Cenet Co-Hosts First International J-Day

#CelebrateJDay #ExchangesImpact #EatPlayGive #ExchangeOurWorld

In 2014, cenet, Spirit Cultural Exchange, and Greenheart International piloted J-Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchange. Over the last several years, J-Day events have occurred in cities across the United States, bringing community members and exchange participants together to “eat, play, give.”

This year, cenet partnered with Smaller Earth to host the first international J-Day in Liverpool, England. The event welcomed alumni from the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 visa) and their families.

Cenet’s Senior Director, Leslie Corn, spoke on the background and significance of J-Day. Smaller Earth’s Co-Founder, Dave Robinson, provided a welcome address and shared about his first exchange program in the 1980s, a life-changing experience in New York City. After Dave, various alumni told stories about how their exchange experiences impacted their lives for the better.

The event included a prosecco reception, dinner, games, face-painting and coloring stations for children, live music, and a charity drive for the Liverpool South Food Bank resulting in £225 in funds raised. The leftover food from the dinner was donated to the local YMCA.

Below are a few stories shared by program alumni at J-Day Liverpool:

I 100% would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for going on an exchange to the U.S.

Before heading out, I had a little ‘Art Studio’ at home – well I say art studio but it was a cupboard with a light plummed into it (Harry Potter style!). I would spend all my free time here and wouldn’t really socialise. After my first summer abroad, my family and friends saw a huge difference in the person who returned home. This newfound confidence just grew and grew each year.

I was lucky enough to be be made the Speciality Director in my last year on the program, this meant I was helping in 9 activity areas and assisting many staff in these areas. This was a very challenging summer, there’s no doubt there. But, not only did I develop strong leadership skills, but I was able to help give other exchange participants incredible summers and was able to watch them all grow, much like I did in my first summer.

I also wouldn’t have gotten the job I have now if it wasn’t for my confidence and the belief I have in cultural exchange programs. It changed my life and I love knowing I’m able to help change lives of others through cultural exchange.

–Imogen C., Exchange Visitor Program 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017; Field of Study: Advertising and Brand Management; Current Position: Social Media Specialist 

I was at Camp Lincoln as a member of the sailing staff. The place was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One morning I was up at 5am and I saw Sam carrying the water coolers around, ensuring they were full of iced water for the day ahead. Here was a guy who owned the camp, owned another across the lake, and owned 2 high-end holiday resorts, employing hundreds of people and he was up at 5 making sure the kids had access to cool water for the day ahead. 

Down at the dock I met Lafe, he ran the sailing program. We had 30 boats, some were up to 28 foot long. He would raise them up on a lift and spend hours scrubbing the hulls to ensure they moved through the water with minimal drag. No kid would ever notice the incremental benefit of this, but he ensured that everything was the best possible. Of the 60 activities at camp, sailing was by far the most popular.

Camp taught me the value or hard work, the conditions for success were set up and I did better than I had before. 

I was brought up in the an environment where children were told what to do. Where shouting was okay, as a member of the boys brigade we believed that discipline was key, and a louder voice meant results. I took this to camp and one day a kid was playing around on the dock when they should not have been. I shouted at them, they ignored me. Lafe the guy running the sailing program walked up to them, sat down next to them and spoke to them.

They listened to him and did as he asked. Throughout the summer I learned how to create an environment where children (and adults) could flourish. This people based approach has stayed with me ever since. Discipline is not something done in the moment, it is a environment created to ensure people succeed.

At camp in 2006 outside the dining hall, I met Sophie. She smelt of horses. It was really bad. She looked great in her denim shorts and white t-shirt, I spent the summer learning about horses, and we have now been married for 10 years. Our camp values based relationship has set us up to succeed.

I met all kinds of people in the U.S., from the maintenance guy Ron, who lived in a trailer and survived the cold winters with all kinds of woes, to Sam who owned camp and more. These experiences and connections mean that when I hear of opposing political views coming from America about current politics I can connect to each perspective because I know people on each side of the argument.

I have been lucky enough to further develop these skills. Thousands of young people go to the U.S. and have a similar experience, and they, too, have positively impacted the communities they have visited in the U.S, and then their communities at home.

Summer camp is where young people get to take responsibility for things other than themselves, they get to take on challenges they would not face at home in a safe environment where everything else (food, accommodation, planning what to do and more) is taken care of. They get to succeed at a higher level than previously possible.

J-1 cultural exchange makes our society richer, it helps us understand American society properly, and by opening this opportunity to the world, it creates a huge ripple effect.

Here’s a toast to Camp Leaders, CENET, the J-1 Program, the U.S. Department of State, America and participants & hosts!

Mark H. Camp Counselor Program: 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009; Field of Study: Hazards and Geoscience; Current Position: Director of Growth and Development

I’ve met some of my best friends through the program. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others, and I have become a lot more confident. The program made me want to help others have the same experience as me.

Gabor S., Exchange Visitor Program 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; Field of Study: Paramedics; Current Position: Travel Coordinator 

My summer J-1 program impacted me in a way I could never have imagined. I had everything I could wish for at home, including my dream job in London. But due to a burning desire to go to the USA, I took the plunge and went during my second year of University. Fair to say I loved every single minute. I gained the nickname “smiler” that first summer as I just couldn’t stop beaming from ear to ear the entire 9 weeks. The friendships I made were unlike any other that I’ve had in my life. They were deep, honest and we just connected in a way that I hadn’t done with anyone else. I went for my second summer and it still was the best place I’d ever worked. Upon returning home, I got the blues but was then offered my dream job at MTV in London. I was thrilled – yet a part of me still yearned to be in the U.S. with friends from all over the world, doing what I loved. My boss could see it in my eyes and when I sat her down to tell her I didn’t know what to do – she told me I had to go back for another summer. Decision made – 3rd Summer here I come. I qualified as a lifeguard and I developed a love for the water. By my 4th Summer I earned a Waterfront Director position and my life was changed forever.

I was lucky enough to be offered a full time job with Camp Leaders in ’08 and moved up to Liverpool to begin this journey – which I’m still on 10 years later.

It’s hard to put in to words how cultural exchange can impact and change your life, but my god is it important that we all allow ourselves the opportunity to experience its wonder.

Kim H., Exchange Visitor Program: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012; Field of Study: Dance and Professional Practice; Current Position: Head of People and Culture

Special thanks to our partners and friends at Smaller Earth for collaborating on the first international J-Day! 

Cenet strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about cenet, please visit our Facebook Page.Cenet Logo_Black

Branson Mayor Honors J-Day Ambassadors for Service in Host Community

By Leslie Corn

J-Day Give | #EatPlayGive #CelebrateJDay #CITC

BRANSON, MO– On Monday, August 1, Mayor Karen Best addressed a crowd of 230 J-Day attendees to not only thank the J-1 community for spending their summer vacations in Branson, but also to award Certificates of Achievement to the specially selected J-Day Ambassadors.

Under the motto “Eat Play Give,” J-Day merges service with celebration. Before the J-Day party commenced at Moonshine Beach, 10 J-Day Ambassadors participated in CENET’s Culture in the Community (CITC) program. CITC is an initiative that brings authentic international education to area groups and schools, with a special emphasis on low-income and undeserved schools and communities.

Through CITC, the J-Day Ambassadors spent the morning sharing their cultures with children ages 4-12 at the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA.

The program began with a skit involving would-be tourists attempting to embark on a trip around the world, only to find they have arrived at the YMCA and not the airport. The Griswold-esque couple urges the children to learn as much about each country as possible, so they may report the information back to them.

The J-Day Ambassadors were set up in country stations and the children rotated “around the world” in small groups to learn about each country. The stops included China, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Turkey, Jamaica, India, Bangladesh, and a map station. The children sampled authentic foods from each country; they also enjoyed photos, postcards, traditional clothing, currency, music, dance, and other cultural selections made by the J-Day Ambassadors.

Senator Blunt sent two office representatives to the Culture in the Community segment: Joelle Cannon, District Office Director (Springfield, MO) and Richard Eddings, Scheduler (Washington, D.C.). Both were able to meet the J-Day Ambassadors  and  visit their country stations.

It was an honor to spend time with the J-1 Ambassadors and watch local youth learn first-hand about different cultures across the world. Culture in the Community is an exciting CENET initiative and we really enjoyed being part of the celebration of these great students!

-Joelle Cannon, Office of U.S. Senator Roy Blunt

In addition, Senator McCaskill’s District Office Director, David Stokeley, was able to join the J-Day celebration and congratulate the J-Day Ambassadors honored by Mayor Best. David Stokeley also met with J-1 host employers, various J-1 participants, and a 7-year old boy who attended the CITC morning session.

Senator McCaskill, Senator Blunt, Mayor Best, and Ozark Mountain Family YMCA took to social media to support J-Day and the applaud the J-Day Ambassadors:

Mayor Best presented Certificates of Achievement to the J-Day Ambassadors:

  • Yerlin De La Cruz
  • Yiwen Cao
  • Rushanda Pitt
  • Emelisa Norberto Cisnero
  • Akash Patel
  • Berna Gulen
  • Berda Akar
  • Chuting Pi
  • Valeriia Zahorska
  • Ayesha Kadri, CENET Staff Ambassador

The J-Day Ambassadors reported positive feedback about the CITC service event. A few of the J-Day Ambassador’s responses are included below.

Yerlin, J-Day Ambassador:

I enjoyed participating in Culture in the Community too much. It is important to share my culture because other people can know about it and be interested in visiting my country. I see value in teaching children about other countries. The children showed interest when we talked about our cultures and they listened and asked questions about it. Participating in Culture in the Community is a valuable opportunity for J-1 participants. I think the program is excellent and it was a pleasure. I’m so proud to be part of this amazing experience. I enjoyed sharing with the kids and teaching them about my culture. Thank you!

Emelisa, J-Day Ambassador:

I enjoyed participating in Culture in the Community a lot. Sharing cultures is extremely important because as you share something about your country, other people may be interested in learning more and visiting. It’s very valuable to teach children about other cultures. With this group, I was impressed to see the children paying attention and showing concern by asking us questions about the differences between our meals, moneys, birds, and more. It is a great opportunity for J-1 participants. I am very grateful and happy to have been selected to participate in this great activity where I could meet those wonderful children.

Chuting, J-Day Ambassador:

I think participating in Culture in the Community is my precious experience in America. I really enjoyed it. It is important to share cultures. I am proud of my country and I love my culture. I want others to have correct understanding about my country. Introducing Chinese culture may let them visit China one day, seeing what I see. There is value teaching children about cultures because children have a strong acceptance ability. Teaching them about other cultures can broaden their horizons. The children with whom I shared my culture with have strong curiosity and respect for other cultures. They listened to me carefully and asked me what they wanted to know. I think every J-1 participant desires to have such a wonderful chance to participate in Culture in the Community. CENET should choose even more countries and participants to represent their countries!

 Akash, J-Day Ambassador:

I enjoyed participating in Culture in the Community a lot. It is important to share my culture so the new generation will know how there are the different cultures in the world going on and they can meet new people of different cultures. That can also help them when they meet new people. I see value in teaching children about other cultures and my impression of the children was good. It’s absolutely valuable for CENET to extend this kind of opportunity for more J-1 participants. I would like to thank CENET wholeheartedly for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to be a participant as a J Day Ambassador! If CENET needs any kind of help from me to promote this program, I would appreciate doing so.

Ayesha Kadri, CENET Staff Ambassador:

As a staff member at CENET and as an international student from Bangladesh, I had a spectacular time participating in Culture in the Community and showing the YMCA students my culture.

I believe it’s very important to not only share my culture, but also to learn about other cultures as well. Often, individuals may not have the means necessary to be exposed to different cultural backgrounds and activities. For me, it’s important to participate in Culture in the Community, as young students may have never heard of Bangladesh, let alone be familiar with its culture. A small hint of knowledge or information can be the spark that ignites a whole new world for young individuals!

I see immense value in teaching children about other countries and cultures. Oftentimes, children may learn opposing views or wrong information about a different culture. This may lead to stereotypes and doubts when meeting an individual from that respective culture. By teaching children about other cultures, we are giving them a platform to be curious, to ask questions, and to learn while being exposed to a different culture in a fun and safe environment.

I’ve participated in countless Culture in the Community presentations, but this by far my favorite. The children all seemed very eager to learn about all the different counties. They were excited to try to new snacks and see the differences represented by each country. To see them be so accepting and happy about learning filled me with pride in what I do, as a CENET staff member and as an international individual.

I believe it’s very valuable for CENET to extend this opportunity to more J-1 participants. I remember hearing many J-1 participants state that they were eager to share their culture with others, especially with children who were so eager to learn! This activity promotes an engagement that goes well beyond learning through textbooks and the internet. It’s hands-on; the children can see, feel, taste, and hear – giving them a true experience for their senses and meeting varying learning styles.

Thank you to our wonderful J-Day Ambassadors for their commitment to increased global knowledge and greater cultural understanding. Special thanks to the following: the J-1 host employers for adjusting schedules for the J-Day Ambassadors; Ozark Mountain Family YMCA for hosting CITC; CENET’s Branson Coordinator, Abigail Palmer, for arranging transportation for the J-Day Ambassadors; CENET staff member, Ayesha Kadri, for sharing her culture as a Staff Ambassador; community advocates and CENET support staff, Rick & Debra Chastain, for serving as zany, lost tourists in the skit; Mayor Karen Best for presenting awards to the J-Day Ambassadors; and lastly, thank you to the offices of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt for supporting J-Day and J-1 exchanges. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page. To read more about J-Day, please click here.


CENET Hosts J-Day Celebration in Branson

By Leslie Corn

#CelebrateJDay #EatPlayGive #CENETJ1 | J-Day 2016

BRANSON, MO– On Monday, August 1, 2016, over 230 J-1 participants, community members, and elected officials and staff gathered at Moonshine Beach to celebrate J-Day and the power of international exchange programs.

Under the motto “Eat Play Give,” J-Day merges community service and celebration. J-Day Branson involved a morning session of Culture in the Community at the Ozark Mountain Family YMCA. J-1 participants volunteered their time to serve as J-Day Ambassadors, providing cultural presentations to children ages 5-12.

Later at the Moonshine Beach celebration, J-Day Ambassadors were presented with Certificates of Achievement by Mayor Karen Best.

Along with a keynote speech by Mayor Best, J-Day attendees enjoyed American style cuisine, beach games, volleyball, swimming, and dancing.

The event received bipartisan support, as the offices of Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Roy Blunt attended J-Day festivities. Both elected officials took to social media after the event to show their support of J-Day and the value of international exchange programs.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is governed by the U.S. State Department. The program gives future leaders from around the globe the opportunity to come to the United States to exchange ideas and cultures with the people of the U.S. through temporary training and educational opportunities. This summer, approximately 500 J-1 visitors are spending their university summer breaks in Branson, MO; approximately 200 J-1 participants attended J-Day Branson.

Other attendees included community members, area business owners and operators, and Cultural Exchange Network (CENET).

CENET is a non-profit organization located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with an additional office servicing the Springfield/Branson area. CENET is a U.S. State Department authorized J-1 visa sponsor. CENET also operates The Magellan Exchange, a consortium of universities worldwide providing student and faculty exchanges. In addition, CENET facilitates Culture in the Community, an initiative aimed at providing authentic international education for local youth.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.

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For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.