In the Loop

The Newsletter of Federation EIL - Worldwide Network of the Experiment in International Living - MARCH 2011
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The mission of the Federation EIL is to facilitate its member organizations in the lifelong involvement of individuals in intercultural learning experiences. This process helps develop understanding of and respect for people throughout the world.


In This Issue

GA Chile '11, Here We Come
Professor Alvino Fantini Represents FEIL
VIP and EIL Selected by Ambassadors Program
Living The Experiment in Turkey
AIPC Spain Announces Micro-Projects
A Unique Short-Stay Program for Foreign Students in Germany
Sea Turtle Conservation: Guatemala's New Volunteer Project
EIL Ireland Announces Travel Opportunities
Volunteer Report~Life after losing a job
Reporting from Rromani Baxt Community Center, Albania
Volunteer Reports from Mexico
UN Report from FEIL Representative, Connie Crosson
Photos of EIL Ireland Alumni Network Weekend
In Memoriam
Links of Interest

This issue of In the Loop is dedicated to our friends in Japan--and to those around the globe--who have been affected by natural disasters and other crises.

GA Chile '11, Here We Come!

GA 2011 will celebrate Federation EIL -  A Worldwide Community, powered by the 5 C's: Creativity, Communication, Competency, Collaboration, Contribution.  

Muchas Gracias to our members in Chile, this year's hosts for the annual General Assembly Meeting, April 10-15, 2011. Soon Federation members & friends will find themselves in the same time zone in the same hemisphere on the same continent--in Santiago, Chile--listed by the NY Times as the Numero Uno place to visit in 2011! 

Federation EIL welcomes members from: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Germany, Great Britain,  Ireland, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA, who will be joined by Observers from INLEX CA in Guatemala, INTEJ and Centro Tinku in Peru, AUDELE in Uruguay, The Indian Association of The Experiment, and ERDT in the USA.

In keeping with the 5 C's, our conference will include ample opportunity for delegates to exchange information, share expertise, collaborate on new initiatives and further the work of the Experiment around the world.

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Professor Alvino Fantini Represents FEIL at Intercultural Horizons 2011

Professor Alvino Fantini will represent Federation EIL with both a plenary session and a workshop at the first biennial conference dedicated to exchanging ideas, practices and experiences in intercultural competence at the International Center for Intercultural Exchanges.

Intercultural Horizons 2011 will take place in Siena, Italy this May and will include intercultural educators and experts from around the world.

Professor Fantini will highlight the results of the FEIL research project, Exploring and Assessing Intercultural Competence, which was completed with a grant from the Center for Social Development at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.  He will also offer a session entitled: Language: An Essential Component of Intercultural Competence, discussing the role of second language development as an important aspect of intercultural competence and exploring aspects of developing bilingualism and plural-lingualism and their effects in mediating and expanding one's world view.  

Alvino Fantini has served as Federation EIL's educational consultant for 20 years, and was first an Experimenter himself in 1954. He led trips with EIL/USA and was employed with World Learning and its SIT Graduate Institute for over 40 years. Alvino recently developed the EFL Guide for Volunteer Teachers for FEIL's Volunteers for International Partnership (VIP) Program .

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VIP and the US Experiment Selected by AUAAmerica's Unofficial Ambassadors



America's Unofficial Ambassadors (AUA) seeks to encourage Americans to volunteer in Muslim World communities to support local initiatives in human development areas such as education, community needs, health and civil society. The AUA team spent a year researching over 1,000 organizations, finally selecting 36 programs to include in their Directory of Recommended Organizations, including both Volunteers for International Partnership (VIP) and the US Experiment!

"Over the past several months, one of our Program Officers, Natalia Aivazova, has spoken with... several returned VIP volunteers. Each alumnus has shared inspiring stories of volunteering in development, interacting with members of the local community, and forging lasting friendships along the way. AUA looks forward to working with VIP to promote American volunteerism and international exchange. Based on this review, we are comfortable in recommending your organization as a quality organization which provides a meaningful opportunity for service.  We hope that inclusion of your organization in the Directory will help attract the volunteers best suited to your program." Bill Kruvant, President, Creative Learning, Inc.

VIP programs in Albania, Morocco, Nigeria and Turkey will be among those featured in addition to those provided by the US Experiment in Morocco and Turkey. The AUA Mosaic Scholarship program has the potential to further increase the number and impact of volunteers. Scholarships will range from $2000 to $5000 and can be used to cover program fees and/or travel. Recipients will each receive a flip camera so that they can share their experiences with the AUA community through our forthcoming blog. 

AUA aims to promote American volunteerism across the Muslim World with the goal of "1000 American professionals, scholars, students, recent graduates, retirees, and community volunteers to commit to at least two weeks of service and partnership in or with a Muslim-majority country."

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Living The Experiment in Turkey

Linda Drake Gobbo, Professor SIT Graduate Institute

In the last issue of this newsletter, EIL Turkey announced the upcoming visit of students from the SIT Graduate Institute to Istanbul, so it is with much appreciation that a follow-up report is provided. We had 25 students and 2 faculty members on the course in Intercultural Communications. The students were from Bolivia, Somalia, Palestine, and mainly the United States. Our colleagues in the EIL Turkey office found us helpful and gracious host families in both Istanbul and the village of Gunduzlu; arranged lectures at Bahcesehir University, a city tour in Istanbul; a meeting with Mor Cati, the women’s NGO; a school visit in the village, and a fabulous guide to be with us throughout our stay.

The course evaluations provided by the students shared how well organized the travel component of the course had been. What really demonstrated what had been learned were the papers written by the students once they returned to campus.  The students provided story after story that began with... their struggles over lack of vocabulary, finding their way through the maze of the public transport system, their frustration with our “moving coffeehouse classroom", the awkwardness of homestay families, and many of the comments with which we are all familiar.

Here are some phrases of the learning that ultimately happened:

On Turkish culture

During our in-country orientation, someone used the term “gifts from God” to describe how the Turkish people viewed guests in their country. I had no certainty of what this meant at first, but as my classmates described, “They have taken hospitality to a whole new level.”

At the time I was frustrated and angry (with the faculty) that no one bothered to give me better directions to find my way back to my host home. Now I realize I experienced a full cultural immersion. When I look back on all the people I communicated with that day to help me get where I needed to go, I am aware I truly experienced people willing to help a perfect stranger from another country. If I had been given written explicit directions, I may not have encountered the people I met to ask for help. To them I am just a memory, but to me they forever fill my heart with gratitude.

During my stay in Turkey I experienced many wonderful opportunities to engage with the Turkish culture.  Through these cultural exchanges I came to understand multiple views on politics, religion, economics, family structures and history through the perspective of a Turk.  I was filled to capacity with rich stimulating discussions at the end of each day.

On homestay families

My time in the village was so special to both my host family and me and when I left on the last day, everyone was in tears because they did not want me to go.  We had established a very unique connection

The similarities and differences between my Istanbul and my village homestay experiences were striking.  Both families were extremely kind, loving and caring to each other and to me.

On language

I mostly communicated in English with my Istanbul host family but our ability to discuss Turkish politics, religion and controversial issues was very important and would have been impossible to learn about as much if we had not been speaking a common language.  In my village homestay I practiced mostly non-verbal communication with lots of hand gestures and use of my Turkish-English dictionary. This form of communication was acceptable for a few days, but I am reminded of the magic of being able to speak and communicate in another language.

At first, I felt that the lack of verbal communication was a barrier because I don’t speak Turkish neither they English.  However, I decided to enjoy and observe their behaviors, manners, and customs.  I was able to read their body language and to learn from their interactions, and their expressions.  I discovered that it was the lack of verbal communication, which in fact allowed me to better understand the culture.

If I used what little Turkish I had folks smiled, seemed appreciative, and often thought I could speak more than I could. From what I could tell they enjoyed my efforts and attempts. Making that small effort not only received a welcoming response, but I felt a great honor and gratitude to reach out and show a culture my desire to try and participate in it. All we can do is be aware of cultural differences, and show our respect for each other as fellow humans  and do what we can as ambassadors to cherish and understand each other as fellow humans on this planet.


The staff at EIL Turkey, Nevin in particular; our SIT alum Kim Strathearn who worked with her, and our guide Rana Erol are what made this possible. I am so grateful they were willing to take on such a big group of students! We have all learned so much--There is not a day on campus that goes by without the students sharing something of their experiences with me, each other, and fellow students who were not with us. I am reminded of the ripple effect of this trip daily.

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AIPC Spain Announces Micro-Projects

AIPC Pandora in Spain announces their upcoming Micro-Projects. These three week projects take place in 12 different countries in South America, Asia and Africa in the months of July and August. Projects respond to local needs in the areas of education, health and environment. Pre-departure training is provided by AIPC to insure that participants have the skills needed to undertake and develop projects successfully. Cultural activities further enrich the experience of each participant. In many of the projects, volunteers are housed with local families.

Here is a description of one project with our Federation EIL member in South Africa:

Education through sports: Cape Flats is known as a marginal neighborhood of Cape Town. Part of its history stems from the 1950´s Apartheid during which time many people classified by the government as ´non white´ were forced to leave their homes and live in this area. MITS Partnership works there to instill positive values through sports, and does so through the teaching of values in an original way: the monitors are the same age as the students, so they also serve as a role model for them, helping to boost their self-esteem and encouraging them to strive to build a better future. Our volunteers train in different sports chosen by the students in this microproject aimed at improving health and good practice.

For more information:

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A Unique Short-Stay Program for Foreign Students in Germany

Since the late 1960s EIL Germany arranges two-week home-stays for foreign students in Germany. The FAS Program (Familienaufenthalte für Ausländische Studierende) is coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which finances the program. Over 250 students are accepted annually into this program, while other applications have to put off for a later placement period. The period over Christmas and New Year's is in highest demand.

Students come from every possible country and background and they differ from each other in many aspects - tradition, culture, language, religion, attitudes and habits. Many don't celebrate Christmas or Easter but are very keen on experiencing these holidays with a German family, particularly students from Tunisia, China or other Asian countries. Families are generally very surprised about the eager interest of our participants and are happy to learn more about the religion, family and daily life of their "guest."

The FAS program aims to foster the contact between German families and foreign students so that the participants have the opportunity to find a second home abroad. They can improve and train their German skills and at the same time be "little" ambassadors of their home countries. The families can also experience a foreign culture at their home, learn about do's and don't's in the culture of their temporary family member and cook a dish from e.g. Japan, Ghana or Argentina.

As in all EIL programs, the idea is to exchange and learn from each other by living together and sharing the daily life. The greatest success is that we have helped to bring people together and create friendships and contacts between families and participants which last for many, many years. Families often tell us they have gained another son or daughter while the students say that they finally found a real second family far away from home with whom they can share their joy, sorrows, thoughts, tears and laughter.

Johanna Koenig, Experiment Germany

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Sea Turtle Conservation: Guatemala's New Volunteer Project

Inlex CA offers volunteers a unique opportunity to participate in a relative new sector of volunteerism while living along Guatemala's beautiful Pacific coast.

The Pacific coast of Guatemala is the nesting ground of several species of sea turtles, including the Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Eastern Pacific Green. These turtles are keystone species in the health and function of marine and coastal habitats. However, threats from egg poaching, pollution, habitat destruction, and fishing bi-catch have put Guatemala’s turtle population at great risk.

Inlex/CA is working for the conservation and protection of this ancient reptile. Interested persons are able to contribute to this project through hands-on volunteerism and research at the local hatchery and throughout the costal villages. Duties will range from egg collecting to promoting environmental and conservation education to the surrounding communities.

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EIL Ireland Announces Travel Opportunities for Irish Students to Explore World Cultures

EIL Intercultural Learning Travel Awards: Apply now for the chance to win the experience of a lifetime. Closing date 25/03/2011. 22 young Irish people will be awarded the once in a lifetime opportunity to explore Japan, Germany, Ecuador, South Africa, Mexico, Hong Kong, Argentina, and Nigeria during the summer of 2011. Applications are now open for completely free trips including 4 weeks in Ecuador involving a visit to the Amazon Jungle, 6 weeks in Japan attending a local secondary school, 9 weeks as a volunteer on a local indigenous project in Mexico, 2 months living in Germany with a host family and attending a local Secondary School and a 10 week volunteer placement in a child welfare project in Argentina. Heavily subsidized opportunities are also available to participate in the annual Hong Kong / Ireland Youth Exchange and the Global Awareness program involving 8 weeks working with HIV/AIDS organizations in Nigeria & South Africa.

Catherine Anderson, last year's winner of a 2 month volunteer programme in Guatemala said "I have described my time in Guatemala as an intense learning experience, and that it was! I have learnt so many things that I know will stand to me long into the future. I came to see some of my greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses of both body and character, and I learned how to accept them, or change them for the better. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to gain so much experience in such a short period of time at such a young age."

For more information see:

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Volunteer Report~Life after losing a job...

Nora Rooney, Dublin, Ireland

Losing a full-time job is hard.  I worked for over 11 years in IT for a bank and was let go in August 2010. Rather than search for a new position right away, I decided to take time out and do some volunteering abroad. The Irish Aid Center directed me toward EIL Ireland (Experiment in International Living) as it seemed the organization that best fitted my goal: To work abroad on a deserved community project and to have a real inter-cultural experience by living with a family. 

EIL Ireland allocated me to a project for 8 weeks in a large town in northwest Argentina called San Juan.  I lived with a local family of a father, mother and daughter (Juan Carlos, Beatriz and Paola) and their 3 dogs and 1 cat.  I worked every day in a Comador Infantile (kid’s cafe) where parents from the neighborhood could bring their children (ages ranged from 2 to 6) for playschool and free lunch. 

It was challenging for me to communicate with the children and staff in the beginning as I had very poor Spanish, but I persevered and it became easier.  The children were amazing; they soon got used to me and my strange sounding Spanish, and greeted me in the morning with hugs and smiles.   It was a humbling experience for me, I learned a lot about how happy children can be with the simple things, like playing games, making friends or throwing a ball or hoop around the yard. 

The other caretakers were inspiring. They made a lot of effort with a small budget towards creating a cheerful environment for the children, and there was color and music all around.  In true Latin American style, we danced and sang a few tunes every day and we never grew tired of it.  A child’s birthday was a ‘fiesta’ for all and no fuss was spared with decorations, hugs and a cake. 

I also helped in an English language school 2 or 3 evenings a week.  I met students so they could practice their English with me.  In the region I was in, it was rare for students to meet English speaking people, so I felt very useful just by conversing with them about everything and anything.

My host family was warm and friendly and made me feel at home.  They really took me under their wing, and I was thankful as basic things like catching a bus can be challenging without local knowledge.  My host mother was a great cook and we had fun when she tried to show me how to cook some local specialties. My meat pies (empanadas) always looked like they could fall apart. 

While there, I learned a lot about Argentinean social habits, for example, people go out for a night much later than here and always greet with a kiss on the cheek.  Everybody seemed to love meeting someone from far away and they really wanted to know more about my country.

While I was there, Ireland was on the news because of the EU/IMF assistance plan.  The Argentineans I met were sympathetic; their country had an economic collapse in 2001 and many citizens lost money overnight.  It was hard on their pride.  I saw it is not easy when money is tight and that recovery takes time, but I learned people are inherently hopeful and things do improve. 

Overall, I feel privileged to have had an experience volunteering in Argentina. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my host family and the children and staff in the Comador Infantile.  I know if I hadn’t lost my job I wouldn't’t have done this, and as one Argentinean friend said ‘a chance to share smiles so far from home.'

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Reporting from Rromani Baxt Community Center, Albania

Alex Watson, UK

I stayed at the Rromani Baxt Community Center in Tirana, Albania from 8 January to 4 February 2011 and had a wonderful time.  The center provides a range of vital services for the Roma community in the area.  These include: a kindergarten for children aged 4-6, the creation of first bilingual Rroma-Albanian dictionary, the founding of local musical groups, and various collaborations with groups such as the London-based Minorities Rights Group and the foundation OSFA Soros Tirana.  The group seeks to integrate the Roma more cohesively within Albanian society, as well as to combat problems such as drug abuse, human trafficking and illiteracy.

The main support staff—Pellumb (Gimi) and Aresma Fortuna, Verbana Nano and Anita Kararaj—were all extremely helpful. I had frequent opportunities to enjoy Aresma’s delicious cooking and Verbana and Anita made sure I was given some interesting projects to do, such as establishing a Facebook page for the center and helping to organizing a funding bid for a Roma Women project. 

The teaching staff was also both friendly and supportive.  They gave me a great deal of freedom to devise my own games to help teach the children essentials such as the numbers one to ten and basic English words.  Like any children aged between 4 and 6, the Roma children I encountered were an anarchic bunch.  But they were very warm and very interested in learning new things about foreign cultures.  Indeed, the community as a whole accepted me and treated me with an amazing hospitality.

I also had a great deal of freedom to explore Tirana in the afternoon and wider Albania at the weekend.  One weekend I visited the extraordinary castle and ethnographic museum at Berat.  Another time I went to the south of the country, taking in the medieval city of Gjirokastra, the beach destination of Saranda and the ancient city of Butrint.

In particular, Altin Qefalia helped me out considerably.  He picked me up from the airport and dropped me back there at the end of my placement.  He also showed me around the town and helped me get my bearings.  Most importantly, when I had an accident and lost my glasses he was exemplary in towing me to and from to the opticians, and making sure that I was alright. 

Albania is very different than other places I have visited in Europe, and there is no denying that living here for a protracted time is a challenge; but the fascinating culture and the friendliness of the people make this all worth while. 

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Volunteer Reports from Mexico

Magda Pühl and Sophie Eisenhardt,Germany reporting from Barra de Potosí, Mexico for PEI, A.C.

Who would have expected that there is no curd cheese (German: “Quark”) in Mexico?

That is just one out of many differences between our home country Germany and our new residence for one year.

After almost three months we can say that we are really glad to spend this time in this country with its great diversity in culture, legends and traditions. Here in Barra de Potosí, a wonderful village at the Pacific Coast, we work in the Children´s Library Project called “Niños Encantados de la Barra de Potosí”.

Our daily activities in the library include one hour homework help, one hour art or theatre, one hour games and music, one hour English courses level one and two and half a hour book exchange. So far, we participated with the children in a local clean-up of the beach area and recycled our paper in the library. These are monthly activities. Furthermore our next project within the “Ecological Wednesday” will be working in the library garden and creating compost.

Since the beginning of October we also have been giving English classes in grade 1 and 2 of the secondary school. In terms of English education the library cooperates with the school, because the teachers haven´t got much English practice themselves. Furthermore the headmaster asked us to give English classes in the third grade as well and we recently started to give English class in the kindergarten.

On conclusion we have to say: Although it`s a lot of work, we also learn much more about dealing with children and have LOTS of fun!


Laura Margowski, Germany, from Cottolengo, Ameca, Mexico

At the end of October I started working in Cottolengo, a home for boys with special needs. Most of them also go to the “Frida Khalo school", my other project, so I already knew many.

Cottolengo is a great project. It is a little bit outside of Ameca, but I still ride there with my bike. The home has a lot of space where the kids can play, a big garden with animals, dogs, chicken, rabbits and besides beautiful flowers and a horse.

The 18 boys in the age from 4 to 46 are fantastic. Every time I arrive to their home, they are excited to see me and welcome me with a hug and a big smile. One day we paint and draw pictures, the other day we read stories, for example about the Mexican legends, I help them with their homework or we play football in the great garden. Every time  I leave them they ask me: “Will you come tomorrow?”

And when I answer “Yes” they begin to smile or to laugh. My work with them gives me so much. In some moments, when I walk with the kids through the garden I think : “ Yes, this is exactly what I wanted to do here in Mexico."

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UN Report from FEIL Representative, Connie Crosson

An announcement was made during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) of the creation of a new UN Agency, UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, which combined four existing but separate agencies (UNIFEM, DAW, OSAGI and INSTRAW).  The Executive Director is the former President of Chile, Dr. Michelle Bachelet.  More information of the five goals of the new agency can be found online at

The Commission on the Status of Women, CSW, was held at NYC UN headquarters during the last week of February and first week of March.  Over 5,000 delegates from mainly women’s NGOs attended and tackled the theme of Inclusion of Women’s Education needs with a focus on technology. 

A two week session of member states on the status of the Millennium Development Goals took place in September, 2010, and allowed a brief summary of achievements, obstacles and predictions for completion by 2015.  Most countries reported some successes, especially in maternal care and birth safely; universal education; inclusion of women and violence reduction for women and children.  These are certainly not all inclusive and achieved, but good progress is being made. The full report can be ordered from the UN Development Program online

Also announced was the UNDPI/NGO Conference, to be held in Bonn, Germany, September 3 to September 5 2011,   The theme this year is “Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens.”  It is significant that the UN Volunteer Program (UNV) is a co-sponsor of the conference.  Check in with Federation office if you are interested in attending. You have to register through them:

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Photos from EIL Ireland Alumni Network Weekend

60 EIL Ireland alumni sought to engage people in a discussion about the developing world in a three-part Street Action event in Cork--including a human wall, masked actors and street theater.





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In Memoriam

Federation EIL members offer their condolences to the family of Arne Nesje, cofounder of The Experiment in Norway, who passed away on 1 March 2011. 

As reported by his step-son Arne Berge, Mr. Nesje’s most active involvement with EIL took place during the 1960’s but he continued his world-wide traveling and learning about cultures until after age 92.

While there is not an active office in Norway today, Arne Nesje and many others of his generation were essential to the growth and development of The Experiment.  The vision and dedication of these pioneers have enabled The Experiment to successfully carry out its mission of building peace through understanding for almost 80 years.

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Links of Interest:

Federation EIL (FEIL)

Volunteers for International Partnership (VIP) the volunteer program of FEIL

EFL Guide for Volunteer Teachers - Newly developed FEIL resource for volunteers teaching English

America's Unofficial Ambassadors Program --Featuring VIP & EIL programs in Muslim-majority countries.

 National Geographic Global Action Atlas -Featuring VIP offerings

The NY Times List of Places to Go, 2011 -Featuring #1, Santiago, Chile!

UN WOMEN, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Summit on the Millennium Development Goals "We Can End Poverty by 2015" 

Council of Europe Education Newsletter

NAFSA Resources for Study Abroad offices

Traveling Naturally and Green Earth Guides -Newest guide: Switzerland

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