Doris Allen – Founder
In the late 1940s, a progressive child psychologist named Dr. Doris Allen developed the concept of an organization that would foster inter-cultural understanding and friendship as an essential step toward world peace. Doris Allen believed that by creating opportunities for children of different cultures to come together to learn and make friends, they would grow up to become ambassadors for a more just and peaceful world.
Children’s International Summer Villages
In the wake of World War II, Dr. Allen created the cornerstone of her peace education organization. Her premise was to start with children, “I knew,” she once said, “that the ultimate source for peace, long range, lay with the children.” With the support and participation of her husband, son and others who shared her dream, Doris Allen developed the model for a multi-national “village,” where children from several countries could come together and explore their differences and similarities. Dr. Allen felt that the village experience should be fully studied and documented so that it could contribute to global research and dialogue in the field.
In just a few years, but with much hard work on the part of volunteers and supporters, Dr. Allen’s idea had become a reality. Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) was registered as a non-profit corporation in Ohio in 1950. The first Village program was held in Cincinnati in 1951, bringing together young people from Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and USA.
Dr. Allen’s enormous contribution to international understanding and research also received formal recognition from governments and institutions. She received four honorary doctorates for her international peace work in CISV and as a child psychologist. Her success in international exchange was recognized in 1956 when she was appointed a Member of the White House Conference of 100, which organized an international people-to-people program. In 1953, she received the Gold Medal from the City of Stockholm “for outstanding work in international relations,” the Les Palmes Academiques from the French Government in 1961 “for a distinguished contribution to scientific and social thought” through CISV. Her work in international relations through CISV was recognized by the International Council of Psychologists (1962) and by the Government of Guatemala, which awarded her the Orden del Quetzal in 1976. In 1999 Doris Allen was one of five USA citizens recognized by the Coca-Cola Company in its People At Their Best Awards for selfless community contribution “fostering understanding and friendship among children of different countries.” She was nominated by a former CISV Village delegate, who said: “Dr Allen is an extraordinary woman who deserves your award for making peace in children’s hearts.”
Doris Allen was also nominated for the following awards and honors: a Nobel Peace Prize (1979, The Year Of the Child); the Freedom Medal (1999), an honor awarded by the President of the United States of America; the Hague Appeal for Peace Prize (2001); and the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education (2001).
Doris lived to the age of 100 and saw CISV celebrate its 50th Anniversary before she died on March 7, 2002 in Virginia, USA. With her accomplishments, intellectual and physical energy, leadership, persuasive personality and zest for life, she was a magnetic character who inspired in those who knew her and felt the intensity of her will.
Where We Are Today
Over the years, beginning with that first Village, CISV volunteers in our Chapters have organized over 6,000 international programs for some 230,000 participants.
Since 1950, the world has changed and CISV has evolved along with it. Today, CISV offers experiences to people of all ages, starting with children aged eleven to young adults. In the spirit of Doris Allen’s original vision, CISV aspires to be a unique and pioneering organization. CISV has grown from one program model to seven different international programs; from one Village to over 200 program-events a year, involving over 8000 participants.
CISV continues to grow, guided by its founding belief that a more just and peaceful world is possible through inter-cultural exchange, education and friendship.