By Grace Wyler
When Alexis Denney and Jad Saleh visit Montreal this summer, they will act as ambassadors, not only for Canfield and the Youngstown area, but for their country.
The two fifth-graders, students at Canfield Village Middle School, will represent the United States this summer with groups from 11 other countries at a Children’s International Summer Village in Montreal, Canada.
Denney and Saleh will spend one month at the “village,” a camp where they will learn about other countries and form friendships with students from around the world.
“I see the unique opportunity that CISV presents for our youth,” Jad’s mother, Heidi Strawderman Saleh, said. “To have a chance to meet and create friendships with children from 12-15 different countries for a month is so special.”
A former CISV participant, Strawderman Saleh has first-hand experience with the benefits of the program. In fact, Jad is part of the third generation of CISV participants.
His mother, Heidi, attended a “village” in Washington, D.C., in 1977. Later, her mother, Judy Strawderman, was a leader on an exchange trip to Canada and her sister Holly Strawderman went to Norway with a CISV trip.
Strawderman Saleh has since traveled to Finland, Brazil and Portugal with CISV, and also hosted a “village” in Youngstown.
“[The villages] humanize the world,” Strawderman Saleh said. “It makes it seem more like there are people in the world instead of just a map. There is a whole world of potential friends.”
Jad’s older siblings have also participated in CISV camps — Aly Saleh, a sophomore at Canfield High School, went to Gorizia, Italy, and Maleck Saleh, a seventh-grade student at CVMS, attended a village in Segovia, Spain.
“I met so many people, and you learn a lot about other people,” Maleck said of his CISV experience. “You learn that you have to appreciate the things in the world, you can’t just go in and take things, you have to talk to people.”
The Salehs have stayed in touch with many of the people they met through CISV through email and Facebook, Strawderman Saleh said. And on a trip to visit relatives in Syria and Lebanon last year, Maleck reunited with a friend he had met in Spain. The boy happened to live around the corner from Maleck’s aunt’s house in Saida, Lebanon.
This summer, Jad, the youngest of the three Saleh children, will have his own international experience as part of a five-person delegation from the Youngstown-Cleveland chapter of CISV.
For information about CISV, contact Heidi Strawderman Saleh at 330-519-4195 or go online at www.youngstown.cisvusa.org.