Penpalling & Letters

Saturday, 6 February 2010

IYS - International Youth Service: A tribute

IYS - International Youth Service
PB 125
FIN-20101 Turku

IYS (International Youth Service), founded in 1952 and based in Turku (Finland), was an internacional penfriend organization which arranged foreign penfriends for children and teenagers between 10 and 20 years of age. In exchange of a fee per address, IYS provided addresses of one or more penfriends (matched in age, country, interests, language abilities... through a computer system). Sadly, IYS closed down in 2008 as this Finnish firm couldn't compete with the communication through the Internet. This is the last statement on IYS' website (no longer available):
“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.
Even if the Internet is useful in many ways, the disappearance of IYS might not be the best for the penpalling world. I am sure that many people involved in this wonderful world of letters were very sorry about the disappearance of IYS, myself included. Without IYS I would have never met my first penfriends and shared so many wonderful stories, experiences and amazing dreams! Thank you IYS!
[Information about IYS in this entry has been taken from IYS - International Youth Service (1952-2008)]
NOTE I (14th January, 2011): A group called "People who used IYS (International Youth Service) to find penpals" is online in Facebook. You have to be logged on this network to be able to see it. If you are looking for penpals you met through IYS years ago, perhaps there is a possibility you can find them through this group. Good luck!
NOTE II (30th April, 2012): Are you looking for a lost penpal? Maybe one you had met through IYS? Follow the instructions stated in the following link and send your ad to: "Penpalling & Letters - Lost Penpal Ads".
If you are looking for penpals, swappers, postcard-pals, penpals for your class... just visit "Penpalling & Letters Ads", find the right "How to - Section" and send us your ad. It will be online as soon as possible! Please, check Penpalling & Letters Ads to see how to elaborate each specific ad. Thank you!
NOTE III (10th January, 2014): "Penpalling & Letters" is a Facebook group in which penpalling-related discussions take place. You have to be logged on this network to be able to see it. If you are also looking for penpals you might make new friends through this group. Please, be patient since we need several days to approve your membership. Thanks!


  1. it was a great time! I had many pen friends and some continued writing for a long time! I still have one good old friend and we exchange letters, photoes and emails every now and then. it would be so fun to find how the others are doing after...20 years or so...

  2. Hi Ricardo! Thanks for your comment! I totally agree with you regarding IYS. I also met some lovely people thanks to IYS and I still keep in touch with a penpal I met through this organization.
    At the moment there is a group in Facebook called: "People Who Used IYS (International Youth Service) to Find Penpals". I will try to post the link to see if it works:
    So, if you check in this group perhaps you are lucky and are able to find some old penpals from IYS times. Good luck and let me know the news! Cheers!

  3. I found my first pen pals through IYS as well. And one of them Johanna,lives in Turku Finland and we are still penfriends and we have met three times so far. I am sorry the organization is closed.Ariadne from Greece!

  4. hi, i'm a teacher from Malaysia, this morning i was telling my students about my penpal that i got to knew from the IYS, after the school end, i google the internet to find information about IYS n the link brought me here and i never thought that the IYS have closed down..i'm so sad to hear the news because i'm just thinking to let my students to experience the beauty of penpals from all around the world..guess my students have to find another way to experience it. n to my penpal anja from germany, thanx for everything..(we're still in contact but thru facebook :) )

  5. Dear IYS friends.
    Just wanted to tell you a little about how one of my penpalfriendships has turned out. We started in 1982 and met the first time in 1985.Her family came from England to mine in Sweden.That visit made my sister and mother penpals with her sister and mother. In 1987 it was our turn to visit them and when we´d been penpals for ten years I was asked to be one of her bridesmades when she married in 1992. This friendship has turned out so well that we today mor or less see each other as family more than just friends. Today we don´t write letters that often, we speak on the phone and see each other almost ones a year. So as I always say when I tell people about this, I have never spend 6 swedish crownes more good than when I got my penpals adress from IYS.
    Thank you so much and it´s sad that it´s closed down.
    Regards from a greatful swedish woman.

  6. Sanjoy Karmakar9 June 2011 at 13:53

    It is really sad to know that IYS has closed down.After 26 years i sat at my laptop to find the IYS once again and download the form to find a penfriend for my daughter.Today i turned out to be a liar to my daughter for all the stories i narrated to my daughter about my pen friend and how i found them. I still remember the form with little colorfull flags around and the label with the address of my pen friend.The International reply coupons which my dad got for me after repeated requests.It is really sad.I would request all , lets strive to get the IYS back once gain and let the mystery of pen friends come alive and with it the art of letter writing.Writing this with a heavy heart.
    Sanjoy Karmakar, Kolkata ,India

  7. Desde Venezuela Caracas, que triste enterarme que IYS este cerrado, de ahi tuve 16 excelentes amigos alrededor del mundo, gracias a IYS ane mas el mundo de las cartas y aun en esta epoca de tecnologia y redes sociales, no superan a las cartas, en la cual uno podia observar la letra de la persona y la personalidad impresa en cada una de las carta que se hacia, yo conoci IYS en el 1991. Cg

  8. IYS was a perfect service. I still miss those days and I wonder if we can, somehow, get again the records with the addresses that I.Y.S had sent us that period...?
    By the way, why cannot I find you (penpalling & letters) on facebook?

  9. Anonymous, as far as I know, those records were destroyed, so it is difficult you can get those addresses that IYS provided you once. Also, since they closed down, it is impossible to get in touch with any responsible person from IYS.

    Have you tried to search for the profile/group being logged in Facebook? I think that is the problem! If you are not, you cannot see Penpalling & Letters on this social network.

  10. How sad that such a wonderful service is gone....I still correspond with my first pen-friend and we have met several times now. (we are both in our 50s!)

  11. Its sad that IYS has closed down .I still remember those good old day how much i enjoyed writting letters to my pen friends .I think those were one of the best moments of my childhood writting them and then waiting for their reply. I have preserved all the letters and some times i read them and also show it to my wife and kids .I am lucky enough to continue to have one of my penpal in my life , we are still in touch with each other on chat .Still I miss the joy of writing letters to her .I am on mission to find my other penpals hope i find them.I wish IYS would start their operations again because people would soon realise the joy and happiness one finds in writting .Wish you all find your lost there is more to write ....Happy writting..

  12. Like every good things in this world, it has gone!

  13. it was good old times... my classmates introduced this then... made several friends... too bad all my letters were flooded... i still kept in touch every now and then with one of my pals :D

  14. Felippe de Figueiredo Freire7 April 2012 at 04:21

    It's an unforgettable old time! I remember when I receveid my first letter from Argentina. Thereafter, I began to contact many people around the world. Till now I keep some letters! It was a great time!

  15. 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 this 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 truly miss it......

  16. Hola a todos, saludos desde Mexico.

    Hoy (que tengo ya 30 años de edad), recuerdo que tuve un par de amigos en España, gracias a IYS, sin embargo hace mucho perdí todos los datos de ellos. Y me encantaría encontrar nuevos amigos con quien escribirme, saludos a todos y gracias por recordarme una bella etapa de mi vida...


  17. Omg ! I am so sad to read this..same here, i grew up with IYS and just today, i told my kids about it. They are 7, 9 and 10 years old. And my daughter told me that she wanted to communicate through post(real mail and paper) ...not internet. Then i made a research to find this. I am very sad, we are really losing something and it makes me wonder...what will be next ? !

  18. Wow. I just found numerous letters from pen friends from around the world whose letter I had kept. Saddened to hear it has ended.

  19. Yes, me and my wife use to be this member of IYS and we are writing almost 20 years, and we married since 17 years.....we got a certificate from IYS to compliment our wedding.....i am indonesian and she is italian and we met via penpals at IYS.....we have several luggages of letters....and this was early 90......we all miss IYS

  20. Evangelia Sternaka25 May 2013 at 06:27

    I will never forget the how strongly i expected the penpal's letter to my letterbox...Australia,Austria,Finland,Trinidad...exhanging photos,postcards,little objects,music cassettes,our dreams for life...thank u all from the depths of my heart for making our adolescence so nice!

  21. I got my penpal through IYS as well. We've been communicating with each other for the past 16 years! And I'm finally meeting him for the first time this year! Such a shame that a great organisation like this had to close down.

  22. Todoavía recuerdo esa tarde en que me dirigí a la oficina Postal de Alvaro Obregón a dejar mi solicitud para encontrar penpals... en 1980. ¡Qué tiempos! Yo un adolescente. Y también recuerdo lo emocionado que recibí la respuesta de IYS y la respuesta de mi primera penapal. Llegué a tener cerca de una docena. Me la pasaba escribiendo a niñas en Finlandia, España, USA, Francia, Colombia y España entre otras. Muy gratos recuerdos. Gracias IYS. Nunca los olvidaré.
    Guillermo Garduño

  23. Greetings! I have been wanting to find this service for quite some time! Oh wow! I am so pleased to write here from Belize to tell you that I have reconnected with my penpal who was originally from Singapore but now lives in Australia. We were actually video chatting last night on Facebook! I had always wished to meet my penpal and the internet actually allowed me to do that. I applaud this effort to reconnect those of us that the IYS connected so long ago. I hope the Facebook page is an active one. Thank you!!!

  24. I have the oldest friends through this service, almost 31 years before and we are still good friends around the globe. Thanks IYS..Cheers

  25. How sad and disappointing to hear the closure of IYS, what a fantastic organization that connected me with people my age around the world. I joined in 1988 and still have 3 penpals in Europe I have grown up with, one I have written to for 22 years and the other for 18 years. Even though we have each others email addresses, we still prefer the method of writing by hand as that is how we met and we keep the tradition alive. It's still exciting to receive a letter with foreign stamps in the mail and to send a letter off, sad to hear that writing letters is considered almost extinct, its one of my favourite hobbies still and how much those young people miss today!
    I still remember receiving that big envelope in the mail with a Finland postmark and being excited to see my new penpals. Again sad to hear the closing of IYS.

  26. looking at the form of IYS itself thrills me... it was some 22 years back when I was organizing penpals for my college mate... I remember every school friend asking me to get them a penpal. Those time was wonderful.. . So sad IYS closed down. I thank IYS to help youths these years

  27. I'm an Italian woman 47 years old, I'd start penpalship in 1980 thanks to IYS: at firsth I wrote just in French language with french penpals, then I've start to write in English language too with people of all over the world, exotic places as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, but also Finland,India,USA. Some of them has wrote me for 20 years! I've know personally one of them and now, after many years I've found 3 of my dearest penpals in Facebook, our friendship still lasts! In these years we've share our dreams of teen agers and then of young woman, now I want to say THANKS to IYS to have give us this opportunity and another big THANKS because I've improve my French language and my English language wich I never have forget till nowdays.

  28. BEN
    Egalement triste de la fermeture d'IYS, j'ai eu deux grandes amies dont avec l'une est toujours en contact. j'ai y adhéré en 1995. je garde encore les lettres de mes correspondants même ceux dont on a échangé une ou deux lettres.
    ça me manque énormément.

  29. IYS was such a wonderful part of my life. I have pen friends thousands of miles from where I am. I came to know the lives from other countries I've never known before. I almost got married to one of my pen pal. IYS I will never forget you.

  30. I knw my penfriend from Germany since 1999. With the new technology of internet and Facebook, we managed to get in touch after being cut off a few years. However, IYSA brings back alot of memories of how I love writing and waiting for snail mails and postage stamps! :) I am sad IYS has to close down. I still keep your flyer till today!
    I was reading my old letters and found your flyer which I kept since 1999. I was actually hoping to find IYS again and now realised it is closed :(
    Nevertheless, I want to thank IYS for linking me to the world far from mine and allowing me to learn about the culture of others. Thank you IYS and you will be missed.

    Love, from Singapore

  31. Hi everyone!
    Like you I got penpals via IYS many many years ago. One, right on the other side of the globe, I am still connected with - after 30 years. We also visited each other, sharing the other´s family life for a little while... Such an experience is priceless, I consider it a treasure and am truely grateful to IYS for this wonderful present.
    I found this site today, because my younger son (11) asked me about getting a penpal, and it´s so so sad, that I have to tell him IYS is no longer there to find someone for him. Oh, the feeling when I held the envelope from IYS in my hand, just could not wait to learn whom I´d write to...
    I can understand, though, that in this time of instant gratification most young people aren´t able to wait days or weeks for a letter to arrive; and maybe also shying away from writing a letter on paper, low correction options, discipline to get the penmanship readable and so on... Well, guess I´ll ask among my friends and acquaintances if they know some kid who´d like to write. At least e-mail... ;o)
    All the best and may all your penpal relationships thrive!!

  32. Such a shame. Brought me so much happiness when I was young to receive the address slips through. Still in touch with one penfriend that I first wrote to aged 13. I'm now 46! So many happy memories of the service.