My children have participated in Village and Interchange. They have come home with great experiences. They have had all the fun. One day when I was looking at the CISV website I noticed an IPP and thought, now I can have the experience that my kids have had.
I choose Hallig Hooge Germany for two reasons. First, the topic: Studying the relationship between ecology and economy is something I am very interested in. Also the timing was right. My kids would be back in school and the program was only 2 weeks long.
When I was accepted I was thrilled and a little scared. This was really stepping out of my comfort zone. My family was very supportive of me going. This was the first time I had been to a non-english speaking country and the first time to go alone. But I was to learn that when you do a CISV program you are never alone.
I was one of 22 International People’s Project volunteers from 5 different countries who converged in Hallig Hooge to participate in various service projects while studying the relationship between ecology and economy. Our group learned the value of teamwork when we banded together to build a bicycle shed, a salt soil garden, a new patio for the Schutzstation Wattenmeer and several benches for the island’s increasing number of tourists. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, we somehow managed to coexist for two weeks in very close quarters, while getting a tremendous amount of work done.
The receding water of low tide leaves behind a vast mudflat, where we would walked for miles scooping core samples from the mud every 50 meters and counting the number of worms, snails and other wildlife. The wildlife monitoring project helps the volunteers’ host, a nonprofit organization that protects natural habitat in the North Sea, to determine the overall condition of the area. The movement of the animal population indicates the direction of the shifting “japsand,” a large sand bar.
I found the simple life appealing. Walking instead of driving, for example, was an expression of the project’s conservation theme. We harvested their own oysters and bought cheese and milk from the dairy farmer next door to the headquarters of their host organization, Schutzstation Wattenmeer. We used public transportation exclusively. I didn’t ride in a car for two whole weeks. There was no television or internet. We spent all our time either working with the host organization or just getting to know each other.
I also learned a lot about myself along the way. It was a centering experience. When you are completely taken out of your comfort zone, you learn a lot about yourself. You can check your baggage at the door, and you can coexist with people and work toward a positive goal. It was one of those once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.
So now the CISV-Mom is a CISVer. I have my own friends from around the world. I worked through being home sick. I came home and had to work though being camp sick. I have learned so much about different cultures, how alike we are and how different. It was such an experience it’s hard to put in words. Thanks CISV for having this wonderful program for us big kids.
Ellen Fowler, USA
IPP Hallig Hooge, Germany, 2007