Europeans mark end of 50-year Intermenno cultural exchangeBy Tim Huber Mennonite Weekly Review
For nearly 50 years, European Mennonites shared their lives and culture with young North Americans through the Intermenno program.
Intermenno ended in 2010 after a variety of factors made it no longer feasible to continue.
To celebrate the legacy of cultural exchange, 41 past Intermenno committee members gathered in October for a reunion at the Thomashof conference center near Karlsruhe, Germany.
“It was great to see all those people again. For me personally it was also a moment of closure,” said Kees Dalmeijer, who was a treasurer on the committee in the Netherlands from 1992 until 2010 and whose wife was a trainee in 1970.
“My wife and I have been with the program in different ways for a period of over 40 years, and Intermenno always was a big part of our family life.”
Intermenno was modeled on Mennonite Central Committee’s International Volunteer Exchange Program, or IVEP, which was started shortly after the end of World War II. European participants decided Europe could also benefit from an exchange program and formed the Intermenno Trainee Program in 1960.
Though the two were separate programs, IVEP and Intermenno were considered a reciprocal exchange program. MCC processed Intermenno applications through what was then the Visitor Exchange Services Department.
More than 1,000 young people from Canada and the U.S. served in Europe between 1961 and August 2010. Most came to Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and France. Positions were also located in Luxemburg and Belgium.
One-year placements ranged from farm work to caring for a family’s children to working in retirement homes or conference centers.
Charles Schrag of Seattle was a trainee in Germany in 2008-09, working six months as a farmhand near Kaiserslautern and six months for a plumber in Espelkamp, a small town made up of many Mennonites who came from the former Soviet Union.
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