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.
The staff of INTERNATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE
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 iys.fi 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.