(Adapted from About Our Institution: Federation EIL – Collective Histories, edited by Alvino Fantini.)
PEI (Programas Educativos Interculturales) began participating in Federation EIL in 2007 when they attended their first General Assembly as an observer. The following year PEI officially became part of the Volunteers for International Partnership program; and later applied for Associate Member status which was granted in 2009 as part of Coalición Mexico. Two years later Coalición Mexico became a Full Member of the Federation at the General Assembly in Chile.
“Our status as an EIL partner generated new enthusiasm,” says Director, Cecilia Gámez of PEI. Cecilia was part of an effort to re-establish the original Experiment office in Mexico. “In December 2004, former Local Representatives of EIL in Mexico gathered at a party,” she recalls. “Those who had taken part in an unforgettable Experiment experience shaping their personal lives and professional careers, felt that it was important for new generations to enjoy the same opportunity.”
The original director Barbara Baer de Gómez was to become an honorary member, but two days before the formal presentation of the mission and vision to Barbara, she passed away in Mexico City.
The group decided to honor Barbara’s memory by continuing their effort and they invited others to come up with a name that captured the objectives of this future association.
The name selected was Programas Educativos Interculturales (PEI) and the younger generation was invited to propose a design for a new and simple logo. In a matter of weeks, the rustic drawing of Ohtokhani Jacobo, son of Carmen Salmorán, former assistant of Barbara Gómez, was chosen.
In his own words, he described the word as emerging from a book, framing words he had grown up with: learning, travel, interculturality.
A slogan for the organization was easily chosen: Crossing Borders.
“Many members of the group considered that despite the fact that they lived in various parts of the country, they all shared common experience with PEI and the creation of PEI brought them closer–particularly to old ideals forgotten as time passed,” recalls Cecilia.
In May 2006, the Constitutive Act of PEI was signed.
Cecilia was originally given the responsibility of contacting organizations to work at an international level. “That year, we organized a Spanish course plus homestay placements in Oaxaca for students from Clemson University (USA) and we sent our first AuPair to New York for orientation,” she recalls, “Then in 2007, we organized homestays for forty young people from the Boston Children Chorus who were here to offer concerts in Querétaro and Mexico City.”
That same year PEI welcomed the first volunteers from Ireland and Germany and their first Weltwaerts participants (supported by the German Government) for eleven-month volunteer sojourns. As a result of the collaboration with Experiment e.V in Germany, Cecilia was invited by the University of Kassel to lead a workshop in Bonn regarding the design of itineraries as part of the Orientation and Evaluation of programs.
PEI’s work with Experiment e.V and the Weltwaerts program continued to blossom as the first international meeting of collaborators of the Weltwaerts Program of Experiment e.V took place in Mexico City last year.
“This gathering enabled administrators from around the world to share practices, standardize working procedures, learn from one and other, and identify what makes them unique in comparison with other volunteer organizations,” says Cecilia.
PEI also became a founding member of RED (Mexican Network of Volunteering), the counterpart organization for Weltwaerts, in 2012. Given PEI’s previous leadership with regard to safety, the organization became the natural head of the Safety Committee.
“From 2013 on, all organizations joining RED will adopt the Risk Assessment that PEI developed for its own programs,” says Cecilia. “Our experience working with other members of Federation EIL and what we learned from these partners is clearly reflected in this opportunity.”
About Cecilia Gámez Campanella, Acting Director of Programas Educativos Interculturales in Mexico: Daughter of an Experiment alumna, Cecilia also Experimented to the US in 1985 and later led groups to Canada, the US, and the UK. In 1997, she worked part time with Experimento Mexico, helping to redesign various programs. Cecilia studied International Relations at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and obtained a scholarship to study at the University of Växjö, Sweden, in 2004. She is a founding associate member of PEI and the RED Mexicana de Voluntariado and heads its Safety Committee. Cecilia is married to EIL Ireland Director, Kevin Hickey, and makes her home in both Mexico and Ireland.