International Exchanges

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The International Visitor Exchange Program (IVEP) began when Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) workers in Europe, who since 1946 had helped selected students from Europe for the Council of Mennonite and Affiliated Colleges, proposed a nonacademic exchange program for worthy young people to live and work for one year in North America. The goal of the program was to further international understanding, broaden horizons, and advance Christian unity. In 2007 the program changed its name to International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP).

After approval from the United States Department of State (1948), farmers from Europe arrived in New York in 1950. The program expanded to include non-agricultural fields in 1952; the first non-European came from Japan in 1955. From 1950 to 2007, over 3,300 young people aged 19-30 participated from 53 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. The program continued to accept 50-70 participants each year.

The 12-month program originally consisted of two 6-month placements, though in later years the placements were usually for the full 12 months. Sponsors in the North American Mennonite constituency provide work experience, a home away from home, and pocket money to the exchangees and send a monthly donation to MCC in exchange for the vocational participation of the overseas visitors. While vocational training remains a part of the program, IVEP has broadened its focus to include peace building as a central component of the program. IVEPers are encouraged to become peacemakers while in North America and also after they return to their home countries. Participants are selected by national Mennonite and Brethren in Christ leaders, missionaries, or MCC personnel in the sending country. All participants must return home at the end of the one year. Placements are made both in the United States and Canada (since 1960). Administrators for the program have included Doreen Harms, Elma Esau, Katherine Penner Hostetler, Pauline Jahnke Bauman, and Emma Schlichting. In 2007 Isabella Sellar Voll (Canada) and Karina Derksen-Schrock (United States) were the IVEP administrators.

The Polish Agricultural Visitor Exchange (PAVE) was born in April 1971 to facilitate contact with people in Eastern European countries. Up to 35 people participated annually. Placement and funding were similar to those of the IVEP. Martial law in Poland brought on termination of the program in March 1983. During its 12-year existence, 246 Polish agriculturists participated. The program was conducted in cooperation with Stowarzyszeniem Inzynierow i Technikow Rolnictwa, a Polish umbrella agricultural agency.

The Intermenno Trainee Program (ITP) is a one-year cultural exchange in Europe for North American young people 19-27 years of age. It was initiated in 1963 by the Diakoniewerk der Mennoniten the forerunner of the International Mennonite Organization. After Dutch Mennonites joined the program in 1965, placements were made in The Netherlands, West Germany, Switzerland, France, and Belgium. Similar in purposes and operations to IVEP, the ITP is administered by the European Mennonite Committees in The Netherlands and West Germany with ties to Mennonite conferences and relief and service agencies in each of these countries. From 1963 to 1986, 847 North American young people were sponsored by ITP.

The China Educational Exchange (CEE) was created in December 1981 as an offspring of an exchange between Goshen College and the Sichuan Bureau of Higher Education. It is made up of representatives from Mennonite mission boards, MCC, the Mennonite Medical Association, Mennonite Mental Health Associates, and interested Mennonite colleges. North American teachers of English are sent to China for two-year terms. Chinese teachers of language, history, and culture are placed in North American colleges; visits of medical doctors, nurses, and agricultural people are also administered. Exchanges of engineers and mental health personnel were under negotiation in 1986. A total of 38 professional people came from China and 85 North Americans went to China through CEE, 1981-86.

Author(s) Doreen F Harms
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Harms, Doreen F. "International Exchanges." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 20 Oct 2019.

APA style

Harms, Doreen F. (1989). International Exchanges. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 October 2019, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 451. All rights reserved.

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