Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vote for Global Volunteers!

From November 15 - November 21 the Star Tribune newspaper is holding a contest entitled 'Full Page Project' amongst MN non-profits and the winner will receive a free full page ad in the Sunday paper!

Please vote for us this week ~ you can vote once per hour!

Here is the link where you can register and then vote for Global Volunteers (please copy and paste the link):

We would also encourage you to pass this link along to your family and friends, and post it on your personal Facebbok page or blog. Let us know if you have any questions, and remember voting has begun!

Thank you for your support.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Soon we will be just a memory...



Friday morning brought us together for our traditional breakfast before we embarked on our last day of classes. Everyone had a look of bittersweet anticipation. We are ready to go home, but we already miss our students, fellow volunteers, and the kind people of Poland. The experiences and memories we have will continue to increase our fondness of Poland as time goes on.

My heart ached as I entered each of my four classes at Spoleczna knowing this would be the last day with the kids I have come to love. The students, “my kids,” presented parties, gifts and speeches to relay their appreciation. Little do they realize that I am the one who is grateful to have been part of their lives.

At 6 p.m. we met for an abundant supper with the teachers and principals from the area schools. The Vice Govenor of Siedlce was present, as well as Dorota’s handsome husband, Chris, who joined us even though he had a cold.

The evening ended with Darlene, Rob, Pat and Ralph rallying for one last card game. I think the card sharks will miss each other and will all have some tall tales to tell in the future.

Soon we will be just a memory to the people and students of Poland. We have done what we were called to do. We have planted our seeds in the minds and hearts of the Polish people and they, in turn, have returned the gesture. We were given an opportunity to make a difference and I think we did.

Written by: Vickie Henige (Michigan)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Twentieth Anniversary of Global Volunteers in Poland!

Dear Volunteers,

Our partnership started together with the democratic changes in Poland. After many years of studying Russian we needed to have a well qualified English speaking Polish cadre that could lead us into the European Union and NATO.

For all these years, you have offered us the most unique form of volunteering; you have worked with us, shared your skills and time and covered all of your expenses. We would like to thank you so much for all of your help from the bottom of our hearts!

But teaching English is not everything; most importantly you have offered your friendships, openness, unselfishness and your hearts to us. Helping those in need is a very special value nowadays. Bending over another human being and showing him care and assistance is the most precious characteristic, especially in the present world. It is you, our dear friends, that dedicate your time and efforts serving the ones who wish to broaden their horizons.

We were with you on September 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks took place in the USA and you sent us your condolences when the President of Poland was killed in the plane crash in Smolensk.

We know each other, we understand each other and thanks to these contacts there is a special bond between us. We think of each other in difficult moments and share happy times with our friends.... I think this is the biggest accomplishment of our twenty years of partnership.

The volunteers have become a permanent part of our local landscape, we no longer think of them as guest but it seems that they have been with us forever.

Our time spent together is not only English classes but also long lasting friendships, exchanging letters, overcoming barriers, mutual friendships and visits!

Thank you so much again! You will remain in our memories and our hearts forever! We will never forget what you have done for us and our children with no self interest! We hope we will see each other in Poland again!

Fragments of speech offered by Zygmunt Wielogorski, Governor of Siedlce county on October 10, 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A First for Jim... Hot Milk Soup!!

October 14, 2010

We started the day with our usual Polish breakfast, but this one was totally different from what I ever experienced before. For breakfast we had hot milk soup! It was a hot soup made with milk which also contained noodles in the recipe. In my previous four years in Poland, this was a first.

After breakfast, Dorota asked her usual questions. Who’s going where? Who’s coming back when? Who needs a box lunch? If Dorota should ever decide to leave her position as Program Manager in Poland, she would have little problem securing a position as a concierge at a five star hotel in Poland.

After breakfast, we all proceeded to our respective teaching assignments, mine being at Spoleczna along with Mike, Vicki, and Dr. Michael. The traffic going to Spoleczna was unusually light today because it was Teacher’s Day and many schools did not have classes. We arrived at our school in record time, and were 15 minutes early for class, which was record time. Because it was Teacher’s Day today, many of the teachers received gifts of flowers, candy and other goodies from our students.

After completion of our formal classes, we had lunch and then prepared for our next day’s teaching assignments, while some of us continued our day with tutoring assignments at Reymontowka. Later that afternoon, two local wood carvers arrived exhibiting their amazing wood carvings. They were available for viewing, and three of the volunteers purchased some of the carvings to take back to the U.S.

Before dinner, a group of us went down to the bar for some fellowship and refreshments. Well, who was down in the bar conducting classes? I bet you’d never guess! You guessed it, it was non-other than old Ralph who was conducting his classes in the bar. It’s little wonder that Ralph looks forward to his afternoon classes at Reymontowka :)

After a quick beer and some welcome fellowship, it was time for dinner again. While having dinner, I was struck with a twinge of sadness because very soon many of my fellow volunteers would be departing for home on the weekend. I fought back my sadness with the happy thought that I’d still be around for another week with the remaining eight volunteers to continue to enjoy each other, our students, and the wonderful Polish people and their culture.

Written by: JIM PODRAZA

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back into the Swing of Things: Week 2 in Siedlce

OCTOBER 12, 2010

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age. The child is grown and puts away his childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies." - EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

Mike started the day with a quote from Victor Hugo and Reba read the journal for the day. Dorota gave us some news flashes about Thursday’s camp fire, the trip to Krakow, and the time for those leaving on Saturday. After that, we all went on way to our various teaching assignments.

Jim, Michael, Vickie, and myself set out with our infamous driver Roman. Roman took us to Siedlce in record time, as we were only ten minutes late today. All four of us had a great day teaching and arrived safely home for lunch. Connie had a great day working on ideas for holiday celebrations such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. Jim and Vickie went shopping in the PM, with Mike subbing for Vickie and helping Julie tutor.

Mahli came back from school with flowers and a stuffed pink poodle, compliments from the students in appreciation for her teaching there. She also had a chance to have her picture taken with a 6th grade student known as the gangster. The students are all sad that she is leaving.

George and Kay, after a tough day of teaching in the morning, were treated to a tour of Siedlce in the PM. While on tour, they saw the only El Greco painting in Poland.

At dinner we were treated with the presence of a former camp counselor by the name of Arek. He lives in Denmark and is studying for his BA degree. Bruce has volunteered to type and edit the journal for the teachers.

Written by: Mike Yannotta

Monday, October 4, 2010

Team Goals!

4 October 2010 – Monday

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: : "A teacher affects eternity; s/he never can tell where his/her influence will stop." - Henry B. Adams

After our fine breakfast we gathered in the research room. Our first task was to establish team goals. After much thought and goading we finalized the goals as:

- To teach and influence Polish children and adults.
- To learn and experience Polish culture.
- To make and renew friendships.
- To build bridges between our cultures.
- To have FUN!
- To experience personal growth.

We moved right onto naming the characteristics of an effective team and boarded team skills. The next challenge was the lesson in Polish at which we excelled. Many practiced our new language at lunch amazing our instructor, Dorota. Some time was spent before lunch preparing our lessons, gathering teaching aides and then off to lunch.

The afternoon was filled with a scenic ride to Siedlce to meet with the Vice-governor, Bartlomiej Kurkus. We were welcomed by Mr. Kurkus and thanked for our service to the community. We went around the room giving a little background on ourselves. Dorota read information about the County and the services it provides its residents. After a short question and answer period we had team pictures taken and left for our various shopping spots, post office, Kantor and Daisy store.

We retuned to Reymontowka for more lesson preparation followed by a fine dinner of pierogi and assorted cheeses and meats. A great parfait topped off the meal.

Pat Kalicki

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reymontowka Summer Camp August 14-28, 2010

Thought of the Day: Don’t cry that it’s over, be happy that you did it.

We woke up to a cloudy rainy day. Once again, we had yet another yummy breakfast before us. Today is our last day and we were all sad that our two weeks just flew by.

First thing I did was to go to the computer room and make sure that I was ready for my last day of teaching. To my surprise, Alice and Marianne had the same thing in mind. Together with Dorota, we were all up in the computer room preparing for our classes.

When the first period began at 9:30 am, the students in each group practiced their Friday presentations and tried to polish up their English with their last day of lessons. The last two sessions of the morning were spent doing different games/activities. Alice was in charge of drawing/coloring. The campers came up with beautiful drawings of trees and flowers. Marianne was manning the card tables. Kinga and Mira were doing friendship bracelets. Marvin was the king of “Simon Says.” Kamila, Ania and Eli were doing party games. Ivy was in-charge of the Uno table. Dorota oversaw all the activities. Once again, it was a successful and enjoyable program.

After another delicious lunch, Marianne and Kinga helped Dorota clean the computer/supply room. Before we knew it, we had dinner at 5:00 pm since the presentation of the students was scheduled for 6pm. Everyone commented on the delicious fish.

Parents started coming before 6pm. The presentation was another five star production. It opened with Alice’s class singing “If you are happy and you know it clap your hands.” It was so cute with each camper drawing a happy face. Alice had her own happy face. Next was Ania and Issac’s class doing “Hokey Pokey.” Marianne’s group sang “It’s a Wonderful World,” accompanied by props of a beautiful rainbow and roses. Mira and Kinga’s group did a skit of a typical day in New York. Ivy’s students also did a skit of “Are We Ready,” where the bus never got rolling cause each kid had something to do and finally the bus driver forgot the keys to the bus. Marvin’s group did tongue twisters with props. Finally, Eli and Kamila’s group did two versions of New York New York, one by Frank Sinatra and one by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. The evening closed with a bonfire and barbeque for the families of the campers.

All agreed the two weeks was a rousing success.

Thought for the Day: Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before you.

After classes today the volunteers made a trip to Majdanek, the Nazi Concentration Camp in Lublin.

The volunteers (without nine year old Isaac who stayed behind but with the teacher Kinga) ate their lunch sandwiches in the van. We saw a thirty minute orientation movie about the rise of the Nazis and this Concentration Camp. A private guide, who had been engaged by one of the volunteers, brought us around the camp, explaining in English how the camp worked and how the various buildings functioned. He explained that when the Soviets liberated Majdanek, the Nazis had no time to destroy the buildings and accordingly this was what was unique to Majdanek. It is the only Concentration Camp that is still fully functional and so it is the only camp throughout Europe that has the original gas chambers still intact. Unfortunately, the kitchen had burned down about three weeks and ago and the fire is under investigation. Our guide explained how the Jewish people were treated harsher than other prisoners and that some 60,000 had been gassed after which their bodies were burnt in either funeral pyres or ovens. At the same time we were there, a group of about 50 Israeli high school students were also touring the concentration camp. It was uplifting to see them proudly carrying their large Israeli flags, thereby underscoring the stark reality that the ashes of those Jewish people who died during the holocaust were the seeds to the birth of the State of Israel in 1948.
On the way home, we passed through Lublin and could see the old town, the Catholic University and the castle from the van. We arrived at the Reymontowka camp at 7:15 p.m. for dinner.

The last activity was the students performing the Wedding Ceremony. The wedding ceremony received a five star review from the volunteers. Among the dozen weddings, two volunteers, Eli and Mira, were married to Filip and Kamila.

Thought for the Day: Remember the 3R’s. Respect for Self, Respect for others; and Responsibility for your actions.

As we survey the remaining activities for the week it’s clear that we’re definitely in the home stretch. There are only a few more hours of classroom time to fill but by now we’re pros at running to the resource room for creative ideas, materials, games, and an exchange of helpful hints among each other. Today the volunteers agreed to use one hour to teach the students a few phrases in various foreign languages. Among all of us, and with the help of Kinga and Wiktoria, we presented 9 languages, including Mandarin, Hebrew, and Japanese. Our assignment for Friday is to prepare our individual groups to do a short presentation in English for the parents on the last night of camp, so we were hard at work on that project. In the evening we were invited to a delightful program on Polish culture prepared by the campers in our honor. We ended with a bonfire and a uniquely American touch. With ingredients brought from the US the campers enjoyed s’mores. It was really gratifying to see how many of them felt comfortable enough to chat with us. It makes us feel our time spent in Reymontowka was definitely worthwhile.

Thought for the Day: Don’t push the river, it will flow by itself.

After a delicious breakfast, I went to my class and we learned some English. We practice our dance for the Friday presentation. We played some games outside. We also played some games inside. We were served with a delicious strawberry soup for lunch. After lunch I went outside and played with my friends while the other volunteers stayed and discussed this week’s schedule and the next day’s presentation.
Later in the day, we all watched the “Talent Show” presented by the campers.

Thought for the Day: Nature can provide for the needs of people; (she) can’t provide for the greed of people.

Classes ran smoothly. The last period was given to the volunteers and other staff members presenting songs to the group accompanied by music. Alice taught her class the song, “If you are happy and you know it, clap your Hands”. The campers sang with her. Other songs were introduced by Marianne and Dorota. After lunch, Alice presented many words of wisdom read by the lunch group.

Then Dorota gave the volunteers homework for the week. Lots of it as in the Polish custom. In addition, our goals and whether they were being met was discussed.

Thought for the Day: Always be prepared for your day.

I woke up to the loud noises around me of my family getting ready for class.

Today we spent the first class finding new ways for our bodies to twist and turn like never before during Twister. During the second class we spent time learning new vocabulary for transportation words, such as limousine. After the second class it was time for presentations. Alice led it off with a bang. Florida turned out to have many surprising things I never knew about, even though I’ve been there… twice. California was next up and Marianne didn’t let us down. In fact her presentation of California was so persuasive I’m guaranteed to go there and visit all the major cities. Next was New York, New York, presented by yours-truly. My sister made a great presentation on Connecticut which all the kids including myself loved. Isaac and my Father then completed the tri-state area, with a presentation on our summer house in the Catskills. Although the highlight for all during their presentation was Isaac’s notoriously kicking my father the whole time during the presentation, causing an uproar of laughter in the room. But once again the best was saved for last… my mother took the initiative by presenting on the Philippines, her native country.

Finally after all our presentations it was time for lunch. After lunch, Marianne and Alice began their journey to a hostel, while my family hung around until later that night, for the land of our father’ s and their father’s, Belarus.

Thought for the Day: Service is the rent you pay for the room you use while you are here on earth.

As I walk out the door I feel pretty cold. Another delicious meal sits on the table in front of me. Kinga and I made our way to class. Today was a pretty cooperative day where we taught about American Indians first. After, we did some worksheets, word searches, hidden pictures, apples to apples, and played Uno. For the 3rd and 4th lesson we watched “Bedtime Stories”, which I liked a lot.

After dinner Marvin, Marianne, Alice and Dorota went to a folk concert with performers from Siedlce and Slovakia. There was folk dancing and singing. They also met Dorota’s husband. Another great day at Reymontowka.

Thought for the Day: Before you criticize your children, just remember who raised them.

Woke up to a dreary day. Temperature 65 and drizzling. The kitchen staff was able to counter this situation with warm “milk soup” for breakfast. It looked and tasted something like Farina.

When the classes began, my group of nine children wanted to play scrabble and bingo. They also played charades, which we did by timing the two groups for competitive play.

The fourth period was dance, where Mira led her onstage team in Cotton Eye Joe. Most of the campers joined in on the main floor. This was followed by several other dance numbers with the finale being a rousing YMCA, with everyone joining in.

After lunch, the volunteers went in the van to the Open Air Museum. The estate consists of a 260 year main house, which has a slight odor of mold, several outlying houses, a barn and a second smaller manor house. The noble family Cieszkowski was the original owner and most recently it was purchased by Professor Kwiatkowski in 1987. The professor renovated the house and charges guests who want to visit. The house has old furniture and many oil paintings of portraits on the wall. He lives there in a side house. In one of the outlying houses that we went into, we saw huge boots used by the farmer in olden days, a toy wooden horse and a wooden crib. Kamila did a great job translating for us what the ticket collector/guide said in Polish.

Next we went to Castle Liw Armory built in 1429 by Prince Charming. It is now the Museum Zbrojownia na zamku w Liwie. Here the guide spoke very good English. He began the tour by showing us a full body armor suit which weighs 66 pounds. When someone was knocked off his horse, the suit weighed so much that he was unable to get up even if he wasn’t otherwise injured. The walls of each room had displays of rifles, swords, sabers, and of course oil paintings of battles. During World War II, when the Germans came to demolish the castle in order to use the bricks to build the concentration camp, Treblinka, Otto Warpechowski, an archeologist, persuaded them that the castle had been built by the Teutonic Knights Order. The Germans were fooled. Warpechowski died toward the end of World War II in an accident. Our guide told us that this weekend there will be the annual games of the battling of the Knights. Unfortunately, the family of five will be in Belarus visiting Grandpa’s birth place and Alice and Marianne will be visiting the Bialowieza National Park.

Thought for the Day: Do not squander time since that is what life is made of.

Today, it seems we are all “wiser” and came prepared for our class. We have a better feel for our classes and had a better sense of what activities we can do with them. We also learned from our teammates on what worked for them the previous day and used that activity.

For the 4th period, all the classes gathered at the tent and we all sang songs. Dorota coordinated the program. We open it with the song “Wave the Flag”, which was very popular with the campers. The song was led by Eli and Mira. The next song was “You are my Sunshine”, led by Ivy and Dorota. Eli and Kamila did “New York, New York” (new rap version). Marvin did “YMCA” and Mira and Kinga were the back-up dancers. Campers also liked this. Dorota also led “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog.” The campers enjoyed doing this activity.

The volunteers were treated to a special afternoon in Siedlce. We met Pan Bartlomiej Kurkus, Deputy Governor (which is an equivalent of a Mayor in the USA.). We introduced ourselves and asked him questions about Siedlce and his work. We also spoke how we enjoyed our work/stay in Poland. He presented each of us with a book of Siedlce.

After that we visited the Cathedral/Church which was beautiful and did our errands. Alice, Eli, Mira & Ivy stayed in town and shopped around. Alice bought some “wild” place mats and table cloths. Eli entertained Mira and Ivy by trying on different leather shoes and clothes. He was very smart looking.

Marianne, Isaac and Marvin went to the train station and straighten out their train/travel schedules. We then return to Reymontowka.

The day was much cooler and we had a quiet evening.

Thought for the Day: A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.

As we gathered for breakfast this morning it was clear that today was different. The cheese crepes were delicious but somehow everyone seemed a little more restrained. Was it that the bountiful meals were catching up with us? Perhaps. But after two days of nervous anticipation, I think it was the reality that our first full day of teaching was finally before us. Alice read our first journal entry; Marianne shared the thought for the day; then Dorota, with her many years experience preparing nervous volunteers, wisely brought out extra worksheets and suggestions on additional activities for the students, should we need them. Aided by this additional boost of confidence we headed outdoors to meet with our student groups, knowing we could at least get through the first couple of sessions. And so it was. After the first session there was a lot of self-congratulation on having “survived.” After each subsequent session there was a quick exchange of helpful tips among ourselves. This included our younger volunteers Eli (14), Mira (13), and Isaac (9), who were highly valued “assistants” to the Polish teachers. When the fourth and final session was over we gathered for lunch, the main meal of the day, which started with yet another excellent soup. The three Polish teachers joined us and we exchanged tips on what worked and what didn’t work with our groups. We all agreed that the students were wonderful but now that we know our groups better we could do some fine-tuning of the activities. The biggest surprise really was that many of the students had English skills that were quite good. We then talked about combining our groups for the fourth session on the following day so that we could each take a turn teaching them an American folk song. Finally, Dorota briefed us on some of the upcoming activities for the week, including a trip to meet the deputy mayor of Siedlce, a folk dance demonstration, and a trip to an open air museum. Dorota also offered to drive us to the nearby tiny town of Kotun from which we could walk back. Ivy and Marianne took advantage of this chance to get some exercise and confirmed that it’s a doable 35 minute walk back to Reymontowka. Good to know because there’s a grocery store, ice cream shop and bankomat there. In the evening we were invited to watch the initiation ceremony for the first time campers. Marianne and Marvin served as queen and king delivering a certificate of welcome to each child. At evening’s end, we headed through the corridors to our rooms, with the students already feeling comfortable enough to speak to us in passing. We went to sleep with visions of the next day’s lesson plan in our heads and here and there the sounds of happy chatter coming from the campers’ rooms. I for sure was tired enough that I knew I would sleep through the rooster crowing at 4:30am.

Thought for the Day: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

To back up I do want to mention the introduction we had to Reymontowka. A lovely young Polish woman greets us at the entrance with a beautifully baked round loaf of bread in the hallowed out Center. We were instructed to take a little triage of bread cut into the side, dip it in the salt, and eat it. This was to assure we would never be hungry and always have food in the house. Promptly at 9:00 Dorota began the session where we set out the team goals and characteristics, for an effective team and individual skills of our team.

Our team goals are:

  1. To help improve the children’s English.
  2. To help the children and others around us learn about America and Americans.
  3. To learn more about Poland’s people and culture.
  4. To make friends.
  5. To experience another Global Volunteers’ opportunity.

Our team’s characteristics are:


Shared vision




Sharing responsibilities



Hard work


Perhaps we should think of a good name for out team. We were given the daily schedule for class schedules. Then we went to the supply room for a tour and instructions for using the copy machine. Dorota gave us some hints as to which items would be useful for various levels. At 11:40 we gathered for rides to the Old Catholic Church or the village of Zeliszew. Marianne, Marvin, and Ivy chose to visit the village. I attended the Mass. The children stayed behind to catch up on their sleep. The church was packed with people and an equal number stood outside. I was fortunate enough to find a seat near a window as there is no air conditioning and it was a warm day. The service was extra long because it was a feast day of the Virgin Mary. At the offertory precession beautifully decorated round loaves of bread were brought to the altar. The priest blesses them and, surprisingly, kissed them. One lady in particular had such a happy, prideful, look on her face. It was a delight to see. There were many other variations to the Masses in the United States. On our return and promptly at 1:30 a delicious dinner of stuffed baked chicken breast, and mashed potato balls, carrots in a tasty, delicate sauce and broccoli. Fruit for dessert. In fact, a wonderful bowl of fruit is provided at each meal. After lunch Dorota gave us a sheet lesson in speaking Polish. After a break we all gathered in the tent where we introduced ourselves to the group and each child stood, gave his name and where he was from. I was impressed at the confidence with which they did this. Later, Marianne, Ivy, and I expressed our amazement at how many years of English and how well they spoke. We decided we had to radically change our thinking as to how and what we would teach. Marianne commented, Dorota had the hardest work – separating the 69 students into suitable groups. We were able to speak a few minutes with the group assigned to us. Each of us expressed satisfaction with his/her arranged group. There was some free time for planning before supper. Alice and Marianne took a short walk and then worked on their plans.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Time To Say Goodbye

The last day of a Global Volunteers program is a bittersweet event. If you've bonded with your students, "synergized" with your team, and fallen in love with the country in which you're serving, as you hoped to do on the very first day, then the parting day is tinted with a hint of sadness. Or maybe more than a hint.

Today was very much like every other, and yet very much set apart. We began the day with our usual classes, trying to finish up activities or cram in new ones. If we listened hard enough, however, we could also hear the strains of a very particular version of "All You Need Is Love" carried on the Zakopane breeze, as Kathy and Steve's combined classes scrambled to learn the words to an alternate version of the song. Or perhaps we heard Steve's class perfecting their Poland sales pitch. Or Sally's Magda and Ania quietly rehearsing their original poem "Zakopane." Or Lori's class trying to contain their laughter while going over the short stories built sentence by sentence by nine different contributors. Or Cyndi and Chris's class combining voices with Sue and Sam's class to sing the Polish song that loosely translates "Don't Cry, Eva" with Chris accompanying the group on Paulina C.'s guitar. Of course, Cortney, the Reeves, and their "Soulja People" managed to keep their rap/dance number--super secret until the night's performance. In regard to the latter, let's just say it's fortunate that Sam and the students had some concept of rhythm!

On what was quite possibly the most perfect day weather-wise of the whole two weeks, several of the American teachers managed to squeeze in a rain-delayed kickball game with a group of enthusiastic students. By the end of the game, the students had gotten the hang of fielding, sometimes retiring a side with no runs. However, the finer points of base-running still eluded many. Maybe next year?

Some forewent the excitement of kickball to spend one last day in town or to pack in anticipation of our early morning departure. By 6:30 pm, we had all gathered for our final dinner. Tonight it was the traditional Polish dish bigos, a stew composed of sauerkraut, sausage, and pieces of meat.

After some last-minute dress rehearsals, everyone gathered in the study area for the final performances by each group of students, as well as thank-you's from Teresa, the leader of the camp, Sue, who spoke for the American teachers, and Greg and Paulina C., who spoke for the students. A small group of students sang a special good-bye song in English to the tune of a popular Polish song.

After the formal program, the students presented each teacher with a gift. There was lots of hugging and address-exchanging before most of us repaired to our rooms to finish packing. Rumor had it that many of the students stayed up late pulling pranks or simply extending their friendships with one final conversation in the darkened rooms and hallways.

One of the American teachers remarked that saying good-bye at this camp was the hardest of any farewell he had ever experienced. Part of the difficulty was no doubt attributable to the fact that the students already spoke very good English, and that we worked with them in small groups. Thus it was possible to develop a very strong bond with the students. As Sue remarked in her closing statement, we could all see that some of Poland's future leaders would likely come from this group.

As luck would have it, we did have a chance to say once last good-bye to the students in the morning, since all of us were up early enough to share breakfast with them. As they gathered on the sidewalk in front of Wanta, we gathered on the landing above. The last sight we had of the students was of them turning to wave good-bye as they headed toward the bus.

Of course, it was equally hard to part ways with each other. At the Krakow Airport, we did so reluctantly, some of us apprehensive about making close flight connections, and others hoping their flights were not oversold as they had been on the inbound journey. Parting was made easier by the conviction that we would someday return to Poland to teach again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thought for the day: Tourists are very useful to the modern world; it is very difficult to hate the people that one knows. Attributed to John Steinbeck and shared by Lori

An early morning begins a full day! We start the day with some bad news. Steve R is still not feeling well and won’t be joining us on the hike to Morskie Oko. We hope he feels 100% soon.

After breakfast everyone who wanted to go on the hike gathered in the lobby to meet the guide and head out. The drive out to the mountain took about 45 minutes and everyone was eager to get on the trail and get hiking. After about 45 minutes of walking, we came to the place in the trail where the groups split up. Sally and Cortney continued with the students and Polish teachers/camp counselors to one of the peaks around Morskie Oko. Meanwhile Steve L, Sue, Kathy and I went with Piotr and Paulina on road straight up to the lake.

While it may sound like both hikes were difficult, the end result was definitely worth it. Morskie Oko was absolutely gorgeous. While some of us circled the lake or caught some Z’s in the woods, Chris and Cyndi walked around the lake and went up to the different lake higher up. It seems like the only inspiration to leave the beautiful lake was the promise for off in the distance of a warm dinner and a comfy bed.

Back on the home front, Lori and Steve R took another dive into American culture with the remaining students and discussed what Americans call football and some rules in the game of baseball.

After dinner of soup and surprise, surprise, port, everyone headed up to their rooms to prepare to prepare for the saddest day of the trip – the last day with the students. Time has flown by.

Journal submitted by Sammi

Thoughts for the day:

The future depends on what we do in the present. --- Attributed to Mahatma Ghandi
Always fall in what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given and make it your way. ---Attributed to Robert Frost

Thoughts above were shared by Sammi

The end is approaching fast for our band of volunteers at Zakopane. After the first few days here in Poland, many of us felt as if we had lived here for months. Alas, the days have gone by more and more quickly over the past two weeks with our students learning their conversational English by morning, hiking in the afternoon, and relaxing at night.

Today went by quite smoothly. Some of our students created monster children for their 2250 Make-a-Baby activity. Piotr thought his custom-made miniature boy would make an ideal child for taking off his shoes and socks at the end of a long day's work, which for some reason elicited contagious laughter from Kathy. I presume the rest of the American teachers maintained their aura of seriousness during lessons.

Many of the volunteers and just a handful of students went on a hike in Dolina Kościeliska (scientifically rated by my mom a 1.2576 out of 10 on the difficulty scale) and others stayed behind to play in a ping-pong tournament or relax during the afternoon. The day concluded with a meeting after dinner to discuss how to conduct our final classes on Friday. The team is preparing to go on a hike tomorrow with about half of the Polish students up to the famous Morskie Oko lake in the mountains while Lori remains behind to teach the remaining students for the day.

Looking back on today and the past two weeks, it is extremely rewarding to know that we have helped contribute in a small way to the intellectual development of these young adults. Above all, I believe that we have shown our students not only how to improve their English, but also how to enjoy learning the language. That is the most important lesson we could teach them in our short time here

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thought for the day: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and shared by Chris.

We had another successful day of teaching. A few groups went to check out the natural history museum today. As I understand it, the museum was under construction, but they talked their way in.

Although many of us were eager to hike after lunch, it had to be canceled due to the rain. The rain wasn’t enough to stop Sally, and rumor had it that she came back soaked to the knees.

After dinner the students presented Polish Night. They did a wonderful job and had us all laughing. The presentations began with an overview of the educational system, and the kids acted out the various developmental age groups. Next we learned about major cities in Poland. We even got to sample candy which the students explained came from Krakow. The fun continued with a hysterical game of Family Feud. The Kowalscy family battled the Brzęczyszczykiewiczowie family for the win. After we learned about famous Polish people and holidays in Family Feud game, the students ended their presentations by telling us a bit of Polish history.

The students came to the close with a gigantic vanilla cake with coconut and strawberry icing, too. The cake was lit by what I can only describe as sparklers for the birthdays of Steve L, Peter (a student camper), and myself. It was another wonderful ending to yet another wonderful day in Zakopane.

Submitted by Cortney

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thought for the day: "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision... It is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results." Shared by Cortney

This day started and ended with song. The rainy Monday morning officially began with a surprise birthday greeting from the Polish students for Steve L. He stood up for this event and graciously accepted the presentation of a gold wooden flower.
At 9 AM we reassembled in the study room for the volunteers’ presentation on home town topics. Cyndi opened an explanation of the Star Spangled Banner. The ten volunteers all moved up front to sing our national anthem.

Presentations were done by each volunteer. Lori’s topic, the Fourth of July, included of course our early history with the British, but also examples of how American today typically celebrate this national holiday. Steve L shared with us a special story of his life. Many early Icelanders viewed the extremely deep ash from the one volcano’s eruption as a sign it was time to seek a new land. Thus, his grandfather sailed to Canada and ultimately traveled to North Dakota. Sally, with the help of a carefully drawn map, focused on the history and changing culture of Pittsburgh, once labeled as the Dirty Steel Town. Steve R, a resident of Cleveland, touched the listeners with the story of his and his father’s connection with relatives on a trip to Slovenia. Kathy gave her audience a sense of Minnesota’s natural environment. She relayed images of wild turkeys and the timber wolves, and “the lakes inside my soul.”Sue took her audience to an island in South Carolina where Toyota and BMW are building their plants, black residents are from Ghana, and alligators eat little dogs. Cortney chose a topic close to the minds of the students and pointed out the differences between American and Polish culture in universities. Her Pop Rocks provided a new life experience. Sam followed with a visit to the Minnesota State Fair with the food extravaganza, the butter bust of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way, and the presence of the biggest pig in Minnesota. Chris closed the program with a visual presentation of that made Los Angeles and Pomona College a reality for the Polish students. Cyndi, the designated mistress of ceremonies, successfully tied together this collage of America.

The students next walked to the nearby, the wet asphalt ball court, where Cyndi gave initial instructions on how to play kickball, and Steve R demonstrated the moves. But how can one explain the intricacies of kickball in only ten minutes? So, the inevitable “play ball” was yelled out, and after one practice inning, confusion changed to expressions of joy and challenge. Shouts of encouragement in Polish, came from the outfield. But soon the fun was ended, for now, with a rain delay. Fun did resume after lunch, however, with the students making banana splits. The scraping of bowls and occasional glance for second servings confirmed the success of this activity.

Our Fourth of July celebration concluded in the side yard of the Wanta Hotel. The evening began around 19:00 under a now clear blue sky, warm enough for a balloon toss and water bottle race, both gone wild. We applauded the short hoola hoop competition and the long, long, and longer egg toss. And who could ask more of life than sitting outside at dusk around a bonfire, roasting kielbasa, making s’mores, listening to Polish girls singing, and hearing Chris play on the guitar. Thank you, Cyndi and Steve R and all your helpers. We honor your enthusiasm.

Journal submitted by Sally

Monday, July 5, 2010

We approached our lessons with gusto even though some of the teens are sleepy at 9 AM. Some of us have been incorporating field trips or walks as part of our time together.

Today was the first day without organized afternoon activities, so we were free to go at our own pace. Some of us, but perhaps mostly me, are still recovering from the Wednesday’s mountain descent. After another busy morning of teaching, Cortney, Sam, Sue and Steve took the bus to Krakow to take advantage of the weekend.

I visited the tourist information offices and was able to obtain senior-priced tickets for the Sunday event in Zakopane. It is so easy to make friends with the local people.

It was a treat to participate in the International Organ Festival. Danuta, Lori, Sally, and I listened to the artistry of the organist, flute and marimba player for an hour at a church. A projection screen showed the movement of the organist’s hands and feet throughout the performance.

One the way back to Hotel Wanta, we were captivated by a young accordion player in festive dress accompanied by a violinist entertaining one and all on Krupowki Street. He had a strong voice and sang with great passion while fingering his instrument.

At the hotel, those remaining experienced a well deserved rest after a busy and engaging week with our motivated students.

I can’t forget to mention our supper. While Chris, Cyndi, and Steve R dined out, sampling a local restaurant, the rest of us enjoyed golabki . Was it ever tasty!
Some highlights of the weekend:

Steve L: Experiencing one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – Krakow.
Sam: Loved all the life in the square in Krakow – music, accents from everywhere.
Chris: Allergies are better. I can breathe again.
Sally: A tearful moment which I turned during the Sunday afternoon concert and saw all the Polish people so moved by the music.
Sue: The visit to the Kazimierz district, including the visit to the old burial ground and the old man’s explanation of honoring the dead by leaving stones.
Cortney: Auschwitz and Shindler’s Factory for the same reason, to see all the that from the view of the Polish people.
Lori: It was nice to have it quiet.
Cyndi: Making preparations for American day. Being the guinea pig for the balloon toss was a highlight.

I have the last word, so I will emphasize the wonder of the musical event of Sunday. This was the most electrifying musical performance I have ever experienced. It was incredible to see the talent and energy of the world-acclaimed Mazowsze group.
Today I was lucky enough to sit with the cooks and the dining staff and learn their names and laugh a bit. They gave me a bit of this night’s [Sunday] dessert.

We also appreciated the handiwork of Ania with her food artistry at breakfast.

Submitted by Kathy B.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thursday was another picturesque day here in Zakopane. I continue to be impressed with the cooperation of the students, work ethic of the volunteers, and the organization and effectiveness of the Global Volunteers program.

All of the sessions are moving along well. It shows how curious learners, prepared instructors, and diversified activities lead to a successful learning environment.

Sam's yearbook continues to be a favorite of the students. It's interesting how effective something from a peer and real life situations can be.

Today's hike took place at Gubalowka Mountain. (Again an American keyboard does not allow for the correct entry of the name of this mountain.) This venue provided a challenging climb for those determined to take it on, but a beautiful view and relaxing descent for all on the modern chairlift.

The day concluded with a movie at an open air theater in Zakopane. This is a free event, with popcorn and other refreshments, sponsored by Orange Telecom.

Rumor has it there might be a kickball game on Monday, our time to celebrate Independence Day, between teams coached by Cyndi and Cortney.

Contributed by Steve R.

Thought for the day:
"To the world you may be just one person, but to the one person you may be the world."
Attributed to Candis Goodwin and shared by Steve

Day 3 of our journey as a team began with the thought for the day and a superbly crafted journal entry. The rhythm of small groups followed by combined groups is now well established encouraging coordination of activities between teams and avoiding the repletion of the combined programs. There was evidence of the students late night games of Apples to Apples and Taboo. The scores achieved by the experienced students were exceptional. We are developing a rather impressive array of teaching and learning methods with rich exchanges of successes and new ideas synergizing our team.

The afternoon hiking was graded as an “8” on a 10 point scale compared to the “3” for days one and two. There were tired bodies all around the dinner table.

Lori shared her adventures as a Fulbright exchange scholar in Pecs, Hungary. She contrasted the Hungarian culture with both the US and Poland. The students were encouraged to keep a Polish-US Fulbright exchange as an option for their future. It was a full day for all us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thought for the day: "Journey of a thousand miles ends with a single step". (Source unknown), contributed by Steve.

The morning sessions all were successful. As discussed later in our post-dinner session, activities that the students particularly enjoyed were playing the games Taboo and Apples to Apples; breaking the ice with the game two truths and a lie, and remembering that at least one of the ideas has to BE a lie; explaining how they'd like their ashes to be scattered after they died; reading, summarizing, and discussing the articles in the USA Today; mapping and then discussing the geography of one's home state and of Poland; having Sam share her yearbook with the students; comparing a wide range of similarities and differences in Polish and American lifestyles; cutting up and putting together similes; giving directions to try to replicate a drawing that the students can't see; and trying to trick a student into answering a simple yes or no in a series of questions. Kathy re-iterated that she's had great success with the exercises in the books The Non-Stop Discussion Workshop and Five-Minute Exercises. Some of the suggestions from these books include "ordering a baby in the year 2250" and "planning a perfect school curriculum."

After a hearty lunch of minestrone, meatloaf with onions, beet salad, yogurt cake and, of course, boiled potatoes, the intrepid among us set out with the students for a long walk to the ski jump as well as to a private villa built in 1896 which exemplifies the best qualities of Zakopane architecture. The biggest challenge of today's field trip was not negotiating slippery boulders down a precarious incline but rather negotiating a chair lift that took us up the side of the mountain. We took our turns and found the lift was rather tame, slowly churning around the platform at a speed that even the least agile among us could handle. The view from the top was magnificent, especially given how clear and perfect the day was. We also had a chance to examine a real ski jump up close and a little too personal. For those of us who watched the Winter Olympics and wondered who would be insane enough to ski down a ramp at 90 mph and fly hundreds of meters down a hill, our impressions were only confirmed by taking in the view from the ski jumper's perspective.

Far be it from me to complain, but it DID seem as if our fearless guides were a little confused about where exactly the next site--Dom Pod Jedlami--was located. After several detours, including what appeared to be serious consideration of crossing a newly tarred road, we finally made it to the villa. Jola explained that the villa's name literally means "under the pine trees." Because the home is privately owned, we were not permitted to go inside; however, we did have a chance to admire the intricate wood carvings and gables that distinguish this type of architecture, as well as examine the unique trees with their peculiarly bunched needles and the gigantic mushrooms called "huba" that grew from their trunks.

Throughout the walk, the students and teachers mixed more easily than they had on yesterday's walk. Many of us had the opportunity to speak casually with students other than our own. I think those conversations were as helpful to us as to the students we are supposed to be teaching.

The less well-traveled road back to the center of town reminded Chris and me of the area surrounding Reymontówka with its narrow, shady, tree-lined roads, though the architecture remained distinctly Zakopane. At the crossroads we parted ways, some of us heading into town and the rest of us back to Wanta for some respite before our simple supper of soup and sandwiches, with a little of the traditional Polish delicacy--lard--thrown in for our artery-clogging pleasure.

Our parting thoughts for the day came from Steve. He observed how easy it is to work with cooperative students who are smart.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thought for the day: "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." Submitted by Cyndi.

Day one of the ten days began with our team meeting at 7:45 AM where we read the journal from our orientation and arrival activities. At 9:00 we gathered in the lobby and received our room assignments for the classes and launched into our time with students. We worked with the students until 10:30 and then combined with another team for the last two hours of class. Both the single and double teams seemed pleased with the arrangement.

After lunch eight of us spent time with the students on a nearly four hour hike in the Tatra National Park. Dubbed by Teresa, the camp director, this was the “easiest hike” – seven gradual miles up and down the Strazy (can’t write Polish name correctly with an English keyboard) trail. Right!! I see more hikes in our future.

During reflection, after dinner, many successful teaching strategies were shared from our first attempts to teach these very bright capable students. Activities included basketball and word games, extemporaneous speaking, introductions, and sharing a high school year book. We know there will be challenges, but face the days ahead with optimism and confidence.

Submitted by Sue

Global Volunteers Team Journal Zakopane 2010

Thought for the Day: "God does not require that we succeed. God only asks that we serve." Mother Theresa.

Shared by Sue

Our team assembled at the Krakow airport on Saturday, June 26, and journeyed to Zakopane in a very comfortable bus. We arrived at Hotel Wanta and received our room assignments and then enjoyed a wonderful Polish evening meal. Meanwhile another driver was collecting two members of the team who had been led on adventures by their airlines. They were able to arrive in mid-evening and get settled in as well.
Several went out for walk, exploring Zakopane. All appeared to enjoy a good night’s sleep in the mountain air.

After a plentiful Polish breakfast, our team adjourned to the conference room. Dorota, our team leader, started the morning by reviewing the history and accomplishments of the Global Volunteers program in Poland, noting the program would be celebrating its 20th anniversary in October. We also reviewed the Global Volunteer working principles. Our next orientation task culminated with five team goals:

• To assist students to gain confidence in using their English skills;
• To discover Poland;
• To build understanding between cultures;
• To develop team synergy; and
• To grow personally.

The team identified the following team characteristics:

• Sharing ideas;
• Objectivity;
• Flexibility;
• Respect;
• Curiosity and openness;
• Patience;
• Taking advantage of our different skills, ages, gender, and backgrounds; and
• Sense of humor.

We discussed teaching materials team members had brought with them and reviewed the teaching materials provided by Global Volunteers.

After a delicious lunch, we took a walk with the students and the Prus High School teachers to the Villa Atma.

Then we went to the wooden church and old cemetery. Some of the team members took a short walk to a nearby church and attended Mass. Others gathered at the Milka Festival stage and enjoyed the dance activities there.

After kolacja, we were welcomed to Poland by the camp director and met the teachers who are here with us, acting as camp counselors. Then we each met our group of students and planning for the first day of teaching began.

Submitted by Lori

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New English Lab at Cisie School

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors through Global Volunteers Sponsorship Program, the students from the elementary school in Cisie have a brand new English language lab. The funds donated by our sponsors were used for purchasing the appropriate furniture for the classroom (such as desks, chairs, white board, bookcases and bookshelves), the audio equipment, as well as teaching supplies and English language textbooks. The students are thrilled to study English in such a well equipped and supplied language lab. Please enjoy the pictures of this new classroom!