Ellen Visits IFHE In Lucerne, Switzerland

Reflecting The Past-Creating the Future
International Federation for Home Economics
XXI World Congress
Lucerne, Switzerland
July 2008

By Ellen Swallow Richards, Instructor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

It is with great thankfulness that I am writing my musings from the IFHE XXI World Congress last month in Lucerne, Switzerland. One does not take off across the Atlantic Ocean these days without some trepidations and I had as many as most. It had been quite some time since I had been in Europe touring with Robert and I did not know what to expect. In 1875, we had visited 24 cities in 25 days including Jana, Germany to pick up glassware for our Women’s Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then we had also visited Interlaken, the Jungfrau in the notch of the mountains and also Brunig Pass in Switzerland.

I had not visited Lucerne previously and was pleasantly surprised. The flowers all over town were beautiful in many ways. People were so friendly. It was pleasant to walk the streets and by chance meet someone from the United States that I knew. All of these people were there to attend the World Congress, and since it was my first IFHE meeting, I could use all the guidance possible. I was very proud to see some of my contemporaries with Keynote speaking roles. The exchange of ideas and research is such an important part of this international organization. The Opening Session was most impressive with over 1,000 participants from 57 countries in attendance in the Konzertsaal. (concert hall) We were treated to a great performance of local folk dancers and singers sharing their customs.

It was energizing to hear so much talk of sharing research and assisting the emerging countries with just the basics. The knowledge of home economics is so needed in these countries to help their people gain economic independence and self sufficiency. We were reminded often during the Congress of our global interdependence and how much sustainability is important. We heard about several unique approaches to expanding agricultural yields so that countries are self sufficient and not dependent on imports.

It was also rewarding to see so many young people in attendance. Students and new professionals from so many countries shared challenges and rewards with each other. As these young people are our world future, one can only hope that they go home and impact many more citizens in their countries with their newfound knowledge.

There were so many opportunities to meet new people. I was fortunate to meet the IFHE President, Lilha Lee from Korea. I also met one of the keynote speakers, Kaija Turkki from University of Helsinki. She promised to come to America to celebrate the USA Centennial in 2009. One of the most powerful friendships I cultivated was a professional named Maureen from Ireland. In the brief time we sat together in a session, she shared that she was enjoying the meeting on the one hand, but mourning the recent loss of her husband on the other. This trip to Switzerland and IFHE reminded her of all the global friends she had and the strength she was drawing from them. We chatted and assured each other that we would meet again sometime in the future. I can’t remember when I have felt such a bond with someone over such a short duration of meeting them. I met another professional, a high school teacher of Culinary Arts from New Zealand. We enjoyed exchanging pleasantries and she invited me to their home when we visit New Zealand in a few years. I truly believe she was sincere, and we will follow up and stay in touch as our plans develop to make this trip. Knowing you have met friends from all over the world makes it exciting to plan international visits just to meet up with them once again. In four years, the XXII Congress is in Australia and it seems I must work to make it happen to visit there, too. All in all, I must say that this first visit to an IFHE meeting exceeded all expectations. I am so proud to be a part of such a viable profession. I know it will last well into the next century for the second 100 years.

Written by: Joyce Beery Miles CFCS Retired
Ellen Swallow Richards Researcher, Biographer and Reenactor

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