The International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) is a particularly important part of MCC's commitment to peace building. Each of the individuals chosen to participate in this program - and each of their hosts and sponsors - take on the role of peacemaker, and carries it with them throughout the year of service. Participants are placed in Canada and the United States, each country receiving on average 25 young adults a year.
Over 3500 men and women have participated in IVEP since its inception in 1950. The program was developed after 21 young men from Mennonite communities in Europe spent one year on farms in the US. By 1960 the program expanded to include Canadian farms. Since then the program has grown to include young adults between 18-30 years of age with various occupational skills, from Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Placements include: agriculture, education, non-profit, and for profit businesses.
* Promote international peace and reconciliation
IVEP has transformed many communities as people in North America get connected to other places around the globe.
Sponsor agencies and hosts welcome IVEP participants (IVEPers) into their midst and learn alongside them as they exchange culture, language and faith over the eleven month period.
The program began in Saskatchewan in 1982. Since then the province has hosted close to 150 IVEPers from all corners of the globe. In the early years IVEPers would live in two different provinces for five and a half month periods. Gradually the program evolved to a single stay for eleven months, giving IVEPers more time to learn about their host community and family. IVEPers the take their learnings home and work to build the type of community they want to see in their own country.
Sometimes IVEPers are placed with MCC. One such IVEPer was Chhay Darapheakday (Pheakday for short) worked at the MCC Saskatchewan office as a Reception Assistant (2008-09). Prior to IVEP Pheakday worked with Vision Fund, a World Vision affiliate in her home country of Cambodia. Her goals were to see another country, share God's love and learn a new culture. She noticed many funny contradictions in Canada. Swimming, eating ice cream and bike riding in the winter were all activities she thought were only meant for warm weather! Her experiences challenged her understanding of what it means to put faith into action.
"I learned a lot about giving, volunteering, sharing and loving other people . . . I feel that in your country there is so much caring, loving and sharing but in my country that doesn't exist in the same way your citizens demonstrate it." The MCCS staff members still speak fondly of her. And Pheakday thinks of the MCCS staff like a "second family. They helped me not feel home sick. I got close to all the staff there through daily life events like working in the warehouse, quilt room, and other places. I always miss my time in Canada, especially the change in seasons, even though it was so cold!" Her love for God and other people grew and propelled her to continue working in the NGO sector. "God taught me many lessons during my year and I gained so many things when I returned. I am ready and willing to give my life and finances to help those in need. I would like to extend my support, love and arms around them, to pray and introduce them to God's love."
Ying Ying Wang from China lived and worked in Saskatoon (2010-2011). She came with the expectation of meeting new people and did just that. Here she connected with the young adult group at Hope Fellowship church with a weekly pot luck community of young adults. By the time she left Ying had made many new friends and had visited many new places. Her "firsts" included: first time living away from home, first time skiing, skating and public speaking. She and fellow IVEPer Santiago Gomez spoke in front of 600 people at a Remembrance Day service in Warman, SK.
It was the first time Warman had international speakers on peace at the event. Her biggest challenge was working at a second hand store. In China this is not part of the consumer culture and at first everything seemed so dirty. She recounts that after the first three weeks she began to really enjoy her work there and found herself spending some of her own stipend in the store to buy clothes. "I loved shopping there. This cross cultural service totally changed my life style. I can't understand why I spent lots of money on clothes before. It doesn't make sense. Each cent I spend there not only buys the things I need but also helps those who need help. There is no kind of store likes this in China. There should be a revolution and a new trend like this in China. Let's pray for that." The one lesson she took away from her IVEP experience is that "in God all things are possible".
IVEPers like Ying Ying and Pheakday help to remind host communities of the beautiful things around them so often taken for granted. MCC desires to see the program continue to grow as its impact in the world for peace and reconciliation cannot be measured by human standards but by God's alone.
We continue to pray for IVEPers, their families at home and in their new country as well as the sponsor agencies they're a part of, may they know God's peace and love.
We will be hosting an event on January 18th 2014 to Celebrate Exchange and IVEP's 31 years in Saskatchewan
Learn more about the program here: IVEP
Contact the Provincial Coordinator for more event details and information on the program:
MCCS Community Engagement Coordinator
Phone: 306-665-255 ext 237
Back to MCCS's 50th Anniversary - index Or; Jan: IVEP | Feb: Thrift Shop Movement | Mar: Canadian Foodgrains Bank| Apr: Ten Thousand Villages | May: Restorative Justice | June: Relief Sale | July: Refugee Assistance | Aug: Aboriginal Neighbours (Historical overview) | Sept: Governance | Oct: Music Gala