Ginny Droppert talks about her recent trip to Thailand and experience with the Children's International Summer Villages.
‘Hey Gin, do you want to go to Norway?’ This is the question Ginny Droppert remembers her sister asking almost seven years ago.
Little did Ginny know it would spur her passion for global youth leadership and would kick off a series of international trips focused on peacebuilding.
The organisation Ginny’s sister hooked her into was the Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV). Her sister sold it as an opportunity to meet lots of lovely people from all around the world, with the chance to discuss all sorts of issues and topics – some of which she’d likely never thought about before.
Founded in 1950 on the belief that peace is possible by building friendship and mutual understanding among children across the globe, the organisation offers a range of programs that do just that.
Fourteen-year-old Ginny didn’t need much convincing to go on that first trip, and so found herself on a three-week camp in Norway surrounded by a bunch of strangers.
‘I went with a boy called Ben, who’s now my best friend, and another boy called Phil,’ says Ginny. ‘No one really knows what happened to Phil. We joke that we should contact him by carrier pigeon.’
Since Norway, Ginny has earned her stripes as the national junior representative for Australia, participating in conferences all over the world, from Brazil to Spain, and most recently Thailand, which she visited last month.
During the six-day conference in Thailand this year, Ginny took part in a number of panels, discussing issues surrounding diversity, activism, sustainability and access to education, as well as ways to improve the organisation itself.
The panels were mainly participant led, with anyone invited to apply to be on the panel. ‘This means we can use the knowledge people already have to benefit other people’s knowledge,’ explains Ginny.
On the whole, Ginny credits the organisation for teaching her valuable life skills.
‘Over the past six years I’d say the main thing I’ve learnt is not cultural sensitivity exactly, but an awareness of the extreme levels of diversity there are both within the world and within our smaller communities,’ she says. ‘That was a big thing for me. I’ve also learned general leadership and facilitation skills of course, because I’ve now done three programs where I spent three weeks running and planning activities.’
Ginny also relished the opportunity to forge friendships all over the world. Looking fondly at the pictures stuck up on her college wall, she points out the different people she’s met through CISV.
‘I remember travelling around Europe after a conference in Spain in 2016 and spent two and a half months literally just visiting friends,’ she says. ‘I think I paid for accommodation only three times.’
Making new friends and developing life skills was always a key motivator for Ginny’s participation in CISV, but she admits that over time, something started to shift. She became less focused on how the organisation could benefit her and instead began to enjoy seeing how she could benefit others.
‘Initially, it was a lot about personal gain in regard to personal development – travelling and being able to say, “look at me, I was the local junior representative of this organisation”. But now it’s really more about seeing other people thrive,’ she says. ‘It makes me really happy to see other people become more authentic versions of themselves.’
Given the positive experiences she’s had, Ginny recommends that other students get involved with the organisation, whether on a local or international level.
‘I think it’s a fantastic organisation that is centred around helping people develop an understanding of the world around them and to help them question that world in a supportive environment.’
By Annabelle Stevens