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Pittsburgh welcomes young leaders for city’s first CISV Mini-Camp

Emily Stimmel
March01/ 2016

Dighan Kelly knows the secret to world peace—and she learned it from a child.

A senior at Allderdice High School, Kelly is the immediate past president of the Junior Board of CISV Pittsburgh, one of 22 regional chapters of the national peace education organization founded after World War II by child psychologist Doris Allen as “Children’s International Summer Villages.” Inspired by Allen’s vision, CISV aims to achieve world peace through children’s friendships.

At a CISV event that Kelly facilitated, a young Israeli boy asked her whether love or peace was more valuable to the world.

Kelly says, “I asked him what he thought, and he just waved me away as he answered his own question, saying, ‘Love, because the reason we don’t have world peace is that some people just haven’t found their love.’”

From May 27th to 30th, Pittsburgh will play host to youth leaders like Kelly from around the country through the organization’s National Mini-Camp, focusing on the theme of sustainable development. This is the first year for Pittsburgh to host the event.

As part of this year’s camp activities, CISV Pittsburgh will launch a partnership with a new nonprofit social media platform called Culture Clips. The social network will enable young people to utilize new technologies to mitigate future conflict through “clips”— photos, videos, songs, poetry and more—that start important conversations about culture, identity and stereotypes.

Dialogues like these are part of what makes CISV so special. “CISV is not ‘voluntourism,’” Kelly says. “It is a united effort by a group of volunteers to learn in a central location, do great things and go back to our lives to spread the values of tolerance and peace education to the world.”

CISV Pittsburgh has helped more than 750 children participate in immersive educational experiences around the world since 1989. The chapter currently has 50 active members between the ages of 11 and 19 from about 20 schools across southwestern Pennsylvania and Morgantown, W.Va.

“The Pittsburgh chapter has continued to grow, and to strengthen its volunteer corps and national visibility, significantly in the past few years,” says CISV President Amy Raslevich. “We have become one of the strongest chapters in the country.”

CISV alumna Rosalie Daniels is a junior at Georgetown University studying international politics and justice and peace in the university’s School of Foreign Service.

“When you see how well kids from around the world cooperate and understand one another in CISV camps, you start to wonder why this doesn’t always happen at the adult level,” says Daniels, a graduate of Winchester Thurston School.

Local leaders have taken note of the organization’s impact. Mayor Bill Peduto has proclaimed the first day of the National Mini-Camp on May 27th as “CISV Pittsburgh Day.”

“We are excited that the whole city is joining us in welcoming a remarkable group of young leaders from around the country to our city,” says Raslevich.

Now a junior at Pittsburgh CAPA, Zainab Adisa attended her first CISV camp in Washington, D.C., when she was 12 years old. She credits the organization with changing her perspective on different cultures, igniting a passion for travel and sparking an interest in international relations.

“There is too much culture and history in the world for me to just sit right here in Pittsburgh. I want to see the world, meet new people and try new things,” Adisa says.

Like Adisa, Kelly has found participating in CISV to be a transformative experience.

“It has given me a drive to be fluent in the world’s affairs, people, ideas and above all, to work to affect these things for the better,” says Kelly.

For more details about the organization’s history, check out this CISV video.

Emily Stimmel

Emily fell in love with the written word as a teenager, when she published zines and wrote for her school paper. Today, she is a freelance writer with a decade and a half of experience in non-profit communications. She enjoys cooking, reading, crafting and exploring Pittsburgh with her husband and two sons.