Friday, January 29, 2010

Hannah's Story

¡Hola! My name is Hannah Borowksy, and two summers ago, I went on a Global Volunteers trip to Ecuador with my family. I’m so thrilled to be able to tell my story here, to people who have never heard about my trip, because I’m pretty sure I’ve told every single story of my trip to every single person I know!

I’m not even really sure how I ended up in Ecuador on a Global Volunteers trip. I just knew I wanted to do something cool with my summer, and let me tell you, my goal was fulfilled! As my parents, younger sister, and I packed up and left our home in Minnetonka, we had no idea that our view of the world and our place in it was about to change.

We spent our time in Ecuador at a school for children. The kids were absolutely adorable and so thankful to have us there. During our first week, I helped out in a fourth grade classroom. The kids immediately bombarded me with questions. Did I have a car? What color? Was I married? When they studied math, I taught the students a new method for long multiplication. During their poetry unit, I translated a Shell Silverstein poem (with some help) into Spanish for them. Apparently translated poetry looses something because no one laughed! During the second week, I worked one-on-one with Kindergarten students teaching English. The kids were so sweet, but they were only 5 year old and let’s just say I gained invaluable insight into the importance of patience.

The tone of our trip was set immediately when we first met with the group and our amazing country manager. We were told that Ecuadorians are very open, and so the first question we were asked was about our relationship status – married, dating, single, or super single. From then on, our group clicked wonderfully. We kept a group journal that rotated between members every day and was read allowed each morning. We helped each other with Spanish verb conjugation; salsa danced at night, and explored Ecuador together on the weekend.

While my trip to Ecuador was undoubtedly incredible, to me, the amazing part is the long lasting affect the experience has had on my family and I. For example, during our trip we noticed that dental hygiene is a huge problem in Ecuador, and so for my sister’s Bat Mitzvah this past year, she asked people to donate toothbrushes and toothpaste for her to send to Ecuador. She’s collected over forty pounds of dental supplies. Also, as part of the trip we visited the homes of several students. It was heartbreaking to see the conditions in which these families lived, yet inspiring to see how optimistic they were. One family lived at the top of a mountain, and every day the mother carried her daughter, who suffered from cerebral palsy, down the mountain and to school, a trip that took two hours. It really made me think about how lucky I am, how grateful I should be, and how much we can do to help others.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Education is Fundamental

(Bishop Dr. Owdenberg Mdgella has been Global Volunteers' Tanzania Host Representative since 1986.)

A lot has been done through Global Volunteers in Tanzania. It would take one hour to describe because the things are too big for a short blog post.

Tanzania a long-standing host of Global Volunteers and I am glad to be part of the 25 years of genuine development assistance. I reflection on one of the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs): education. You cannot believe today how many have students have achieved a lot from the teaching through Global Volunteers. There are five lecturers at the university and five magistrates. Education is the key. If you want to get out of poverty you must get an education.

Global Volunteers exposed me as well as the villagers to Americans. Out of that relationship we have taught 2870 university students in less than 17 years. Some of these students are now working in government because there is a rippling effect. There is a storm in the sea and so many waves come from here. People don’t want to give credit to who started the program. It was Bud Philbrook who wanted to make as many Americans as possible know about the world and as many people here know about Americans. Americans are not members of the CIA. These are wrong prejudices. This misperception has been highly corrected. Because of this exposure, you can no longer count on your fingers the 2000 to 3000 volunteers. So when you think of the Millennium Development Goals remember the Americans also brought an interest in tourism to this country and that was good for us too.

Yes, it is good for Americans to know the world and for people of the world to know Americans.

Global Volunteers works with the vulnerable and people at risk helping them to determine their future and their present. They have been working at dispenseries teaching people from a book called “Where there is no Doctor.” Now there are three villages that have pharmacies where there is no doctor but those who work there are now called doctors. When Global Volunteers came they spent a time and little by little you feel and it is fitting.

Global Volunteers has sent people to plant trees and work at health centers. The Ipalamwa road that used to take 12 hours to transport has been improved by the local government and now takes just two hours -- this is the catalyst effect of Global Volunteers. A catalyst effect so even the questions you are discussing and even those criticizing the local government -- a lot of them say it is a learning scenario to know there are people in the world who survive in a site so different as that. It can never be measured what we can achieve together.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Appalachian Host's Haiti Connection

(Dr. John P. David, Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Sciences/ Public Administration at WVU-Tech and Director of the Southern Appalachian Labor School is Global Volunteers' host representative in West Virginia.)

In a recent issue of Newsweek, Barack Obama made a compelling humanitarian rationale for "Why Haiti Matters." Without question, the disaster that hit the people of that nation was horrific and it is gratifying that the people of the U.S., as well as others around the world, are generously contributing help.

Help for Haiti is nothing new to those concerned about impoverishment. Thousands of religious and humanitarian organizations have been addressing the suffering of the Haitian people for a considerable time and many with those groups incurred the recent loss of human life along with the Haitian people.

In 1982, the Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) was conducting worker education classes at Kellwood Industries, a supplier to Sears of clothing and fabric items. At that time, Kellwood had a competing plant in Port-au-Prince and threatened West Virginia employees that production could be moved to Haiti, where workers were paid $2.40 per day, if they did not agree to a concessionary contract. As a result, SALS was involved in assisting with a major film about conditions in both Haiti and West Virginia based on the struggle for economic survival by workers in both locations. The film, titled Bitter Cane, went on to win second place as a document-tary in the Cannes International Film Festival and an edited version was shown nationally on PBS.

Economic conditions in Haiti during that period prompted many Haitians to flee the nation in rickety boats, with some making it to the Florida shore and others being washed ashore dead. Many Haitian women, who spoke a version of Creole, were rounded up and sent to the Federal Prison in Alderson, where they were employed sewing garments for U.S. soldiers. Many people from religious and humanitarian groups, in the quest for social justice, worked with these women and SALS even offered a English literacy program for them.

A brief history of the relationship between the U.S. and Haiti is worth noting. Haiti had a role in the birth of our nation, was an impetus for the American Civil War, and partnered in economic exploitation of both Haitian and West Virginia workers. Thousands of Haitians have been imprisoned as boat people in U.S. jails, including many women housed at the Federal Women's Prison in Alderson.

As many may know, times were not going well in 1779 for George Washington's Revolutionary Army. It was in that year that hundreds of Haitian soldiers came to our shores and fought with American and French soldiers against the British so that the United States of America could emerge as an independent nation.

Those Haitian soldiers returned to Haiti and inspired the independence movement in Haiti. In 1804, this resulted in the only independent nation formed by those brought to the New World as slaves from West Africa. The existence of Haiti was not comforting to the plantation owners in "The South" and fear of what could happen here contributed to the Civil War and rise of the confederacy in the U.S. As a result, Haiti was not recognized by the U.S. until the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. did not focus on Haiti until Frederick Douglas, the late African American scholar and orator, was appointed as the first U.S. Emissary in 1883.

Haiti at the time was a prosperous jewel in France's crown and independence from France came at a price of 150 million francs, a humongous sum in the day that was not paid in full until 1947 and basically bankrupted the country. The current value of what Haiti paid was over $208 billion. While France sent the Statue of Liberty to the U.S., it extracted immense wealth from the Haitians and contributed to the impoverishment of its people to this day.

The U.S. eventually replaced France in exploiting Haiti. This occurred first through raw materials and later through usage of a very cheap labor pool and tax-free imports. The U.S. marines occupied Haiti for several decades and the U.S. supported dictators such as "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Baby Doc, who has been living on the French Riviera for more than two decades, is currently in the news over the millions of absconded Haitian dollars he has squirreled in Swiss bank accounts.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest who espoused liberation theology, became the first democratically elected present in Haiti's history, but was overthrown within a year. In 1994, Aristide ran again for President, received a landslide vote, and continued his controversial policies including a demand for France to refund money extorted from Haiti between 1825 and 1885. A 2004 coup again moved him from office. Aristide is still in exile in South Africa.

(Readers interested in the connection between Haiti and West Virginia are invited to watch "Bitter Cane" available from the Southern Appalachian Labor School or through Film Collection with the WV Department of Culture and History.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reflections From Fanni, A Hungarian Student

The following is written by a 16-year-old student in conversational English classes taught by Global Volunteers in Hungary. - Milt Diehl, Volunteer Team Leader

Global Volunteer Ann Marie Cox teaches English to Fanni's geography class.
When I first met the Global Volunteers, the question was why right here, why to Hódmezõvásárhely? And the answer was really surprising: because in Hungary this is the only town where they are invited to. My reaction: how can it be that such good people are invited only to one place in the whole country? I could hardly believe it.

But it is true, and the volunteers' are so kind and helpful that the local people, student’s and teacher’s want to be helpful to the volunteers and talk and meet with them. I am glad to know many volunteers. Speaking with the volunteers always makes me happy. They are very attentive so the problem due to the lacks in my English knowledge is surmounted. That is the very first reason why I felt in love with this feeling given by the conversation of English speakers.

Besides they are really, really nice, they are always smiling, and have a good sense of humour The continuous speaking taught me many things. First of all how to speak in English in an clear way and speed with correct accent. Moreover my listening comprehension has improved, and I always learn new words, expressions which are useful. I really enjoy all the time what I spend with them, their calm takes me over then, and thinking in English works out, better expressions come to my mind and the speaking becomes more immediate. I enjoy this state. And when it comes during the lesson, it is fantastic. However, we have teachers who speak and teach in English well, it is not the same. A lesson with native English is always a great fun. We have a certain vocabulary in certain subjects, but the natives always have more to show us. The way they speak is very enjoyable, and their personality always give the final spice for it.

A very interesting and good part of those lessons is when we teach something in Hungarian to the volunteers, like 'puha' (soft). OK, Hungarian is a hard language, but we like their first pronunciation. Later they become better, and more clear.

Me, a student, who tries to keep in touch with the volunteers, can not say other, just to come here and have fun with the locals. And sorry for the mistakes. I will work on improving, and I will work on it during speaking with you and writing you as well. -Fanni, an enthusiastic student

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Our first week in Ghana!

Who knew the welcome we were about to receive in Sench Ferry? Walking through the village, there suddenly were kids everywhere greeting us with hugs and handshakes. We all agreed that we had an overwhelming feeling of warmth and genuine happiness. This could easily be described as a Human Blanket of Friendship!!

The village had arranged a welcome ceremony. There were chairs set up around a clearing under some trees. They even hired a DJ for music and entertainment. Several welcome speeches were given. We shook hands with the chiefs and introduced ourselves to the village. A highlight for me was the “drama” put on by the kids, called The Life of a Child. All were proud of the children to perform for the audience.

And then there was dancing! Mystery Jane got us started when a local gentleman asked her to dance. Kathleen and Bonnie jumped right in and almost instantly had many kids to dance with. It was grad a kid or two and dance. FUN!
We said farewell after final set of meetings and a tour of the soon-to-be Senchi Ferry Library. Yeah Deb for all your hard work raising this money!

I would like to bottle up all the warmth and energy from this first introduction to the community and share it with the world.

Update by John
Since arriving in Senchie Ferry with the rest of the Global Volunteers team three days ago we have seen day by day just how deeply this sense of devotion to children reaches into the entire community. It is a devotion enthusiastically inspired by Global Volunteers, which has invited us each here to participate in helping the Senchie community grow stronger in its self reliance and confidence in pursuit of the priorities it has set.

The priorities set by the community and adopted by Global Volunteers largely revolve around the children, from the current library project to the assistant school teaching we will do here.

Day Three Report by Sandy

Another hot, humid, sunny day. A walk through the village brought children out greet the “Ebronies” (white man or woman). Stopped at the clinic to drop off Sarah and Bobbi Jo for their assignments. Two new newborns and a waiting room full of patients awaited them.

The rest of the gang headed to the library worksite. John, Haley and Sandy mixed mud and packed it around the conduit tubes. Jane showed her stuff carrying blocks. Ed masterminded the conduit cutting and placement into the electrical boxes. Pam, Ellie, Bonnie, Kathleen and Deb sang songs and played games with the children. At 12:30 we began our walk back to the Guest House. We had lunch, another great meal, and were off to the bead factory and market.

From John:
The importance of children to our collective reason for being here emerged, as the children of the village dressed in their cleaned and pressed uniforms returned to the village’s schools for the first time since their Christmas break began and the members of our group who volunteered as teachers – Ellie, Jane and Kathleen -- joined in classroom activities.

The schools are simple concrete block affairs with shutters and doors that open to allow the air to cool their poorly lit classrooms. But the children are incredibly happy and well looked after. They go to school only through the sixth grade in the three schools Global Volunteers is sponsoring.

The rest of us – Haley, Sandy, Pam, her irrepressible husband Ed and I – joined the workers for day two of construction work on the library Global Volunteers is building. The library will be a first for the entire region and serve communities for miles around when complete. When we arrive there is already a shell and a roof. Our morning was spent moving more than a hundred cinder blocks, wheeling barrows of mud to mix with sand, arranging scaffolding, mixing cement by hand, passing blocks to the masons up on the scaffold, offloading a truckload of wood for the framing and continuing to ready conduit for the electrical work. We also completed the upper courses of stone work at he east and west ends of the hallway. This work was all completed by noon, Ghanians and Obronies (whites) working side by side, but the Ghanians directing and guiding the Obronies every step of the way.

My daughter Haley learned how to use a trowel to throw “mud” into the channels carved into the cinder stone for the electrical conduits and then to pack it in and smooth it over, She also helped pitch sand into the wheelbarrow and mixed cement. Needless to say, I am very proud of her.

By 12:30 we were tiredly picking our way back along the network of red dirt roads and paths that thread through schoolyards, backyards and front yards to the St, James House hotel where we are all staying and where lunch would be waiting. Earlier in the day, as we walked to the schools and the library we saw the scores of village children in their fresh uniforms assembling outdoors near their schools and heard them sing their national anthem.

Many of the children we saw in the morning now roamed the pathways or milled about near the schools. I noticed that the village women set up tables near the schools and handed the children fruit freshly peeled with a machete, and such things as bags of nuts and also bags of water. Children of all ages approached us as always with open faces, hands out, touching us, holding us, hugging us, sometimes begging for soccer balls for their pictures to be taken.

Often it seems to me many of the children are simply using these encounters to practice their English and I have begin to notice for fewer requests for soccer balls, at least today. They seem to want merely to practice saying, “Hello!” and “How are you?” and “Good afternoon, sir.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help for Haiti

Many people have called to ask how they can help in Haiti. We're so gratified by our humanitarian volunteers! This tragedy focuses the world's attention, above all, on the critical importance of sustained economic development and a stable infrastructure, emphasizing how quickly social collapse occurs when basic human needs go unmet. Throughout history, Haiti has suffered through political, environmental and economic disaster. Now, natural disaster is a parody of this tragic reality. While Global Volunteers isn't positioned to provide emergency disaster relief, our work in host communities helps provide these critical underpinnings....adequate housing, education, health care, bolster social structures and support community capacity. It will take years of sustained global assistance and stable leadership for Haiti to become self-supporting. Right now, massive financial resources and trained personnel are required for the critical rescue and recovery effort. Global Volunteers supports U.N. relief efforts in Haiti.