecuador chapter began a local project to create an attitude of responsibility and action toward the environment through understanding of environmental problems. The goal was to educate youth and give them skills to help empower them to educate their own community. “The levels of pollution in certain parts of the city are shocking and, since adults have become passive towards this situation, we thought this task should be led by kids,” said Jaime Ubidia, CISV Ecuador. Through efforts from CISV volunteers and the Junior Branch, the project was named Quito Painted in Green. The Mayor of Quito embraced the project and offered a park to begin the project. Through collaboration with local schools, non-profits and businesses in the area an educational program for youth was developed. They began activities like “Environmental Week” and “Bicycle Day” where youth and adults learned how to care better for their surroundings. This extended beyond the CISV volunteers but was embraced by the entire community including many businesses. It proved that grassroots youth leadership can make a difference.

Continuing Socially Responsible Practices

In keeping with CISV’s goals, the International People Project (IPP) was created to encourage long-term sustainable commitment to social responsibility. The program is for all ages 19 and older and offers business professionals a learning outlet while actively contributing to the community. In partnership with local institutions, delegates participate in hands-on work involving a specific theme or project, such as nature conservation or immigration. They also research the issues in their own countries and lead educational activities on the subject. Additional training and seminars may be provided by the partner organization or other experts in the field.

Next summer, CISV Denver, in collaboration with Business Service Corps (BSC), a corporate social responsibility outsourcing company, will host an IPP for global business leaders and local Denver business executives. BSC coordinates and implements employee volunteer service projects and offers quantifiable reporting mechanisms for project outcomes. The hands-on service project will empower and reward participants through an emotional connection to the recipients and a successful outcome. Twenty-five professionals from countries such as China, Spain, Philippines, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg and Brazil will meet in Denver to tackle a very meaningful project in the region; the branding of the Denver Indian Resource Center and Native American multi-generational programming. Part of the conclusion of the project is to determine how to make the project sustainable for an on-going business relationship. This strategy creates a trail of conscious business leaders that can adopt and live the mission of social respect and responsibility in addition to maximizing profits at their own companies. The participants will learn that even in a capitalistic environment we are all better when we work together.

Ultimately, as corporations begin to change their corporate goals from only economic profits to a dedication to people, planet and profits, CISV has positioned itself to cultivate leaders that are conscious of the world around them. Over the last 50 years, CISV has grown from a simple idea to building a sustainable workforce committed to global citizenship, community leaders and a lifelong journey of creating socially responsible practices. As Dr. Doris Allen said when she conceived of CISV in 1951, “Begin with the children, they are the future to grow a more conscious peaceful world.”


For more about CISV visit There are 22 chapters in the United States and over 200 chapters in 60 countries around the world.

CISV International People’s Project in Denver

For more information about CISV IPP or Mosaic projects please contact Cristin Tarr at

Business Service Corps

Business Service Corps delivers collaborative solutions with real outcomes that strengthen and expand economic, environmental and social development through leveraging resources of the private, public and non-profit sectors locally and globally. For more information about Business Service Corps. Contact Candace Ruiz at