Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 2009: New Volunteer Coordinators & More!!

As Global Volunteers looks to a busy and successful 2010, four new volunteer coordinators and many new international staff have joined the Global Volunteers’ staff.

These additions have made December a hectic, yet exciting, month. Team Leader Training was conducted December 7 – 11 with Country Managers, Volunteer Team Leaders, and new staff taking part. The final Friday session, with all current staff, was a great finish to the week, as everyone reflected on the past 25 years and brainstormed new, fresh ideas for the coming 25 years.

Before international staff returned to their home countries, they joined Global Volunteers staff, volunteers, and supporters at the 25th Anniversary Gala to celebrate 25 years of service and over 25,000 volunteers! This was a special event featuring a peace symposium, silent auction, flag ceremony, international music, delightful food, and engaging speakers from the organization, the local community, and the international community. Highlights also included an award presentation to Global Volunteers from our host community in Poland and the presentation of the 2009 Vision Award Recipient to Bishop Mdegella of Tanzania.

And now, as staff return to their daily routines, country managers prepare for their next teams and new VCs continue to learn more each day about the organization, the work, and the amazing opportunity to help others “wage peace through service” and better humanity for years to come.

It is a privilege to be a part of this organization, and I know I speak for all new staff when I say I look forward to enhancing the work of Global Volunteers by enabling positive change one person at a time.

Stephanie Peterson
Global Volunteers, Volunteer Coordinator

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

As a staff, we marked International Peace Day (Sept. 21) by coming together to discuss the work of justice and its relevance in our world today. It confirmed our belief that those who join us in service domestically and abroad are able to see themselves as global neighbors. That in reality the world is not divided as we see it on a globe or a map. That it is people who've created the dividing lines between states and countries, between peoples and cultures, and that its people who step over lines that seek to separate us. By giving of their talent, talent and treasure each volunteer be they 6 or 86 is helping to make manifest a more peace-filled society. Global Volunteers is proud to have been about the work of social justice for 25 years now.

My colleagues and I come to work each day because we feel what we're doing here is meaningful. We are so grateful to our change-waging volunteers, who say "yes" to doing that which they can do to bring about Peace and Justice in our time. Read more about our "Peace Day" observance here.
- Julie Costa, Global Volunteers Volunteer Manager

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy International Day of Peace!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Bunk Beds at Seam's Children's Home in India

I personally thank all the Global Volunteers on behalf of all the children and staff at Seam's Children's Home for providing Bunk Beds for the children to have a comfortable and safe environment to sleep in.It has been a welcome addition to their home and all the little children love their new beds. The older ones need to wait another year for the Stage 2 of the Dormitories to be completed to accommodate additional Bunk Beds for them.This wonderful addition for the children has been possible only by your generous contribution through the Child Sponsorship Fund which helped us meet the basic needs of the children. And i believe your continuous support and help would enable us to carry on this good work to benefit more and more deprived children in our community.

Thank you very much,
Stephen Raja, Country Manager
Global Volunteers India Service Program

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peruvian "Scholar" Expresses Thanks

Dear Friends from Global Volunteers:

I am Yimm E. B. I'm 16 years of age and finished high school. I would like to send warm greetings and special thanks to you for giving me this opportunity in order to continue with my high level education and in that way I will be able to become as a good person. I am thankful because if not for you, I wouldn’t’ be able to continue studying because my family and I do not have enough resources but with your help I can help my family and I can help to motivate other kids like me to study and do not give up because there is always someone with good heart that will support them. Thanks for your help and to be so good in order to help me. I promise to have good grades and not let you down.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Until We Meet Again

To appreciate the beauty of West Virginia, whether it be:
The rolling hills
A babbling creek
The New River Gorge
The longest single-arch steel span bridge in the Western Hemisphere
A coal mine, or
The crafts of the artists at Tamarack

To know and follow the wisdom and vision of Artie Mullins;

To find the best in others, including those “who don’t need no stinkin’ help”;

To serve as needed: to caulk, to prime, to paint;, to fix the shelf that is half an inch off; to sort the craft supplies; to scrape the gunk; to install the cabinets; to tile the floor;

To leave Beards Fork a bit better, whether by 10,000 sorted cans of food, a new food bank pantry, a semi-finished dorm, a remodeled home, or a six-year-old friend;

To remember UMBUNTU: “I am because we are.”

To hope that even one life has breathed easier because we were here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Today is a Very Good Day!

Team journal entry from Wendy:

We awoke to a freshly washed Beards Fork. The rain from last night cleared away and broke to a beautiful July morning. Breakfast was prepared by all and sleepy heads rubbed the dew from their eyes over hot coffee, tea, and the kind conversation of new friends. Artie arrived and formally began our work day. Heidi shared a beautiful poem, “The Way You Say It,” and the boys read their journal from the day before. Heidi, Nancy, Gary, Jen, and Grady headed off to the site to hopefully begin the roofing project on the house rehab in Powelton. Skylar, Travis, Cooper, Meghan, Alex, and Cathy read to the summer school children. The students, on the whole, are very good readers and enjoy having new friends read with them. Mariann, Polly, Jim, Rhonda, Rosie, Carol, Kris, and Wendy worked on the dorm project. Cabinets were hung with Craig’s help and Ralph’s expertise in the kitchen. Paint was brought in with the anticipation that wall paint will be rolled soon. Skimming of the bathroom walls progressed and painting should start before we finish our week here. The walls in the hallway had all of the imperfections filled to make them also ready for a finish coat of paint. The kick plates were installed and things are moving right along.

Skylar said it’s a very good day if his shoulder blades are burning at the end of the day. Today is a very good day!

The afternoon project in the school building was the preparation of the new food pantry. Rosie and Rhonda tackled the space known as the “secret room” to clean out, uncover, and otherwise get to the bare bones in preparation for construction of the new shelves and then the enormous moving project of the canned goods. Two groups worked on sorting the donated food. It was a huge, overwhelming job. Some categorizing was achieved, but the 10,000 cans are quite a huge mountain. We will conquer this mountain this week.

A Hearts game made the late afternoon pleasant along with snacks and cold beverages!

Jen and Nancy arrived back with the evidence of hard work spent on the roof on their clothes and bodies. With half the roof now completed tomorrow’s project will be the other half. Gary said the kitchen is now six inches taller because it is now straight. Good deal. Bob and his family will undoubtedly enjoy the fruits of our labor for years to come. Heidi worked on the sofits and siding, too. Our team loves the mantra that Craig repeats throughout the day with his kind smile and contagious laughter: “Team work makes the dream work.”

Our bodies are a bit sore but our spirits are shining brightly. Good work, good friends, great food. . . what’s not to like?

Another feast was prepared by Artie and enjoyed by all. Dishes were washed by Gary, Mariann, and Nancy, and Carol vacuumed our common space in preparation of more group time. We ended our day with memories of Ralph, T. J, Chris, Craig, Debbie, Vicki, and so many more.
Our hearts are grateful for new friends and such kind hosts. Sleep will come easily after a nice day. . . hopefully, quiet will, too.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Serving and Learning in Appalachia

Thought for the day, offered by Wendy from a South African Global Volunteers experience: “UMBUNTU: I am because we are.”

Journal entry for Saturday and Sunday: Nancy

Our day started out flying in airplanes or riding in a car. We all met at Beards Fork, WV.
One way in, one way out. Our team leader is Artie, a native. He is a book of stories about Beards Fork, WV. The day consisted of getting to know one another and listening to live music by the children. The group consists of Rona, Wendy, Polly, Rhonda, Carol, Jim, Jen, Cathy, Heidi, Nancy, Kris, Mariann, Gary, Rosie, and six children: Alex, Meghan, Travis, Skylar, Grady, and Cooper, who is going to keep us on our toes. I appointed myself the official photographer. Lights out at 2200.

Sunday, July 19

The stream is running
The birds are chirping
The sky is blue, but
It’s a good day when you can start off with coffee.

The morning consisted of coffee, eating, and conversations
Playing the piano
Assembly line of food with everyone participating
More piano playing

The afternoon consisted of our orientation meeting with Artie at the helm and a drive around the area with Artie, Wendy, and Rhonda driving.
An excellent dinner of lasagna, pasta, salad, veggies, and bread, in which I consumed way too much bread.

After dinner, we got to meet John David. He is a wealth of information about Beards Fork and West Virginia. He also explained the importance of our group and projects completed past and present. Who knew Beards Fork was at the end of a "holler?" There is a wide variety of professions represented here, although teachers outnumber the rest of us. There are also medical, retired people, domestic parents, a behind-the-scenes celebrity in the entertainment field, a librarian, and six children. We will be working alongside with SALS—the Southern Appalachian Labor School.

Our evening ended late. Everyone was exhausted. Looks like we have a good team.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sincere Thanks to our Blackfeet Friends

U.N. Millennium Service Goals Contributions by this team: 120 hours elder care; 216 hours labor toward improvements to alleviate poverty; 20 hours outreach for nutrition and health. In addition, we provided 63 hours direct administrative and clerical support of cultural education.

Final Service day: written by Anita, Woodville, WI

Sierra, Sherry and David to Eagle Shield – Sierra to ride the meal van, Sherry to serve dinner, and David to work and converse with Frank, who discussed his recycling program for Browning and to take David to visit a Buffalo jump.
Justin, Jeni, Erica and Jamie to Blackfeet Care Center – to work the dirt and to entertain the residents. Todd and Tim to the Community College – to work some construction project.
Peg- to drive and assist Fran̤oise in meeting our host leaders and to familiarize herself with Browning. Maureen and Anita at the Head Start complex Рto clean up and later to tour the hospital, along with Justin.

We gathered for supper at the Care Center and ate heartily the Indian Tacos. Carol was wonderful in explaining the ancestral ratios needed for the Blackfeet Indians to gain some Reservation revenue and why they are poverty-stricken. After eating, the 56th Global Volunteers team to Browning, MT presented a talent show to the Care Center residents during their supper. Here is the order of talent; by Jeni, Master of Ceremonies:

1) Tim – juggling three pins, three balls
2) Jeni – yoga poses x 3
3) Erica – piano solo x 2 songs
4) Jamie – song solo – “On Top of Spaghetti”
5) Francoise – song solo – “Dans le jardin de mon pere / in my father’s garden.”
6) David – recital of a poem he composed during this week – Montana Time Line
7) Justin,Jamie, Peg Maureen – a song with revised words to, “It’s a Small World After All.” And joined by other team members in the chorus lines.

After goodbyes were shared with the residents, the team said farewell to David, Sherry, Tim and Erica Staub and wished them well on their trip back to Great Falls, MT and on to Davenport, IA. The rest of the team returned to Head Start and prepared ourselves for the next morning departure. We were surprised and pleased with Sam and his wife, Lisa and smallest child, Brennan, when they visited us at 10:30PM and wished us goodbye. We all appreciated Sam in being our driver and introducing us to Blackfeet traditions.

Sat., June 20, 2009
Return to our lives, with our familiar family and friends and places we live and work and play….many of us experienced a bit of a “culture shock.” Thank you, Global Volunteers, for the opportunity to be a Service Learner.

This experience met my goals and each of you contributed wonderfully to this first, and I hope future, volunteer trip. I am entering the decade of my 60’s and I want to become a worthy elder. My 60th birthday was June 14 and I was happy to share it with you.

“OKI”….I never learned the Blackfeet word for goodbye…..

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Getting to Know You"

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: given by Tim (from Davenport, IA)
(From Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson)
Chp. 15 introduction: “Not hammer-strokes, but dance of the water, sings the pebbles into perfection.”
**Global Volunteers are part of the continuum in completing projects for their hosts. **

JOURNAL ENTRY: written by Todd (from Jeffersonville, IN)

It’s funny –living with strangers. Time truly is a trickster. He possesses a supernatural ability that allows him to manipulate environments, intensify experiences, and distort reason. That’s not a bad thing: in a brief span of time friendships are kindled, bonds are formed, circles are connected….has it only been a week? And it was Jamie who reminded me it is time the trickster who is now telling us that those prairies and mountains and streams and Indians who beckoned us to come here are now bidding us a gentle goodbye. Our tribe must disband…but time has a way of doing those things, doesn’t he? Indeed, it is a tribe here: a small band of humble warriors, wise men and sages, elders and care-givers, complete with a chief and yes, even our own medicine man. However, as we return home, it gives me comfort to know that our circle will not be broken, only pulled in different directions, acting not unlike a net to include those we live with and love and even those who may not understand. You see, true bonds can never really be broken, only altered. Personally, I look forward to returning to my own sacred circle to share my experiences with family and friends and students and to ask them to join us. I urge you to do the same…there’s plenty of room at the table.

As for yesterday, the team traveled to Glacier National Park, guests of the Blackfeet Confederacy. It was truly an honor to be included and acknowledged in the opening ceremony. The group was in high spirits on this day of medicine wheels and mountain tops, winding roads and waterfalls. The goodwill and humor was evident among the group, and why shouldn’t it have been given our spectacular surroundings. The day culminated with a short hike and a good meal at the lodge—a full day of listening and laughing, sharing and learning. Yes, it was a good day.

I’m sorry I could not be a better record keeper of the day’s events, but each of us will take away his or her own memories and experiences, and they will be our own. It’s sometimes difficult to explain the significance of our experiences much like it is difficult to find the words to explain the beauty and grandeur of these mountains…but they are there and they mean different things to each of us. Norman Maclean spoke of “spots of time,” a molecular moment frozen in time expounding beauty, harmony, and perfection; a moment forever unaltered when it is recalled in times of “tranquility.” Believe me when this bus driver tells you he has learned something along the way. I respect and enjoy each of you. As you conclude your journey and return to your own sacred circle in British Colombia, Iowa, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, or Maryland, I hope you see your home with new eyes as you enter it from the East.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: given by David (from Davenport, IA)

Montana Time Line
Father Time, overcomes
Mother Earth, conceiving
Geologic time.
Tectonic plates move:
West on East.

Snows Fall,
Glaciers cut U-shaped valleys.

Original peoples trickle in;
Generation by generation.

Later peoples trickle in;
Day by day.

Conflicts arise over resources.
Productive time overcomes geologic time.

Glaciers Disappear.
Resources dwindle.
Individuals become shooting stars across the Montana night Big Sky.

David also discussed the 3rd point in the GV manual under “Why do Americans act like that?” It is a point about time and its control.

JOURNAL ENTRY: written by Justin (from Vancouver, BC)

Our morning started off with Sierra and Ed, from the community college, starting a smudge. After the group did this, Maureen gave the thought of the day and Peg read us her journal.
Calvin Weatherwax from Real People Herb’s invited us to a presentation for the evening.

Harold also came to our morning meeting and Todd and Tim would end up tilling at the community gardens today. Anita really liked her data entry work because she found the Indian names fascinating. David continued working on the lawn at Eagle Shield. His weed whacker often malfunctioned but he enjoyed the conversations he had with some Blackfeet. Sherry and Maureen switched positions for the day; Maureen worked inside Eagle Shield while Sherry delivered meals. Erica got her wish of working with children. Jamie and Jeni made collages and played bingo at the Care Center while Sierra, Peg and I worked on the patio. Allen made our work a lot easier by tilling the ground twice for us. We also received a lot of help from the community. Dorothy, an elder at the Center, helped rake the dirt; she was very interesting to work with. We also received help from Terry and Alex, ages 6 and 5, near the end of the day. They were fun to work with.

After our evening meeting, Calvin Weatherwax arrived and we went over to his house. We met his wife Pauline, who makes the products. They served us peppermint tea, taught us about Blackfeet beliefs, kept us warm with blankets and showed us numerous herbs and products. Stu, the cute little puppy, was running around and nibbling at us the entire time. In the middle of the presentation, the clouds rolled in and a few droplets of rain started to fall. However, near the end, the sun came out. Our evening at the Weatherwax home ended with a full, double rainbow. It was also Francoise’s birthday…. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"We waged our own little act of peace today."

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: given by Maureen (from Rhinebeck, NY)
Advice from a lake:
Be Clear…. Make Positive Ripples…. Look Beneath the Surface… Stay Calm… Shore Up Friendships… Take Time to Reflect… Be Full of Life…
(Taken from Maureen's bookmark card.)

JOURNAL ENTRY: written by Peg (from New York, NY)

Our work options were similar to Monday. Maureen, Sherry and David headed back to Eagle Shield. Maureen was determined to travel with Sean out into the reservation and deliver 98 meals. Sherry served in the kitchen and David mowed the lawn. Anita stayed back to work with Ardis, a Blackfeet working with the EPA, testing water quality on the reservation, or “res,” as most say.

The remaining eight of us headed over to the Community Center where we continued to both dig the patio and Jeni, Jamie, Justin and Erica played hours of Bingo indoors. Barbara, a resident, is the reigning bingo champion, playing 8 cards at a time. Jamie, our youngest GV at 9 years of age, proudly came in 2nd.

Hungry and covered with a thin layer of dirt, we happily broke for lunch. Sam, our Indian driver and organizer for the Tuesday night “sweat”, met us there. A very tall and amiable man, Sam quickly explained he had a very busy morning and that he was “ornery.” Sadly, he further explained that his Auntie, an elder, had passed away that early morning. His whole day would be spent with the preparations. Having grown up on the res, Sam has a very large family – 180 first and second cousins on his side alone. He expected 1000 people would come to participate in the funeral and invited us to join in the proceedings. He explained that Auntie’s body had to remain where it was for at least 5 hours so that her spirit would realize “she had passed.” To move her sooner might jeopardize her journey. The proceedings would be mostly Blackfeet, although as Catholics, there would also be a Catholic ceremony. Committed to his promise, the sweat would continue and arrangements were made to pick us up at 5PM and head to Heart Butte.

I spent 3 days at Glacier National Park before coming to the Blackfeet Reservation and it was magnificent. The ride to Heart Butte took my breath away. Taking this ride showed me a tiny glimpse into the great, beautiful expanse of this reservation.

For lack of an easier explanation, a sweat is a spiritual sauna set amidst the beautiful outdoors. The Indians use it as a means to pray and purify. This sweat was a 36 stone sweat and a sweat can be as large as 88 stones. Sam’s brother, Mike and cousin, Stewart, joined us. The stones are placed in the center of the sweat lodge, signifying the center of the universe. Four sessions of praying and singing ensue. Emergence from each session symbolizes the birth from the womb, each emergence approaching pureness. We began the ceremony wishing Aunt Mary a safe journey, thanking the Creator for the right to participate and praying for our families and new friends. Sierra, Jeni, Tim and Todd participated in all 4 sessions. Jamie, and Sam’s two children, Asherde and Jamison, bravely joined in the second session. Sam and Stewart kindly sang to them in Indian to alleviate their fears. He was happy to have “their Purity” adding to their prayers…All who participated were extremely moved by the experience.
A beautiful sunset ended the day and I can unequivocally say, “we waged our own little act of peace in the world today.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday, June 15 in Montana

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: given by Jeni (from Rochester Hills, MI)
“Preach often, if necessary, use words.” (Advice from a mentor back home in Michigan.)

JOURNAL ENTRY: written by Sherry (from Davenport, IA)

First Work Day:
Like pieces fitting a jigsaw puzzle, we each sorted ourselves into our respective “Goldilocks” work sites. (The ones that were “just right” for us.)
Our journal/thought for the day focused our minds and hearts on our broader purpose: kindness and extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Then winding our way to the Community College, we entered the work-a-day world of Bob Tailfeathers: well educated, articulate, gifted, artistic – maker of quill jewelry and teacher of same. A kind father finding a way to make a new color and design, motivated by his father-love at his daughter’s request and she motivated to help others…kind, beautiful. Denise and Sissy from Head Start – businesswomen on a mission, yet humble and proud all at the same time. Smokey and Ivan – workers of the earth, caretakers of nature…intuitive and industrious…Salt of the earth kind of guys.

Eagle Shield lunch ladies extraordinaire, Maria and Sissy, guardians of a kitchen so clean and orderly – it is unmatched by any on the planet, nay – the universe. Donning our plastic aprons and gloves, Maureen and I dished up tuna casserole, beets and pears, homemade buns to our hungry Blackfeet brothers and sisters. Can this be some sort of atonement for the sins of starvation and near extinction of their ancestors?
But a meal shared with us by Hiram and Yvonne, who is fluent in Blackfeet, became a feast of knowledge and understanding as they spoke of the importance of language in preserving the culture. For embedded within the language is the very code of respect and honor intrinsic to these Indians. Without their language – their language, they are reduced to mere words: men without chests, people without their souls. Why does it take so many Blackfeet words to make one English word? Because a table isn’t just a table, a thing – it’s a place where we gather to eat. A school isn’t just a building – it’s the place we gather to learn. And what is a computer? It’s Blackfeet name is: “He thinks on his own” not – it thinks on its own – he thinks on his own. For Blackfeet, everything created by God or man is alive with purpose. They don’t have to search for meaning – it is apparent every time they breathe a phrase.
Todd and Tim shared their stories as well as their sweat – picking rock with Ivan in the reservation sun. This is just the first stop in Todd’s excellent adventure. A journey of greater understanding of indigenous people and their cultures – which he in turn will pass on to his family and students. Next stop – Cook Islands – Tanzania – new mountaintops – even Kilimanjaro. He is the window on the world for a very fortunate bunch of kids from Indiana. Their own Indiana Jones. Binding, ironing, ordering words…Anita, we all owe you one for the tedious tasks you undertook and all with that trademark smile and good nature.
Trekking, digging and trekking again and again between Care Center and the Learning Center for God knows what. Needed gloves, much needed lunch, lost souls and found again… aren’t we all….
Finally, I speak of the wisdom shared with us by Joe, Joseph and young Gus….transferred rights to such insights that we are now entrusted to preserve and pass with the virulence of a small pox epidemic and the passion of one once near death – but restored to life – of one once blind who now can see, from one whom we have received Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound and healing the cry of the flute – of new friendship….take off your shoes – we stand here on Holy Ground.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Second Summer Team in Browning - 2009

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: given by Sierra (from Georgia)

“Be a more generous stranger.”

I was on the plane flying alone for the first time and the two ladies I was sitting with were just so nice and supportive of me. One lady went out of her way to help me catch my next flight because I was a little nervous about finding it. So even thought she was in a rush herself to catch her flight and I had two hours and could’ve found it on my own in plenty of time, she made sure I was in the right place. Her generosity surprised me and just inspired me to try to be a more generous stranger to others.

JOURNAL ENTRY, DAY 1: written by Anita ( from Woodville, WI)

We started our morning together with a continental breakfast with groceries bought by Sherry and Jeni at the local IGA store. There are 12 volunteers and our Team Leader to feed. We all helped with the clean up and went into a group meeting.

Michele, our gracious Team Leader, presented a great icebreaker introduction to each other where we tricked ourselves into remembering each other’s first names. Everyone was remarkable in remembering names of the person to their left and right and the people before. The meeting continues with Global Volunteer policy and guideline discussion. We took a break when Tom announced the shower room and swimming pool were available.

We met again to discuss the projects available for the week. Blackfeet Care Center has digging sail for a patio and interacting with the residents, meals on wheels and serving the noon meal is at Eagle Shields, an assisted living residence, landscaping and office work are all needed projects by Browning residents and organizations. After a satisfying lunch of sandwiches and vegetables, a van full of us went with Sam, a Blackfeet Indian who is a reservoir of cultural/tradition knowledge. We left for St. Mary’s to travel to the Northern sites of the Reservation. With Sam as our talkative guide, we experienced a small part of Glacier National Park. We viewed Jackson Glacier, two waterfalls, the Three Peak divide and a drive across the eastern flat lands of the “Res.” Those of us in the van were Tim, David, Todd, Anita, Justin, Jeni, Sierra, Jamie and Erica. Peg and Maureen went hiking to Two Medicine and viewed 2 waterfalls. Sherry stayed in Browning and visited the Great Plains Museum where she met a Blackfeet “artist in residence.” Michele did paperwork and Global Volunteer business work.

The van came back on schedule and we all met to ride with Sam to the Care Center for a pizza and salad supper. Michele walked to the Center; she has so much energy.

After supper, we all walked back to Head Start for a meeting on team values. According to Michele, "there are 15 adjectives that make a successful team." Our team came up with more than 15, 18 to be exact. FUN, FOCUSED AND FLEXIBILITY ARE SOME OF OUR TEAM VALUES. Then we each shared three goals or actually reasons for being here in Browning, MT for the next 5 days, working as a service learning team. Several of these reasons are “to learn the Blackfeet Indian culture/traditions, to share skills, to work with new people, to have fun, to make a connection with Big Sky country, and other fine thoughts.”

We ended the evening with a film about the Blackfeet Indian history, told in their memories and in their point of view. It’s to bed after an enriching day with exploring the Reservation, Browning and enjoying each other.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Week On The Rez

Millennium Development Goals: 17 hours establishing home gardens for residents ; 185 elders fed nutritous meals; 120 hours of recreational and nurturing care to elders

Today was our final day. We woke up; held our morning meeting; and rushed to help out at Eagle Shield; move rocks at Blackfeet community college; help Daryl at Head Start, visit with the elderly at the Care Center, and move wood at Vareena’s house. I personally ended up moving rocks and helping Vareena. In many respects, I thought it was ironic that I spent the week cleaning someone’s yard and moving rocks since my family just hired someone to help clean up our yard and to rip-rap a hill that is eroding. Rip-rap is a fancy way of saying dumping rocks. Why was I paying someone to perform a function similar to the one I was paying for to perform for someone else? And, then it dawned on me when Kyra, Staci and I were leaving Vareena’s. Kyra exclaimed “isn’t it neat to see how happy Vareena was with what we accomplished.” Although I was thrilled to have spent the week working outside and getting to know and laugh with so many people, I will admit that there was a moment of envy when we arrived at the Care Center for the closing dinner. Upon our arrival, I learned that Noa and Anna, spent the afternoon accompanying seven of the Care Center residents to St. Marys for ice cream. After dinner at the Care Center --always a special treat -- we put on our talent show. Unfortunately, proved that singing is indeed a talent that not everyone has. Fortunately, we also learned that no one cares -- especially the residents of the nursing home -- and that trying can be fun. In the evening, we returned to clean the Early Childhood Center, have goodbye root beer floats, and to talk. I learned that earlier in the day, two people we had worked with had been laid off. When I expressed shock and concern to Michele, she replied that it was okay, they would collect unemployment and probably get their jobs back in the Fall. Michele’s “rez” roots were coming through. This is the lesson of the Blackfeet. No matter the circumstances or the hardship, life goes on and life will be okay. The Blackfeet roll with life’s punches. - Staci

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Browning

“You load 16 tons, and what do you get?” Well, Kim and I only loaded 1,600 pounds of trash
with Darryl Bird. Added to the trash picked up in the afternoon, it was a ton for sure!

At the care center, the "patio girls” moved another ton of dirt and I know Forrest and Noa would have moved a ton had they had a wheelbarrow. And what did we get? Talking only for myself --a little sore, a little satisfaction, a little frustration. Forrest had the idea that we should suggest
that the Head Start Center turn the lot into a vegetable garden. Great idea, but you never want to step on toes, and who should spear-head such an ambitious project? I just hope they don’t “pave paradise, put up a parking lot” or my worst fear -- the return of a junk pile.

Feedings continued at Eagle Shield where the crew is now so effcient they set new clean-up records and in the afternoon some residents in the Care Center made beaded key chains.

The surprise at the evening meeting was a visit from Barbara and Leona. These two Elders graced us with stories of their childhood growing up on the “Rez” and tried to teach us a few words in Blackfeet. Hopefully, at Friday’s “talent” show we will do them proud when we sing
“Git see"kawko"min” --I love you -- to the residents. Many of us were moved when Barbara thanked us for having her in our circle. She then told us she was feeling down today after receiving news of the death of two people close to her. Little did we realize that while she was
giving so much herself, we were also there giving to her. It’s the timeless truth of giving--you get what you give. I hope today we all gave a little and got a little.

- Lisa
At the end of a long day, we all gathered together and were privileged to hear Leona speak
to us about the Blackfeet language. She shared personal stories of her childhood, and tradition taught to her by her grandparents and elders. She learned nuances and complexities of Blackfeet
syntax and her unique style as an educator to the young to preserve the past. We learned to say “I love you” and count to the more contemporary Macarena. As if that were not special in itself, her sister -in -law Barbara came along to expand on their ancient tales and unwritten practices. Were told of the “correct” way to do things that you will not find in the current literature. At the
end of the day, she shared a special story with us which memorialized a perfect lesson of Blackfeet experience.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Volunteering on the "Rez"

June 8
Oki’ !Today our mighty group arrived bright and early at the community college to hear from a number of interesting guests about the type of work we wouldbe doing. Leona, also known as “woman of many songs,” spoke movingly of the flood memorial and explained about what a senseless tragedy that dambreaking had been. It’s being memorialized today with a “feed” across town. She then led the group in a Blackfeet prayer; we all bowed our heads and though we couldn’t understand the language, we understood the intentions behind the words.There is something very peaceful and serene about many of the Blackfeet and Leona is no exception. After explaining some miraculous and “blush-inducing” remedies for everything ranging from acne to athlete’s foot, our next guest, Wilbur Fish spoke about his in-depth knowledge of herbs, plants and western medicine. He was eloquent and passionate, and his gardening work detail was a popular choice. We then broke out into a number of groups, and helped at the Care Center, the feed, and gardening with Wilbur. Those of us at the feed had the honor of meeting the chairman of the reservation and his family later in the day, in the casino which Noa seemed to secretly enjoy. He was honest about the challenges that face the Blackfeet -- issues like unemployment and alcoholism -- but he is very committed to change and all had an intense hour-long discussion with him, his wife, and his son who wore a “B” cap, not for Boston, but for Browning, of ourse!.Following dinner, we discussed the group’s goals for the trip and Forrest got especially impassioned about all the different categories and we had a lively debate before retiring. I felt privileged to share this experience with such a kind and enthusiastic group.
June 9
Today we began work day #2 with our usual meeting. For a few minutes it, appeared iffy whether Michele would be able to participate because of a phone call to Bermuda. But, the folks in Bermuda said that they would be happy starting the call late. I suspect that Bermuda runs on Blackfeet time!

Upon the completion of our morning meeting, we split up to work on different projects. One group worked at the Care Center on either staining the shed or visiting with the residents. Another group was supposed to clean out another shed. I got the feeling that today was shed day. The second shed group ended up shredding paper. Although this is technically not a shed, it did involve a word using the same letters. A third group went to Eagle Shield to prepare and serve meals. Another group went to prepare house gardens. Finally, the last group had the joy of driving vehicles with the steering wheel on the wrong side and moving a lot of rocks at the Community College! After work, some went hiking while other went to the museum. All of us enjoyed another dinner courtesy of the Care Center. ! In general, there is a feeling that we all saw lots of things and helped others out. I feel that today was the day for seeing and trying new
things. I learned that people really appreciate all the work we did and they were really happy when Kyra and I brought them their meals.
- Noa

June 10
This morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6:15 to have a nice private shower. After
breakfast, we went to the meeting where Michele explained our duties for the day. Our jobs
included shoveling at the Care Center, picking rocks, delivering meals, and gardening. We,
meaning Sierra, Erica, Erika, Ellisha, and Anna choose shoveling at the care center. When we got there, we ran into our friend Barbara, a patient at the Center, whom we talked and joked with. After chatting, we began digging, which proved a long day. Sierra gave the suggestion that we dig the letters GV into the ground for Global Volunteers. After pictures were taken of us and the GV in the ground, it was time to leave and go horseback riding, which we were so excited for. After what seemed like a 10 hour drive up their winding driveway, we finally got sight of the Deboos’ home. The eight that decided to go horseback riding had a wonderful time. We saw a group of horses galloping up a hill and a rock formation Chuck said was formed by water. On our way back from our ride, our tummies rumbled, awaiting our home cooked meals. It was of course as good as expected, leaving our bellies full. We left shortly after super with sleepy eyes and
happy hearts.
Thought For the Day #4
Selected by: Seymour High School Students
Just Do It!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Volunteering on the Blackfeet Reservation - Day 1

Today began with the meeting of the rest of Group 55 who arrived from Wisconsin late last P.M. We all joined together for our communal breakfast, anxious to greet our new partners in the group. After breakfast and clean up, we joined our leader Michele for a a video of Global Volunteers history and another about the history of the Blackfeet Nation. The room was still and silent, perhaps everyone was thinking the feeling “I never learned about history this way.”

The rest of the day was a sensory gallery of experiences as we drove around a portion of what we now know as ‘the rez.‘ Geography and the history of the area was brought to life. Much of the secret and unwritten past and culture of the Blackfeet was shared with us by our ever and willing and impressively knowledgeable driver Sam. We visited Many Glacier and saw elk on the loose, sheep, cattle, and ponies at every turn. The massive St. Marys fire remains and flood history are large visual lessons. At the end of the day, we are so anxious to start working, and realize that we too are the recipients of good fortune.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Last Christmas break, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Puericultorio (P.P.A.) orphanage in Lima, Peru with Global Volunteers. During my time at P.P.A., I was thoroughly trounced by the orphans on the soccer field and learned, first hand, the challenges of holding the attention of 3rd graders for more than 3 seconds. Perhaps the most humbling aspect of my trip, however, was a realization of the gaping chasm that existed between the vast number of opportunities I had been given that others had not. This realization prompted action to at least partially address the imbalance. In this way, the idea for the Great Transversal of Minnesota was born.

Limited Internet and cable access in Peru provided ample opportunity for undisturbed reflection. My thoughts always led back to my arrival, how it was marred by delay after delay and the intense frustration I felt at being a victim of circumstances completely out of my control. I realized the intense frustration I felt during my trip was something the children of the orphanage live with every day of their lives. No one consulted them about being born in a shantytown with a family unable to care for them, or worse, want them. They didn’t choose to live in a walled compound while other children their age got to enjoy unimaginable freedoms: trips to the zoo, the movies, vacations with their families, and the like. It was then I realized that of everything the children lacked, the most glaring was opportunity. At the same time, I learned of Global Volunteer’s academic sponsorship program. The idea is simple: a sponsor provides money to send a qualified student from P.P.A. to college. Yet even though it costs a mere $500 per year to sponsor an individual, the program was forced to turn away several deserving students in 2008 due to a lack of funds.

My conviction to sponsor the children of P.P.A. in their college education was catalyzed by an anonymous quote read by a fellow volunteer: “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” From this conviction, the idea for the Great Transversal of Minnesota slowly crystallized: I would apply my passion for endurance sports towards raising scholarship funds for the orphans and hence transfer some of my abundant opportunity to the underprivileged orphans of P.P.A.

Being young, idealistic, and impressionable, I kept the idea in the back of my mind. Only months later, when I was brainstorming ways I could raise money for college scholarships for orphans in Lima, Peru, did the idea to use The Great Transversal occur to me. Suddenly everything made so much sense. This crazy little idea, conceived many months ago in the sweltering heat of the Minnesota summer, has finally come to fruition.

On June 6th, I will begin a 400-mile, 7-day trip across Minnesota. Travel from the North Shore of Lake Superior to Rochester will be solely human powered, involving kayaking, swimming, biking, rollerskiing (similar to rollerblading but with ski poles), and running. My goal is to raise $5,000 dollars in sponsorship. All funds will be donated toward college scholarships for the orphans. More route details will be forthcoming, but the adventure will begin with kayaking in Lake Superior and will finish when I run the final 20 miles into Rochester, my hometown.

- Mike Torchia, Peru volunteer and college student http://www.greattransversalofminnesota.blogspot.com/

(If you'd like to contribute to Mike's effort: http://donations.globalvolunteers.org select "fundraising page to view" and click on "Mike Torchia.")

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reaching Out in Uncertain Times

Now more than ever, our host partners are looking to Global Volunteers for the kind of help we have been providing for 25 years. Our volunteers bring the face of kindness and compassion in person, through their hands-on service to organizations worldwide who have invited Global Volunteers into their communities. Yes, these are uncertain times, but we can be certain -- in our uncertainty -- that the people we help know us by our name, they know us by the hope we have left behind, and know us by the Global Volunteers who keep on coming, no matter what. Their children and babies know us by loving arms that hold them, voices that sing to them, eyes that smile at them and hands that applaud the littlest things they have learned today, because of a Global Volunteer.

- Patty Carlson, volunteer coordinator for Global Volunteers

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Global Volunteer Rick Koniar in Chennai, India

In Gratitude for the Privilege and Value of Volunteering

As a volunteer to local efforts apart from my role with Global Volunteers, I personally experience the joy and satisfaction of making a difference to local efforts frequently each month. And, I know that were it not for my contribution of skills and energy, many of these pressing needs would go unmet.

I also feel the sincere gratitude of those who benefit directly from my time, and of those who manage the legions who commit to these worthy causes.

I am often awestruck by the trust and responsibility put into my hands as a local volunteer, and it’s at those times I am reminded of what we ask each of our team members on Global Volunteers service programs. You are our hands and heart in Global Volunteers’ host communities. You are the delivery mechanism of the compassion and respect for local people we all feel when we come to work each day. You help us carry out a vision articulated 25 years ago….and to which we’ve recommitted ourselves year after year. It is through your commitment and dedication on the ground that our host partners are able to build on their own community’s vision and realize – over time – the fullness of their potential.

This can all be reduced to clichés in the media, but it’s never overstated or trite to those of us who work in the field of volunteerism, and who experience the value of volunteers’ efforts personally. I have likewise benefitted from the generosity of volunteers reaching out to me through the years, in both formal and informal settings. So as one who has experienced the “trifecta” of volunteerism – recipient, participant and manager – I’m grateful that this grand institution is now receiving the attention and credit that is due.

As I reflect on my own role as a volunteer, I’m humbled by what I’ve gained and learned through the generous invitation to me by others into their lives – sometimes at the most intimate times of need. I never take that privilege lightly. So too, I revere the opportunity we each have as Global Volunteers to share our community partners’ lives – in their schools, their offices, their churches and their homes. When you stop to ponder this amazing international achievement, it’s no wonder the great Winston Churchill remarked: “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.”

-Michele Gran, Global Volunteers co-founder and CEO

Saturday, February 28, 2009

"I Help Youth Tell Their Own Stories"

I'm grateful for my connection with the children at an orphanage in Chennai, India. Having volunteered once before with Global Volunteers in the Cook Islands, I was prepared to tell their stories broadly when I returned home. Weeks before my journey to Chennai, Stephen, the country manager and my translator, sent the stories the children had written in their native language, Tamil. As I read their sad stories of how they became orphans or semi- orphans, tears welled up.

Upon arrival in Chennai, my wife Anne and I were greeted by Stephen and the most adorable little girl. She had big eyes and a charming smile. She took my hand and without words said, "Thank you for coming to our country."

I experienced the same warm, greeting from the children at the SEAM (South East Asia Mission) orphanage the next evening. They flocked around us and were fascinated by my digital watch - technology is a rare commodity in their community. I showed them a special movie I had made on how to make movies. My experience in the Cook Islands where I had first begun working with children on movie making taught me to be prepared. The movie was a success in teaching them about the basics of filmmaking. Then I brought technology to the nine older children who would actually film the movie. With three cameras divided among the three teams, I was able to instruct them in simple camera operation and get the project going. Their response to the instruction was fantastic. The kids are outstanding, and given their opportunities through Global Volunteers, I could see them soaring beyond their humble surroundings. Please click to view this extraordinary film and become inspired to give of your talents to these deserving and eager children.
- Tom Barker

Monday, February 16, 2009

Student Says: "Ghana Changed My Life!"

I recently returned from Senchi Ferry, Ghana where I served for two weeks as a volunteer through Global Volunteers. It was the most amazing trip, and it completely changed my life! I had never traveled much outside of the United States, yet I have always wanted to go to new and exciting places, so this was a dream come true for me. Beside, being of service was an important consideration for me and so was being safe. Even though I was concerned at first that the wide expanse in ages among the team members would make it hard to relate to one another, it was quite the opposite. It was amazing. It was so great for us students to hear of all of the exciting places most of our team mates had been. I had lots of questions for the older volunteers, and we learned so much from them. I soon realized that outside of age, we had many things in common, especially our desire to serve and help the community!

I've been since inspired to focus my senior thesis on the Ghanaian educational system. I got everything I paid for and more! I miss Senchi Ferry immensely. I loved teaching the kids and enjoyed our weekend trips around Ghana. Ghana was overall an unforgettable, life changing experience! - Samantha Calandrino, CT

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thank you for my India Trips of a Lifetime

Thank you all at Global Volunteers so very much. I had a wonderful time serving in Chennai again this year. I have Stephen and Sheeba and the Hosts to thank for my experience. Stephen is a most remarkable, patient, generous, kind and wise man. He and Sheeba care very deeply for the children and all the people who host the volunteers and help them to do their work. I am again so impressed. I think of Stephen and Sheeba and Stephen's whole family as my "Indian" family!

I was so sad to say good-bye to his parents and neighbors and relatives. We have become so close.I also am grateful to Stephen and Sr. Rose for making a dream come true: together they worked for three months to locate a little boy I met last year at Assisi....Augustine. Stephen helped me make arrangements so that I could go see him and play with him again. Holding him has been my biggest wish of the past year and I feel that now I have established a connection with his family that we can stay in touch.

There were so many wonderful moments; children who have hearts as big as the country itself....love to play and sing and be held....they even loved just touching my arms and smelling my hair. From lives that could be about sadness - these are remarkable, resilient children.They have so much to teach about true meaning in life. I am grateful to them for the lessons I learned. You get out of the experience - what you put into it. For me, personally, I go, give, and get back 100-fold.

~Joelle Imholte

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Congratulations: China and Cook Islands Partners

On behalf of the school English teachers who have had the honor of attending the training program of the Global Volunteers, I sincerely send the congratulations upon the 25th anniversary of Global Volunteers! We are grateful to all the volunteers as well as the country manager for the greatest effort they have put to advance the mutual understanding of the Chinese and American people.

After the training, our teachers not only made progress on their conversational English, but also learned the importance of showing love to their students. As the host in Kunming, I hope that the Global Volunteers program takes roots and bears fruits not only in the big cities but also in the rural and ethnic places where people badly need help both spiritually and academically.

~Chris, Li Baokun from Kunming teachers' training center/China

It is with much pleasure and thanksgiving , that I take this very special opportunity, on behalf of CIANGO and the people of the Cook Islands, to congratulate and wish the Global Volunteers the very best for a very Happy and Joyous 25th/Silver Anniversary on the 27th of January. May God richly bless the Global Volunteers, with another 25 years or Golden Anniversary, serving in the Cook Islands!

Kia manuia with much love,
Mrs. Vereara Maeva Taripo, President of CIANGO