Wednesday, June 25, 2008

IYS - The International Youth Service is closing

Here is the statement you'll find on IYS' homepage:

IYS will be closing down this summer, by 30th June 2008

The International Youth Service (IYS) has been operating since 1952, over 56 years now. We have arranged foreign pen friends for school children and students aged 10 - 20 years in over 100 different countries.

The internet has lead to a situation where sending ordinary letters is old-fashioned. Letter writing, once very popular, is now a hobby of a few.

We have come to the end of a certain period. As we can not find enough young people interested in penfriendship any more, we have decided to close down this firm by 30th June 2008.

We thank all our customers, both children and teachers, in past years and wish you happy times. Don’t stop learning different languages and cultures and keep up those penfriendships you have managed to build up.


This is very unfortunate. I have made quite a few friends around the world, in Europe, Asia and Africa, thanks to IYS. I can't even remember who introduced me to their service but I do remember having my friends, siblings and classmates signing up to find penfriends abroad.

It was a great experience for me. Even though I don't write to any of my penfriends anymore, I have very good memories of them. Some of them I've written for five to six years from the time I was in secondary school to my university years. Most of my penfriends were girls but I also had a few boy-penfriends. Bahadir was one of them. We lost touch because of address problems, my letters did not get to him they were returned but I found him on Facebook and we are in contact again.

It is unfortunate that the rise of the Internet has forced the IYS to close. As I was going through my letters, showing them to my younger brother, along with a few of the presents and postcards my penfriends sent me, he asked me how he could have penfriends too. I was no longer in contact with IYS but I remembered they had a site and I was hoping to find out, from the site, how I could register my brother with them. Alas!

I understand that it probably costs less to have friends over the internet than to have postal-mail friends but those are two very different experiences. I have a few people online I met online who wanted to be my (snailmail)penfriends and I'm not even counting those who wanted me to send them postcards.

When the Internet became mainstream, IYS decided it did not want to encourage students to make friends through this new media. It kept offering solely services via postal mail. I believe that it's where they went wrong. Yes, they don't want to encourage emailfriends but they could have used their website to offer the same services to students and teachers. Using the internet would have helped them keep the kids interested while cutting costs for the students. At least the fees would be lower and no postage would be necessary to get addresses. They would simply send you the other persons' information online. The problem with the Internet is identity verification and an overabundance of predators. So they would probably have issues with adults posing as children and requesting penfriends...

The closing of IYS is very unfortunate, did I say that already? I always wondered what the IYS headquarters looked like? How they organized their work, what their equipment looked like? Who the employees were? I guess I'll never know any of all this. Their site looked nearly empty with simply the announcement on the main page.

I still wanted to see more of IYS. So I went on Google and search the site and found out most of their pages (like the fees page) are still online. I was unpleasantly surprised to see that Haiti was not included in the counties listed... I went to the United-States page and found out the service was not expensive at all, US $2.00 per address. Knowing that they guaranteed a response, it was really a great value. I kept searching and finally found Haiti on one of their older method of payment pages. Yay!

Now the only alternative for my brother to find a penfriend is to join a penpal site, penpalnet for example is free but they don't give any guarantees and you have to search for your penpal by yourself. Additionally the people you find online usually prefer email correspondence.


Anonymous said...

My daughter has seen pictures of my penpals and has been awaiting turning 10 so she could apply for a penpal, alas she will miss this opportunity to hone her letter writing skills and learn of different cultures with the closure of IYS.

Anonymous said...

I joined the IYS when I was 13 and overall had over 20 pen-friends that I wrote to throughout the next 10 years. And one in particular, we had the opportunity to visit each other. While the internet has proved very useful in many ways, this is one situation that the end of an era may not be for the best. I was hoping that my son would have been able to have this opportunity. Writing letters to children of other cultures provides more skills than just being able to make a new friend. How sad this is.

Anonymous said...

I got my first penpals at the age of 13. Before I left school I had more than 20.
Until today I still have contact with 2 of them but one became my best friend. we visit each other every year and meanwhile our daughters (both 7 years old) are penpals, too.

rj said...

A friend started the IYS fever in me when I was 14. Now at 41, I am still thinking how that ritual helped me form my character especially on courtesy, politeness, patience, ingenuity, and tolerance. Mind you, my first letter was probably my first true paragraph written using my first ever way of constructing my English sentence (well by a boy coming from a kerosene-lit rural area). I can still feel the excitement (seeing a mailman knocking at our bamboo fence) upon receiving a letter with a different smell. Recalling as well the family problems I shared with my penfriends or the stamps (bearing strange flowers, birds, personages, etc.), the coins, photos, and souvenirs I had exchanged with them, I could truly attest how the values of kindness, patience, understanding, and generosity are equally shared in other parts of the globe (even all I got for my friends then was my trust and sincerity). All, I can say is, "Thank You Very Much IYS."

I got a kid who is now 11 and how I wish he could learn the rigor of what is to be a friend not just through texts messages or emails but through the suggestions specified in the IYS booklet. (Hope many could remember this mini bible of how to construct a polite letter). For me, to be an IYS correspondent includes patience and sincerity in writing out your thoughts, resourcefulness and creativity, understanding and tolerance to different manners of expressing ideas across cultures, sense of optimism and appreciation to everything around you that you are much eager to share them to your friends, and a universal air of gratefulness to the efforts of each who took time to write and surprise you back.

When I was in college, things turned out bad for the Philippine economy. Honestly, there were times when all I got was my meal allowance; but without misgivings, I used it to send my letter on time. I could not recall when literally I had nothing in my pocket that I soon I found out that could not afford anymore to pay the mailing service.

After college, it was difficult to find a job (mostly contractual). My father got sick, our house needed repair, and so our fence…our water pump broke, my sister wished to have a room of her own, and I got to buy a new pair of shoes after three years... I was really financially in trouble to maintain an expensive foreign postal service.

I got married at 28, lots of expenses followed when kids arrived...

Now, after so many years, I still honor my friends (though in my silence). I still have their addresses and photos. I am confident that all my friends (with their hearts full of kindness and understanding) are now happily married. I was and am very very sorry for not having able to maintain my letter writing with them. All I have now are my kids, whom I wish they would learn to appreciate and value friends not only for a brief period of time, but probably for the rest of their memories.

To those who succeeded in maintaining contacts with their penfriends... my congratulations – you will surely inspire my kids, nephews, and nieces as they meet friends in their growing up years.

How I wish a new website will be around that can accommodate different stories, inspirations, lessons, queries, suggestions, old addresses, new addresses, trivia, and comments related to IYS and friendship across cultures. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

the previous comments sum up my wonderful experience with IYS! what a shame! i was just about to recommend it to a teenager who would still like to make friends around the world. These friendships through IYS shaped my personality and life, and i feel sad for those who will never experience the art and entertainment and enlightenment from letter writing and getting to know people this way.

ahmed said...

I really got very sad when i heard that iys closed down on june 2008.
I got a lot of firend all over the world through iys,that was 25 years ago.
Thanks iys
thank you from all of my heart,you have marked a long time of my life.i will remember you forever.
Ahmed mahdy younes

Anonymous said...

Well.... you told all people... IYS was a part of my youth, and that´s all.

MICHAEL B said...

I was introduced to the IYS by a friend, Afam N. as far back as 1982 in high school. I made wonderful friends from all over the world- Denmark,Norway, Finland, England,US, just to name a few. It was the most wonderful time of my life, growing up in Africa and having friends all around the world. (I was always looking forward to seeing the postman at the door since letterswere still been distributed at one's door in Nigeria then) My daughter is 9years old and I have been looking forward to her joining. Am so sad. To all the friends I made and lost, let us all lift a thumb up for IYS. congrats to the management and staff of IYS.
Michael K.B.
Accra, Ghana

Anonymous said...

sorry to hear you have closed iys,i had my first penpal threw this service when i was 13, we are still in contact with each other after30+ years ,its a shame you had to close, would of love the same for my son to experience the international penpals service. a very sad thing to learn.Thank you very much iys

akrim said...

I met a friend (girl-penfriend) fr spijkenesse, holland via IYS.We exchange letters, pictures n postcards.It was in back in 1988. Unfortunately, we've lost contact. And I'm looking for her but still can't find because I've lost all the letters except postcards and pictures of white christmas,tulips and windmills. Dear friend, if u read this please email me at (my name: akrim from penang, malaysia)

Bhonvaz said...

I was once thinking about IYS, how they can be alive nowaday when the world is smaller from the communication that is much more easier. Today, maybe a bit late, I've just learned that IYS closed down themselves. I agree with someone here, IYS is a big part of my youth too. I'd got more than 40 penpals from all around the world since 20 years ago. It was a good memories thinking about how many effort I try to make to start learning English in the country that is not English speaking like Thailand but it's a great motivation to make it through penpals. Even if I lost contact with almost all of my penpals and found some of them again on facebook.

Please accept my thanks and my appreciation. Without you I couldn't be as I am now. Thank you all IYS staff and all of my penpals...Thank you.

พลวัต สมบัติพานิช
Pollawat Sombutpanich


sweet said...

my name is nab, i heard about iys when i was 14 years.. but its very sad.. they have closed ,, i even forget the their website,, so i try to find it out on here they are.. but still no good news from them .. i had a lots of friends from abroad .. good friends...i was able to get friends to all my mates...and i will appealing to the service if they can introduce it again through internet.. we can still pay by credit well as international reply coupons.. you the best ..since 1957..please try that on online i mean internet,.. thank you

chandpriyankara said...

hi IYS (i mean all the pen pal lovers!!!)
i'm from sri Lanka and was in help from IYS around year 1999.
i got my penpal from in my school days, and i really pleased for IYS for helping me,and with in contact with my friend.

even IYS is gone.. it will never go out from our hearts till we are gone....

thanks IYS....

iandy said...

i love IYS when i was still in my high school days in the 80's....met so many interesting and nice people all over the world...i became a tourism and hospitality person as my profession because of this....
sad to say, i lost contact with my international friends due to some circumstances and focus...but i want to get in touch with any of them but my problem is im living in another country there a way the IYS can retrieve their exact addresses? i still remember their names, city and country but not the exact house address...thank you! :)

mj said...

I find that one of the easiest way to get back in touch with your penpals is by using Facebook. If you already have an account there, try to search for your penpals by using their name, if they are on there chances are you will find them. I have found three of my penpals that way. Good luck.

Thank you all for sharing your experiences with IYS and your penfriends.

Katerina Fa said...

I joined IYS when i was 13!I remember my happiness everytime i got a letter from Nicola from U.K or Mikko from Finland and soooo many other penpals!!!!!Recently i talked to one of my friend due to his trip in Greece,my country!I almost cried of happiness!!I wish i could find Nicola too!!!I would like to thank you sooo much for giving me the opportunity to meet all mt pen-friends and i would like to give you my apology for not standing up for you the last years!!but the truth is that if i knew the loss i would never had stopped mailing. I wish my kids had the same opportunity to meet people from all over the world through your safe services!!!!
Thank you for all my happy youth years and for my pen pals
Katerina Fa

Anonymous said...

I have always loved IYS and I will miss it a lot. I am a non-English speaker. If I can converse in English with the utmost comfort today, it is because of IYS. I started writing letters to my friends in Germany, South Africa and Italy. I express myself a million times better than talking. I feel a great deal of command over my language just because I started writing in English from the age of 10. I made a lot of grammatical mistakes. I have some of my old letters which I did not post it to the friend. My English was beyond correcting. But I improved. I kept at it. Today, I am so proud that I pick up new words as if I made them, I speak English so fluently that people never believe that I am a non-English speaker. I will always miss IYS. it has changed my life for good. Of course, the joy of snail mail is dying but I still manage to send out cards to my close friends and write a personal msg in them.

Maki_T said...

My name is Maki and I am from Brazil. I felt very sad that IYS closed. I am 39 yrs now and I remembered that when I was 13, I found the IYS service in my English school and decided to subscribe in to have penfriens all over the world plus for practice English. My first pen-pal was Jouni Tuominiemi from Finland and since then many others friends I kept in touch. I cant remember how long I have been in touch with them, but we lost contact. As I have good memory, even with internet... I tried to find them even by ICQ or any other similar online connection site. And I am glad to inform that after 25 years, I found my first pen-pal again in the Facebook. And guess what? He still has all my handwriting letters!! And now we are in contact again, but surely no more as teenagers but adults ones. I am really happy to meet him again, and I would like to thank IYS which was really important to my English improvemente. Thanks for all staffs which worked so hard in getting friends all over the world. Surely, it is very important to have friends always.
Thank you very much!

mariel said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I just found a IYS application form today and was thinking wow! that is old and remembering all the fond memories of receiving details of a friend to write to. I am an Australian, 34 years old now and still have 3 penfriends from IYS that I still keep in contact with. I have seen 2 of them over the years, and one of them has come to Australia to visit me. We have been penpals since I was 13. A LONG TIME! The form says that a new penpal is only $1.20 (ok know value of money has increased since then, but still so cheap!) Thanks so much to all the team.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Anja from Germany. In my teenage years I had many penpals around the world. IYS was a great possibility to know more about people and their countries. I´m sorry that my son will not have the chance to find friends by a simple letter, written by his own hand, with faults and nice paper a.s.o.
Thanks IYS!

Abdelkrim Amhil said...

jai 49 ans maintenant,et je n arrive jamais a oublier the IYS.Grace a ce service j avais eu beaucoups beacoups des ami(e)s presque dans le monde entier.A l epoque il n y avais pas d internet, pas de msn ...etc etc.Notre corespondance etait seulement par poste.Et c etait ca pour moi le charme de cette epoque! Vous attendiez toujours avec une grande impatience une lettre d un de vos ami(e)s.Tous ce que je peux dire maintenant apres cette triste nouvelle de fermeture de votre NOBLE service que je t ai aime quand j etais jeune et je t aimerai pour toujours.
Abdelkrim Amhil,je suis un marocain habitant les Pays Bas.

iandy said...

anybody here knew severine guillamon(d) from clermont ferrand, france? i wanted to get in touch w/ her again. i cant find her name in facebook. thanks

Anonymous said...

I joined IYS when I was 16. I started writing to a friend in Greece who was 17 at the time. I am now 39 and he is 40 and we are still writing to each other, calling and text messaging each other. I am married with 2 daughter and so is he. My older daughter now writes to his twin daughters. It has been more than 20 years. I think that's amazing. We just need to meet each other and our families in person. It's a shame IYS is is very sad.

osamaabdo said...

Nice memories
old time always good time
i am from egypt and i used this service for 1st time i was 12 years old,i had 2 pen friends one female from Australia and the other one she was from Germany.
i liked that it was good thing for me .
i feel sad because this company had been closed now.
i can understand why.
the internet is the reason
but i have to say :
thank you for all who worked in this company IYS they did good job to the world .

Anonymous said...

hi everybody loving IYS and (safe) penpalling... I joined IYS myself when i was 13 and i'm a teacher now...regularly talking about penpalling to my students and about IYS..!
please, let's try to organize something !! WHY NOT?
i'm looking for serious correspondance (snail mail or email) for my students aged 15 onwards. We live very near Venice and our school is touristically oriented. Here it's the website of the school
PLEASE, if you have kids (children or students) wanting to correspond send me all details via email
ONLY below 19 yrs old and English-speaking


Anonymous said...

looking for saskia dunk from holland..we were 16 when we were pen pals but lost touch..would love to catch up..please email with information..
my name is Terrie

ian dychiu said...

im ian dychiu originally from the Philippines. i would like to know if somebody here knows severine guillamond of blaize pascal, clermont ferrand in france... she likes to go fishing with her dad and brother most of the time...i would like to get in touch with her again. i tried to look for her in facebook but her name does not appear. i would greatly appreciate it if somebody here can help me. thanks and keep safe u all. :)

...... said...

Reaching now the age of 36, like most of you I grew up with IYS, meeting new people from all over the world, looking forward to the next letter....With IYS I learnt about other cultures, expanded my friend circle, practised my english! As a teacher, I have several times encouraged my students to correspond with children of their age from other countries. Today, attempting to do the same, I came across wit blog and, as my teenage years passed before my eyes, I felt very sad when I read the news....I could go on and on about the Service in Turku, Finland, whose address I accidentally came across in a teenage magazine many years ago, but I will stop here by saying only I will miss it......

Mezo_iC said...

Really i find my self Crying when i read IYS closing words...
i hope they can keep only the web site to learn all the world that they was doing a very very important thing since 1956 which is learning peoples
i'm very SAAAD and i hope only see them web site even type we made a number of million penfriends world wide since 1956-2008
Please only this few words ...

mehmet canli said...

Hi.. i want to find my penfriend Tisha Bergantz from USA but i can't. i can write just german.(deutsch) ich kann nicht finden in facebook auch

Anonymous said...

Sad news indeed. IYS has had a major influence on the course my life has taken. It brought me a world I would otherwise have gone out to search for. I am from RSA and not in touch with any of my pen-pals anymore, unfortunately. Scott Davis, USA - Enzo Battaglia, Italy - Non Jones, Wales - George Ng, Singapore; if you are reading this, please email me at - I'd like to know where you are at. Thank you IYS - for 1 awesome experience. You live on in my mind.

Lucy said...

I was looking for IYS for a few months, as my elder son is now 8 and I wanted him to have the joy that I had of filling in the form and sending it off to Turku (I remember even now getting down the atlas to find out where Turku was!) Petra Martinsson in Sweden didn't reply; Manuela Auer from Spain did, but we lost touch shortly afterwards, but until recently I was still in touch with Thomas Jacob from Saarlouis, Germany! My sister is still in touch with Susan Manning, from South Australia, who had lessons by radio as she lived on a farm a thousand miles away from the nearest village.

There was nothing like filling in that form! From the amount of people on Netmums wanting penfriends for their children, and the revival of interest in children getting and sending letters, I think IYS are missing a trick by not starting back up - I don't think an email communication beats getting a letter, with a stamp, having travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles. It also gives you time to think about what to write. I also don't trust online services, in terms of children communicating personal details. This seems much more trustworthy, and worthwhile for children. IYS, you need a revival - by looking online today you have so many people remembering their life-changing experiences with you, not one negative comment, which is very rare these days, and people desperate to replicate this experience for their children.