In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded People to People on the belief that bringing citizens from different countries together would enhance understanding and peace. Forty-four years later, Alan Raisman got a chance to see if Eisenhower was right.
Raisman of Breinigsville first traveled to England, Scotland and Wales with the People to People in 2000 when he was 12. From then on, he was hooked.
“It was my first time … traveling outside the country without family,” he said. “You don’t really get that many experiences where you can travel independently and learn about other cultures at such a young age.”
He traveled with the organization every year after that until he was a senior in high school in Bucks County. Then he worked part-time for the group while enrolled at Lafayette College in Easton.
Raisman, 24, who is the Lehigh Valley Zoo’s development and marketing coordinator, journeyed to Philadelphia Wednesday to meet with two People to People representatives on a Volkswagon bus tour around the country connecting with the group’s alumni. About 500,000 people have been on People to People trips; bus tour organizers seek to show how international travel has influenced their lives.
Raisman credits his People to People experiences with convincing him to major in international affairs and government and law at Lafayette. “It was learning history and learning international relations first hand,” he said of his travels.
“The greastest moments that I’ve taken from People to People are the home stays,” he said. “When you go with a family, you do what the family does. I went to school, I went to summer camp. I went to a kickball game in Japan, I went to a birthday party.”
His favorite countries to visit? South Africa, Japan and Egypt.
It was in Egypt that he took part in an international peace camp with 30 Americans and 30 kids from other countries. Those gatherings help young people lose their pre-conceived ideas about their counterparts abroad, he said.
“If you can get together with someone from another country, you’re going to see them as yourself,” Raisman said.
During college, he worked as a program assistant and site coordinator on People to People leadership programs that brought international and U.S. students together in Washington, D.C. and on campuses at UCLA, George Mason University and Harvard University.
Since 2007, Raisman has been on the board of trustees for People to People International, which is based in Missouri.
A native of Bucks County, Raisman said he fell in love with the Lehigh Valley while attending Lafayette. He took the job at the zoo in May 2011.