Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Spring into Service" with Global Volunteers!

“Spring into Service” with Global Volunteers to receive a special limited discount offer for our March and April teams!

Four or more volunteers who apply by January 31 for any of these 28 teams in 16 countries will receive a discount of $200 off our standard service program fee, per volunteer, for one-, two- or three-week international programs or $100 off our standard service program fee, per volunteer, for USA programs. No other discounts apply.

Please encourage others to volunteer in our five fundamental project areas: education (especially promotion of girls education), labor and community infrastructure, health care, child care, and food and nutrition.

Call us at 800-487-1074 for details and we'll assist you every step of the way. Our worldwide host communities can’t wait to welcome you!!

Check out this link for more details & service program dates: http://globalvolunteer.org/special/springspecial.asp

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Vietnam Team (Nov. 20 - Dec. 3) Journal Entry!

Team Journal, Thursday December 2

Quote: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” ~ Rilke

I am becoming friends with Miss Van Ahn and Miss Linh, the first – third grade teachers who I have been with so much. They give me my assignment when I come in and I’m getting used to the routine and the workbook the students use. I pretty much follow it, but sometimes the opportunity presents to do something else, like today when several of the little girls had “baby dolls” in little soft “cradles.” I taught them the Rock-a-Bye Baby lullaby (with some animation) and I think they got a kick out of it.

It was very nice to have the opportunity to chat informally with Miss Linh and Miss Van Ahn as I was waiting for Roger and Pam for lunch. I learned more about them and asked them directly if they think the children learn from us, the volunteers. They said “oh yes!” so that made me feel good.

This afternoon I went to the water puppet show which was totally unique and delightful. Pam met me outside the theater afterward and we walked to a wonderful café which had a third floor balcony overlooking a busy intersection. We had a very good conversation over coffee and I had mango ice cream for the first time in my life. It was delicious.

We returned to the hotel and I had just a short while to work on the computer before going out to dinner with Pam and Roger and his friend, Tang. We went to a very nice little restaurant and sat upstairs, this time at a table overlooking a small narrow dark street. Now they are out having coffee somewhere and I am very content to be in my room typing this journal.

Tomorrow is our last day. I have mixed feelings—it will be hard to say good-bye to the school and Miss Van Ahn and Miss Linh, who I will be working with all day, and yet I am ready to go home to snowy Minnesota.

Karen Alseth, Volunteer

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Safety Trumps Everything" is our Motto!

At Global Volunteers' 2010 Annual Staff Training in St. Paul, Minnesota, country managers and volunteer team leaders were certified by the American Red Cross to administer CPR in emergencies. Because "safety trumps everything" is our motto in providing service opportunities worldwide, this training is required of all team leaders annually. You can feel certain you're well cared for on Global Volunteers teams!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Exceptional Staff Recognized and Thanked

Today's all staff meeting -- within our two-week training sessions in St. Paul, Minnesota -- was highlighted by naming three outstanding staff members for special recognition.

Regional Manager Dorota Wierzbicka(right in photo) was presented with Global Volunteers' first Staff Person of the Decade Award in appreciation for her long-term, consistent leadership in Global Volunteers' field operations. Volunteering on our Poland program when it first started in 1990, Dorota initially served as our team interpreter in Siedlce and was promoted to Poland Country Manager within two years. She was named Global Volunteers Staff Person of the Year in 2001 and 2004, and consistently receives the highest possible ratings on volunteer evaluations. In 2008, she became Regional Manager for European, South American and South Pacific programs, and has led teams in South Africa, Hungary and Tanzania in addition to Poland. In noting Dorota's contribution to our staff team, Global Volunteers Vice President for Operations Michelle Heerey said: "Dorota reminds me of that steady, quiet presence that you can always rely on, and makes certain all the bases are covered behind the scenes. At the same time, however, she can be a strong taskmaster and inspire people to do what they need to do!" We're grateful to Dorota for her two decades of loyal service to Global Volunteers worldwide!

Volunteer Manager Julie Costa (on right) received Global Volunteers' 2010 Staff Person of the Year Award for leadership in preparing new volunteer coordinators, support to the marketing and volunteer coordination team, consistently superior service to prospective and Encore volunteers, and loyalty to our mission of excellence in service. Julie joined the staff in 1994, and has twice received Staff Person of the Month awards. She's served on 18 Global Volunteers service programs!Global Volunteers' Vice President for Volunteer Coordination and Marketing Pat Forciea said: "Julie has been a great support to me and an inspiration to my staff. I always look to her for quality advice." Kudos, Julie, for 16 years of immeasurable contributions to Global Volunteers' staff.

November's Staff Person of the Month is Jake Philbrook, Global Volunteers' Technology Manager. In presenting this award to Jake, Global Volunteers' Vice President for Finance and Administration Bonnie Christensen said: "In the years I've worked with Jake, I've appreciated his work, but it was only when he began working directly for me that I came to understand what a true professional he is in his field." Jake was specifically noted for his diligence in the recent upgrade in our database. He previously was named Staff Person of the Month in April, 2006.

Thanks for your cool head, Jake!

We're very proud of our bright and dedicated staff, and recognize that as our volunteers are Global Volunteers' "heart and hands," our staff are the feet that keep us firmly planted in possibilities.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Annual Staff Training Begins in St. Paul

"Welcome to snowy Minnesota!" Global Volunteers CEO Bud Philbrook welcomed back 11 of our country managers to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they joined USA staff at our annual staff training, beginning today.

After a morning review of our 27-year history of service worldwide, the conversation evolved into a lively discussion about responding to our host partners' service requests during uncertain economic times. Global Volunteers has survived and thrived since its founding in 1984, despite varying impacts at the corporate and local levels, Philbrook said. "We have always prioritized the needs of our host communities," he stressed. "Yet, our ability to provide assistance to the children we serve is directly related to the number of volunteers we mobilize." With volunteer numbers down during the past two recession years, our resources have likewise diminished, he said. As the economy improves, our challenge is to regain our share of the available volunteer resource to support our partners' vision.

Country Managers expressed their concern about the impact of decreased volunteer numbers in their communities. They share a global wish for a rapid economic recovery to restore our service partnerships to full capacity. We welcome you on our service programs this winter and encourage you to contact us about our needs worldwide.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We Need You Now! Continue to Vote for Global Volunteers!!!

Good morning Global Volunteers!

We've hit the final stretch and we must keep voting in the Star Tribune Full Page Project! Please do everything you can today to keep voting each hour and engaging those around you. Thank you, again, for your dedication!!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Global Volunteers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi on Nov. 17, 2010 during the capital city's millennial year

Global Volunteers' team in Hanoi celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Foreign Trade University. FTU is a public university; considered to be one of the top institutions of higher learning in Vietnam. Volunteers teach conversational English skills to students in English language classes.

Please Come and Work With Us in Tanzania!

To all my beloved volunteers who have come on the Tanzania program, I take this opportunity to thank you and wish you my best and would also like to invite you again to help us by serving on another program. And we also ask you to encourage your friends and family to also come to our community as a volunteer.

In the past 6 months, 30 Global Volunteers came to Pomerini and Ipalamwa. Whole heartedly, they contributed their time and talents in the two communities through serving, teaching, and learning with us. There were plenty of opportunities for the volunteers to help us in various projects teaching students, construction, attending patients, equipping the community with primary health supplies, painting, and coaching in sports.

As always, the people of Pomerini and Ipalamwa extended a warm welcome to the Global Volunteers. The local people took time off from their busy lives and freely mingled with the volunteers to know more about the volunteers and also to share information about their lives and the needs and goals of the community.

Computer education was a welcome subject for our students which is presently taught in Pomerini only. Both students and teachers now have a better understanding of Power Point, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc.

The local people learned how to construct an environmentally friendly stove through Global Volunteers. Sixty local people attended the stove construction demonstration which went hand in hand with the teaching of primary health and hygiene to sixteen primary health service providers from eight villages in Pomerini.

Volunteer donations also provided medications and supplies to Pomerini and Ipalamwa Clinics. The schools received supplies like wall maps, erasers, chalk, globes, books, pens and pencils. This has greatly helped our schools in meeting the shortage of supplies.

Thank you for your contribution of your precious time with us, and also your skills, materials, and the good spirit you bring to our community. I want to remind you that our fight to improve our community is still on and with your help we will definitely win. So I kindly request you to come back again.

We love you all,
Edward Mgeni, Tanzania Country Manager

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vote for Global Volunteers in the Star Tribune Full Page Project!

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.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Xin Chao from Hanoi!

Thank you to all the volunteers who have participated in our Global Volunteers Vietnam Program. From September 2009 through September 2010, a total of 47 volunteers served on five teams. For each one, this was a most memorable service experience.

Hanoi is a vibrant city, full of history and contrasts, where the ancient and the modern co-exist side by side. The September team had the great privilege of partaking in the city’s 1000th anniversary celebrations! For ten days, the city “exploded” with a multitude of historic and cultural events, parades, performances , laser shows and fireworks while dedicating new bridges, theaters, and museums… For the volunteers who joined the proud Vietnamese people in celebrating this momentous event, it was a unique experience!

We have consolidated our relationships with our hosts in Hanoi:
Nguyen Binh Kheim High School (NBK) in a residential district where Mr. Hoa, the Principal of the School, and Mr. Hoa, the Head of the English Department, continue to look forward to welcoming our volunteers. Many of the English teachers – at first somewhat shy about working with our volunteers - have now become enthusiastic partners as they realize that they are learning a lot from the volunteers. The children enjoy showing their appreciation to their “teachers” and everyone is always sad on the last day of the service program! The evening “cross-cultural exchange” when older students come to the hotel to take the volunteers on a walk around the historic neighborhood continues to be a success. Foreign Trade University (FTU) has the reputation of being the best University in Hanoi, and is growing very fast. As more volunteers have been lecturing there, the English teachers have learned how to better integrate them into their programs. The students are respectful and appreciative of the opportunity to improve their conversation skills and have been engaging the volunteer teachers in meaningful exchanges. The volunteers on the last team there were invited by some of the students to tour some of the cultural sites around the city.

During the past year on the Vietnam Program, Global Volunteer’s contribution towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals are as follows: On Target 3 – To ensure education for both boys and girls to complete a full course of primary education, we contributed 1148 hours of conversational English and taught other subjects to over 2200 students.

Francoise Yohalem – a Volunteer Team Leader who had lead twice to Hanoi – looks forward to her next assignment there. She advises: “Hanoi is moving fast… unfortunately trying to catch up with Saigon. Go there before it changes too much! You will enjoy the charm, the quaintness, the historical and cultural sites, but, most of all, you will be touched by the kindness, sincerity, and generosity of the Vietnamese people.

Our hosts, community partners, teachers, children, and other Vietnamese whom you have taught or helped while there want to thank you for the help they have received and hope you will visit again. For those of you who cannot do another service program soon, please do continue your service as a sponsor through the Global Volunteers Child Sponsorship program or by telling others about your Vietnam experience as an Encore Team member. We welcome your support in any way. We need your help in our ongoing work in Vietnam.

- Stephen Raja Chinnappan,
Regional Manager – Oceanic Pacific, Asia and Africa

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Happiest Place on Earth

Saludos desde el lugar más feliz del mundo!

Greetings from the happiest place on earth! And the one of the most productive!
In the past 6 months, volunteers contributed 720 hours to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women, Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality, Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health and Goal 6: Combat Diseases. In addition, the volunteers provided a total of 936 hours of labor, working hand-in-hand with our dedicated community partners on achieving their own locally defined development goals.

Cañitas: This lovely tiny town hosted a strong and dedicated team of volunteers. Upon arrival, they witnessed firsthand the consequences of flooding, as the village health clinic was submerged in mud. Patiently, work was initiated by cleaning and scrubbing the inside of the structure while on the outside the garden also needed maintenance. This crew also dug enthusiastically a large dry well next to building, and cleaned the surrounding drainage and property to ensure the effectiveness of the structure during the rainy season year. A walkway was built to enter the building securely and a wall was built inside to separate the infirmary from the doctor’s office. The fence was welded and got lots of green paint! The outside of the building was painted cream and the window frames got chocolate color enamel. And in between all the hard work, a few soccer pick-up games, Costa Rica vs. USA, friendship scored!

CASEM: We supported our dear CASEM this past summer by helping them build a new diner! Faced with difficult economic times, it is their goal to increase income by serving wonderful local cuisine. At the beginning of the year the wood for the diner’s furniture was scraped, sanded and perfected. The first chair rolled out of Faustino´s hands and the others came quickly! Another team built and painted additional storage space at the back of the building to provide room for the new traditional kitchen stove. The tabletops were also sanded and prepared. We celebrated the 200th Team to serve in Costa Rica after 18 years of service in the Monteverde area. This team moved and stored the materials into the newly built storage and prepared the back room for the new chairs and tables.

Join us again: I would like to share what some of our volunteers said after experiencing the service program: “If we get to know people from other countries we will lose distrust” – Pat. “I learned the way the women never gave up during our work and kept trying until everything was done” - Zack, “Speechless at the sincerity of the of the local peoples’ gratitude” - Donna.

Come and work hand-in-hand with people you get to know and support. Let your friends and family know about your experience and encourage them to do the same, or send someone you love to perpetuate this chain of goodwill and peace. Entertaining rides guaranteed! The only line you will have to stand in is to get a shovel or a brush! Adventure in Service, smiles waiting to greet you!

You may also contribute to the priorities of all of our host communities in Costa Rica by clicking here to make a donation to the general Costa Rica fund.
Mil Gracias to all the dedicated volunteers’ families, mother and daughters, college and high school students, friends and colleagues, retirees that refuse to give up work that brings joy, enthusiasm, and knowledge to this happy place. You have made it even happier! So, in the words of Ben Franklin: “Well done is better than well said!"

Tropically yours, Costa Rica Country Manager Nia Salas

Friday, October 22, 2010

Final Day in Ecuador...

Final Day, October 22, 2010

I can’t believe this adventure is over. What a fantastic time I’ve had with this wonderful team!

We board the big bus at the usual time. We’re one less on the team now since Joanne left to go home to Hawaii Thursday night. Six left, or eight really since Carl and Sylvia have been working right alongside of us for many of the work days.

We knew it would be a short day so on arrival at center #2, Bill, Steve Fox, and I got straight to work on the baby changing table. We are learning to make do with what is available as far as materials and tools. Somehow, the table comes together and we hear later from Carl that tia Patti is very pleased with how it turned out. She can now have a sort of “changing assembly line” upstairs in the baby room.

Cora and tia Patti shed a few tears as Cora prepared to leave. With so many babies to care for, Patti understandably is overwhelmed and will miss Cora’s capable hands to assist.

At center #1, Kathleen and Carol helped prepare their charges for the farewell ceremony that would happen at 11 am. Some children are dressed in traditional Ecuadorian outfits, others in skeleton outfits or hats.

The whole team, along with Carl and Sylvia, arrived at Center #1 for the big send off. There were many dances and songs including one performed by the team. “The Wheels on the Bus” sung in Spanish and including all the motions was a big hit with the kids. Gifts were passed out for all the team members.

Everyone had a laugh as Steve Fox and Carl were pulled up by the tias to do a dance.

After many hugs and goodbyes, we again boarded the bus for our trip back to Quito. We stopped at a local mall to enjoy a lunch in the food court. Dinner was at a barbeque restaurant where we ate way too much but enjoyed each other’s company for the last time.

Bill, Cora and I left for the airport at 9 pm for an 11:30pm flight. The flight was delayed until nearly 1am so all were exhausted by the time we boarded. Bill and I ran immediately after landing in Atlanta leaving Cora in the security line trying desperately to make to our connection. We made it by minutes and were left wondering if Cora made her connection that was supposed to leave ten minutes after ours.

Steve Fox was to leave Saturday morning and Carol and Kathleen were off to the Galapagos on Monday.

I will remember this trip for my fellow team members, the gracious Ecuadorian people, the wonderful leadership of Carl Granger, and of course, those cute kids.

Thought for the day: I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. ~George Bernard Shaw

Submitted by Jane Sauther

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Team Journal ~ First Day of Teaching in Poland!

Journal Entry for October 5, 2010

I went in to today, Tuesday, a bit apprehensive and sleep deprived – it would seem that for me, it does not matter which side of the desk I am on when it comes to ‘first day jitters!’ But, breakfast came and went, and next thing I knew I was headed with driver Roman and three of my teammates towards our students in the city.

We arrived and began teaching in a flurry, and wouldn’t you know it… everyone had a fantastic time. Mike mastered a few key vocabulary words with the younger crowd, while 28 year old Vicki wowed the 5th and 6th graders with her ‘Awesome Cheer.’ Jim enjoyed many reunions with old summer camp friends, and I seemed to navigate the teen students without so much as a cross word or stern look (simply one invitation to speak in front of the class to spotlight chatty Damian’s language skills).

The afternoon was also filled with activities as folks such as Vicki, Darlene, Bruce and Ralph prepped for their first afternoon tutoring sessions. Dorota and I even had the privilege to drop in on Darlene at her after school program, as well as Marge and Rob with their advanced students. And may I say, Rob’s kids were joyously enthusiastic – due in equal part to English and Pan Rob from Denver no doubt. 

As our first day of teaching draws to a close and we hurriedly prepare for lesson #2, I am struck by a number of things. First and foremost, we are all so privileged to be here. No matter the motivation or intentions, we are a dynamic group of unique, colorful, educated, worldly folks who truly have something to offer to and learn from the Polish people everyday. Speaking personally, I know I have already learned a great deal from our team, Dorota, our students, and countless others that have impacted our journey in ways both obvious and unseen.

I want to thank everyone for building my appreciation for this program and I wish everyone fun celebrations in the immediate future and more life-changing connections and experiences in the weeks to come.

In closing, please – for my sake if for no other reason, as I am leaving so soon – never pass up an opportunity in this wonderful country side. Whatever the offer may be… Play tennis with Marek, drink tea with the deputy governor and play football with your students. As Dorota so wisely pointed out last Sunday, our teaching is a means to an end NOT an end in itself.

So, make your volunteer adventure rich, bold, meaningful and unexpected. I expect nothing less of you all and will look forward to hearing your stories in the weeks and months to come!!

Stephanie Peterson, Global Volunteers Volunteer Relations Manager

Friday, September 24, 2010

Report From Romania

It is hard to believe I only have two days left at the clinic. I found out today that there will be only one person on the next team, someone who hasn't been here before. There were supposed to be 2 people and sounds like one person had to cancel at the last minute. It actually crossed my mind to see if I could stay for another week but I think I need to get home for multiple reasons, like making money so I can come back. Apparently the team after this next one has 2 people, then Nov. has 6 people, then 2 people in Dec. and after that I don't know. I am worried about these small teams, especially with new babies and others who need attention.

I've started writing in the childrens' journals that we leave for the upcoming volunteers. It is always fun to read back, especially to entries I wrote when I was last here in February. Some children have made good progress and for others it is very slow. I was pleased to see Cristi Daniel who has Down's syndrome becoming more active and then I realized he is 4 years old and probably not even at 1 year developmentally. Still, as long as they are doing better that is the most important thing.
Read more about Volunteer Evan on her blog!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Update from Italy

We would like to express our most sincere thanks to all our Italy volunteers! Thanks to you, we helped thousands of both young and adult students learn English since our program began in 1995.

In the last twelve months, we have served in the following communities: Cisternino, Francavilla Fontana, Via Roma and Monopoli. We have taught conversational English to students from elementary through high school, and we also conducted lessons for teachers and other adult community members.

Altogether during the last twelve months, 62 volunteers taught approximately 2,000 students and provided 6,200 hours of English teaching instruction! All of this work has contributed towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education.

Our recent Italy Team Leader Pam Cromer reported to me: “There are not enough words to say how wonderful the teaching experience is in Cisternino. The teachers are delighted to have our participation and go out of their way to accommodate us in any way they can. The students literally cheer when the volunteers walk in the room...one could not ask for a better welcome. The volunteers stay at a nice hotel with spectacular views from the balconies of each room. The staff at the hotel are very helpful and make you feel right at home. Needless to say, it is the perfect place to volunteer!”

Keep coming back and please refer your friends!
Sincerely, Dorota Wierzbicka
Global Volunteers Associate Director for Europe and Latin America

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Connecting" in Tanzania

It was about 10 days into our service project, around 12:15PM and my son Jack and I were walking back to the Mission House from a tiring morning of hauling five gallon buckets of water, gravel, sand, and cement around the job site of building the new kitchen at the Secondary School. As we approached the Mission House, Jack said to me, "I'm exhausted. I think I am going to go take a nap and skip lunch" (you know a 14-year-old boy is tired when they want to skip a meal!).

No sooner were these words out of his mouth than off to our left we heard the voices of little kids calling out to him, "Jackie! Jackie! Unacheza mpira???" All fatigue instantly vanished from Jack's mind as he took off full speed to go play ball with the kids! He LOVED playing with those kids.

He had such an incredible time in Pommern -- from his friendship with our team leader, Edward Mgeni, to our team, working alongside Dr. Godlove, or the friendships he made throughout the village. It nearly broke my heart watching him say goodbye to those kids on our last day :)

Thank you all at Global Volunteers for all that you do to foster such amazing relationships around the world.
- Amy Kleissler

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

"Each Day Makes My Heart Sing"

I'm teaching conversational English in India.

For me, each day makes my heart sing. At the end of an especially exhausting one, a Grade 4 girl with a beautiful smile rushed in and took my hand.

"You come back, please. You are the best. My story made me happy," she beamed. She had been in my class that morning where I had the students personalize a story, then read it aloud. Her happiness made my day.

One of my assignments was with five 13-year-old boys. We played words games and wrote stories. I soon figured out that the cool dude who was the leader of the pack was an expert at appearing to know more than he did.

When I discovered that he couldn't complete his work, he quickly diverted my attention with, "You look nice, you have a nice smile". He didn't know many words, but he knew how to use them.

At the orphanage they held a touching goodbye ceremony when we completed our two weeks of service. The children sat on the floor and sang songs. Some did a dance, then they all came up to say a personal goodbye.

There was a special glow in that room and it affirmed, for me, that a volunteer vacation is the way to go. And if you are up for a real challenge, head for India. You won't regret it.
- Judy Lees, India Volunteer

Friday, July 02, 2010

Serving in the Tatra Mountains of Poland

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 Cindy and Cortney. Read more of our team blog here!

Contributed by Steve R.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Our Week on the "Rez"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thought for the day: Blessed are the cracked; for they shall let in the light.

The day started as usual…but warmer inside and outside. With the boiler was turned on due to the unseasonably cold weather, we all woke up toasty in our bedrooms. Rested and optimistic, we read Wednesday’s journal over breakfast and discussed the day’s work plans. Our first stop was at the Tribal Offices to talk with Sweets Kaline, who had made contact with Alvin Racine, a local elder who is deeply grieving the loss of his wife to cancer. Through the new tribal Elder Assistance Program, we’ve been asked to work with his adult children at his house to help fill in the low areas of his front and back yards, and maybe help him clean up his shed.

While at the Tribal offices, we made a brief, unplanned presentation to a gathering of tribal council and committee members, thanking them for their invitation to work with the Blackfeet people, and explaining a bit about Global Volunteers’ work worldwide. Sweets filled us in on a few aspects of the upcoming tribal general election, and described the many initiatives she’s undertaken to help motivate local residents to become more involved in community projects.

After leaving the tribal offices, Steve walked across the street to the Care Center while Michele and Don dropped off Rosa and Kevin at Cleo’s apartment. Don and Michele followed Sweets to meet Alvin at his house to see what volunteer help he needs next week. Afterwards, Don returned to the Care Center to assist Steve with the lawn trimming and raking. What an amazing difference two days has made! They’ve uncovered the overgrown garden areas and cleared the way for mowing. The rains returned around 4:00 – just as the dynamic duo was winding down, so they joined the elders gathered around the TV in the activity room to watch “Dream Keeper,” the movie we watched in our meeting room last night, and shared with the Care Center today. Meanwhile, Kevin and Rosa made immense progress at Cleo’s apartment. They primed all the rooms they taped off yesterday…the kitchen, living room, and bedroom. Perhaps they’ll be able to finish the final coat on Friday. They’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Cleo’s family and background, and recalled the interesting stories she’s shared as she’s carved up the elk roast to dry in strips while they work in her small apartment.

During the afternoon, Michele met with Connie at Eagle Shield, Denise at Head Start, Angela at the Community College and Joyce at the Tribal office to schedule work projects for the upcoming teams. All reiterated their gratitude for Global Volunteers’ efforts and look forward to the next team of 10 volunteers arriving on Saturday.

The team enjoyed a tasty meal of salad, French dip sandwiches and fries at the Care Center before returning to the Boarding Dorm. After dropping off our backpacks, we all piled in Kevin’s rental car and headed out to locate the elk preserve south of town on the cut across road. Halfway to Heart Butte, we turned west on a narrow road Michele remembered from previous years. Expectantly, and armed with Kevin’s GPS, we peered out all windows hoping to see the elk Marvin Weatherwax described to us earlier in the day. While visually scanning the trees and hills, we reveled in the gorgeous landscape – creeks, cliffs, peaks and wildflowers which we stopped frequently to photograph. Over the rocks and muddy potholes, we emerged in East Glacier an hour later, telling jokes and laughing as if we had known each other much longer than the five days when we became a team. Somehow, the hard work has created a lightness in our effort, which we enjoy together while working toward the common goal of service to the community we’ve grown to truly respect.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Thought for the day: The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augestine

Final impressions of one week in Browning, Montana on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation:

The opportunity to be introduced and immersed in the Blackeet culture could not have been more complete without our team leader. She arranged meetings with individual tribal leaders and other Blackfeet who told not only the stories of the reservation, but also their personal stories.

Individual contact with the local people as the team went about their daily service projects and free time also gave us the chance to become a very close-knit team and to enjoy work projects and free time together.

From the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains to the West and the rolling wind-swept plains to the East, a week in Browning, Montana was well-spent.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Working on the Reservation

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

During the morning drive to town, the team admired unusually clear views wispy clouds shrouding majestic mountains partially covered with snow. After our orientation tours the previous day, the team members seemed eager to start working hard. Showcasing our flexibility, the team changed their plans when we discovered that the Tribal Center was closed due to the Flood Memorial and the nursing home staff was busy with administrative meetings. Team leader Michele dropped off the team at the Blackfeet Community College while she figured out how we could help with the Flood Memorial effort.

Initially, Don, Steve, Kevin and Rosa worked clearing a rock garden overrun with weeds. The small rocks and weeds needed to be removed before a lining could be put on to keep out future weeds. Larger rocks would then be added to form a rock garden to greet students and faculty as they drove into the campus parking lot.

Using shovels and rakes, the team exercised their muscles in the surprisingly sunny and calm weather. A maintenance worker named Bony told interesting stories such as his month long trip to Hawaii and his four children. He informed us about a Kids’ Rodeo that his son was participating that night.

Rosa was called up to work at the Head Start Center where a worker and her extended family were helping to prepare a meal for hundreds of attendees at the Flood Memorial. She found the workers very warm and friendly. Rosa said that she could not believe how many baked potatoes that she put aluminum foil around!

Kevin was called up to work at the care center. After visiting with several residents, he played checkers with Lester, who proved to be a formidable opponent. Lester could move any red or black checker in any direction. Whenever he captured a checker, he always had a friendly smile. Kevin talked with Joan, a former elementary school teacher and principal, who is a resident at the care center. She told many stories including how a relative was able to lasso a baby out of the water during the flood of June 8, 1946.

Meanwhile, Don and Steve were slaving away at the BCC. They had suggested to Bony to use the backhoe to break up the soil and shovel rocks into a mini-car that could dump its cargo. Bony decided to use the backhoe, but also enjoyed the more strenuous approach of shoveling by hand. He had many entertaining stories.

“Mama Bear,” aka Michele, gathered her “cubs” and took them to the Flood Memorial site, which was a field near the Indian Museum with a circular arena. The team cut watermelon, set up tables and trays of food, and assembled plates for 75 elders who were not able to attend. After a few speeches, a flag ceremony, a drum ceremony, a few speeches by flood survivors, and a few more speeches for good measure, the ceremony was over and about 400 people descended on the food tables. The Global Volunteers team worked frantically to keep up serving food while the line progressed. Afterwards, the team had a chance to eat some of the leftovers.

The team had a chance for a bonus volunteer activity to clean up the pots, pans and serving utensils and tour the Head Start Building.

Finally, the team members decided to go to the kids’ rodeo in the rodeo grounds next to the Indian Museum. A few children rode horses bareback during the warm-ups. Young equestrians guided their horses to gallop down, steer through a set of poles twice, and gallop back. Very young children competed as “sheep riders”: trying to stay on a sheep, often with the assistant of a father running along for support. Most riders only stayed on for a few feet, but one rider nearly followed the sheep out of the ring. In all cases, the audience cheered on the young cowboy-Indians.

The team returned to the boarding dorm after a hard day’s work. It was a great day and we expect the week to continue to be great.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Our Montana Journey

Monday, June 7

Thought for the Day: From Tom Crawford, local elder: “Think of others before you think of yourself.”

Monday…our team’s first official work day after a weekend of orientation and settling into our comfortable lodging was both busy and exciting. We got an early start and after eating breakfast, we headed into Browning while threatening storm clouds gathered in the distance.

At the Blackfeet Community College (BCC), we were greeted by Connie Bremner, Eagle Shield Center Director, who described their services and residents. Eagle Sheield is one of the main wor projects sites for Global Volunteers teams.

Angela Johnson, BCC director of student services, and Jolene Kennedy, dean of Academic Affairs, told us about the BCC mission and courses. Smokey, the plant manager, discussed some of the maintenance work we’ll be doing this week on site.

Angela led us on a tour of the campus. Personally, as a college student myself, it was interesting to see the similarities between the BCC and my own campus.

We met with Nikki, director of the Blackfeet Academy, an alternative high school program on the BCC campus. She was eager to tell us about her students, especially about those involved in a service club that traveled to the Dominican Republic to assist with earthquake clean up. We met one of these students, Ronnie, a recent graduate, whose optimism and determination were quite inspiring. Some of the students will be assigned to work with Global Volunteers throughout the summer to earn community service credit.

After lunch, Michele and Steve finally had time to go to the “infamous shed” to find additional team supplies while Don, Kevin and I helped Smokey pick up trash in a section of the campus behind the Exxon Station. Despite the relentless wind, we picked up as many plastic bags, wood planks and soda cans as our garbage bags could hold. This appears to be a covert dumping ground for cast-off rfefuse, and Smokey works hard to keep the area cleaned up.

As we worked, Smokey told us stories about hunting moose and living at the Boarding Dorm. Ronnie arrived to work with us, and talked about his plans to attend BCC in the fall and to eventually become a lawyer.

Although the dark clouds overhead seemed ready to burst, it didn’t rain. When Michele and Steve returned in the Global Volunteers van, we drove back to the dorm for dinner.

We were invited to a traditional Indian “sweat” that evening in Heart Butte, so, towels in hand, we departed in Steve’s car and drove on a scenic route through the plains, with snowy mountains always in the distance.

As non-Indians, it was a privilege for us to attend the sweat, which is a kind of weekly “church” for local residents. While the plastic-covered dome seemed small on the outside, it fit many inside. Steve, Kevin, Michele and I braved the heat to attend the fascinating ceremony of prayer and song. We were so lucky to have experienced such an important tradition in Blackfeet culture, and it’s something I’ll never forget. However, one round of sweating was enough for us, so we thanked our hosts and returned “home.” It’s amazing how much was packed into one day, and I can only guess what’s in store for our team in the next four days!


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Global Volunteers Montana Team #64

Saturday, June 5

A team of four intrepid volunteers and a fearless team leader arrived in Browning, Montana for a one-week service project with the Blackfeet Indian Nation.

Most of the group arrived at the Blackfeet Boarding Dorm uneventfully.

Steve, a retired school teacher, drove the 670 miles from his home in Puyallup, Washington to Browning. This gave him a chance to travel through the Flathead Lake Valley to the West of Glacier National Park. He arrived early, explored Browning, visited the Plains Indians Museum and was waiting at the boarding dorm.

Team leader Michele, the co-founder of Global Volunteers met Rosa, a University of Scranton student from Long Island, New York and Don, a member of the Global Volunteers staff at the airport. The three traveled in the Global Volunteers van for three hours to Browning where Steve was already waiting.

Michele, Rosa, Steve and Don took a quick tour of Browning and then returned to the Boarding Dorm where a hot meal was waiting. After dinner and stories of each others’ adventures, and Michele thinking that Steve was a little off the wall, the four settled in for the night. Something else was in store for Kevin.

Kevin, an aviation engineer from Virginia, had his first flight canceled due to a mechanical problem and notified Global Volunteers emergency line that he would be arriving late. With a seven-hour wait before his baggage would arrive in Great Falls Airport, he rented a car and toured the Lewis and Clark Center and the river near Great Falls. Arriving at the locked dorm at 12:30am, he had the pleasure of sleeping under the stars in sleeping bag in his car.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday morning awakened to a crisp day and a delighted team as we found Kevin asleep in his car.

A few adjustments were made to the day’s plans because all of the team was now aboard.

Kevin and Don attended 10:30 AM mass while the other team members checked the storage shed. After mass, it was a quick tour of Browning, a cup of tea at the casino and a visit to the Plains Indians Museum.

The first highlight of the day was an Eastern tour of the reservation along the boundary of Glacier National Park. We were up close and personal with the mountains at 5,900 feet above sea level. A quick stop at East Glacier National Park lodge included a walk through the lodge.

Then the super highlight of the day was a visit to a local art gallery, where we had a chance to visit one on one and as a team with some of the Native American artists. We heard their stories of legends and artistic interpretations. Returning to the dorm, we prepared dinner, actually warmed up leftovers from the evening before.

Our first formal team meeting was then held and the plans for the coming day were discussed. This was a great start to an even greater week.

Thought of the day:
We often wonder what we can do for others, especially for those in need. It is not a sign of powerlessness when we say: “we must help one another”. To help one another is, to first of all acknowledge, in the presence of God that we belong to each other as children of the same God. Without this acknowledgement of human solidarity, what we do for one another does not flow from who we truly are. We are brothers and sisters, not competitors or rivals, we are children of God. Where we work, God works with us and we find all our brothers and sisters.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Good Friends and a "Scratcher" Fulfills her Dream to Serve in Romania

There are two things people know about me: I’m turning 40 in July, and I’m passionate about volunteering. I've wanted to work with Global Volunteers for over ten years, and the timing couldn’t be more right for me personally, professionally, and spiritually.

Instead of a big birthday celebration, I’ve signed up to volunteer in Romania at the Tutova Clinic caring for infants and children who were abandoned or given up.

In order to do so, I had to raise $2,495 for my one week service, plus pay for my airfare. I was concerned that asking for donations from friends and family would be difficult given the economy, but they pulled through and I was lucky enough to meet my goal months before my service date!

My last concern was the airfare. Like so many others, the economy has hit me as well. I've been furloughed and have lost 7% of my salary and hit with other financial set backs. I'm trying hard to keep my credit card debt down, but ended up charging $938 for the airline ticket to Romania. I had $225 in extra donations that I was putting towards the flight, but still had to come up with the $700.

While in Phoenix Memorial Day Weekend visiting family, I decided to buy a $2.00 lottery scratcher. It ended up being a winner! When I scratched off the prize amount, I was shocked to see I had just won $777, almost the exact amount needed for the airline ticket! If that isn't the Universe being good to me, I don't know what is! Eternally grateful and heading to Romania!

Cindy Cordova

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tips for Responsible Volunteering

As our volunteer teams grow larger and more frequent, we offer these tips for maximizing your positive impact in the host community:

First, confine your service to work projects based on local leaders' vision, commitment and contributions. Such volunteer projects don't cost local people more effort than the volunteer contribution merits.

Second, be aware that usually a minimum commitment of at least a week is required for you to become fully integrated into the work project, and therefore to make a genuine contribution.

Third, note that only full-day service efforts are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers. When you work through Global Volunteers, you're mobilized in full-time work projects, five days per week. (The IRS requires "no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation.")

Fourth, ethical service is self-supporting in the host community, and doesn't draw financial resources away from local people. Rather contributions support the local economy, and invest in local initiatives without creating dependencies upon outside sources.

Most important, invest your time in a sustainable program which contributes your skills and energy to the community as you work alongside local people on local development projects.

You CAN make a significant difference...in as little as one week...through our long-term, sustainable development partnerships. Call us today to find YOUR service program!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Day in Peru - Breaking Barriers

After lunch comes the dishes. It is here the barriers begin to be broken. Smiles, laughs and tricks like splashing in the water begin to bring us together. This continues as recess follows our lunchtime. As I observe the boys I cannot help but smile and laugh as they are. Then little by little the boys run over, give me a hug and quickly run off to continue their game of soccer. The warmth I feel from the sunshine doesn´t compare to the new warmth I feel of the heart.

I realize…
I cannot speak to them, but I can give them a smile.
I cannot understand their questions, but I can give them a hug, and
I cannot help them with their studies but I can laugh with them as they all joke with each other.

The day ends with reflection and our excitement for tomorrow.

A tomorrow where I will continue to learn it´s not about what I cannot do, it's about what I can.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27th, 2010

Entered by Patty

Kathleen and I awoke to a knock on our door at 7am as we had overslept. We felt like teenagers being awoken by our mother but liked the alternative Esther came up with which was ‘sleeping beauties’. We dressed quickly, ate breakfast, and were at the construction site by 8am, only to be disappointed by the fact that the construction supplies had not arrived so there was no work to be done.

We quickly regrouped and headed off to the clinic to help out in any way that we could. Kathleen helped in the prenatal area watching expectant mothers coming in for their check up; many were excited at the prospect of being there for their first visit and some were nervous at the site of the needle for their tetanus shot.

Rob helped in the general patient examination room and his most memorable moment was when a young boy needed some meds and his grandmother could not pay for the medication. Rob happened to have a few cedis with him and was happy to make a contribution to cover these meds so the young boy could get better.

I helped at the registration desk and learned that anyone entering the clinic must pay three cedis if they don’t have insurance. The government insurance is only 14 cedis for the year so it’s a shame for them to have to pay 3 cedis for 1 visit. We also took their blood pressure, weight, and temperature, if necessary.

After our morning in the clinic, we went back to the Guest House and prepared for our afternoon computer lessons for the kids. Our plan was to review the previous day’s material and then give them all an opportunity to use the typing tutor software. I think they enjoyed the ‘hands-on’. We had about 20 kids which was a nice size group to work with. Rob also showed them the encyclopedia software and they loved looking up facts about Ghana.

After tutorials we stopped at the roadside café for a drink and Rob ran into a student from his grade 7 class last year. Dinner was potatoes with a chicken and gravy sauce which was followed by a lively discussion about American politics, debates on the merits of Facebook and favorite books.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 26th, 2010

Prepared by Kathleen

Woke up bright and early and had breakfast at 7 a.m. - fried egg, porridge and white toast with pineapple jam. We headed to the school at 8 a.m. for our first morning of teaching computer basics. Patty wowed the students with all her technology… projector and laptops!! About 40 children (over age 10) showed up along with 6 or 7 teachers!! They were keen to learn more about something they have all heard about but have not used. Funnily, they have a computer component that they have to know for their high school entrance exam but have only learned about the hardware and software through texts.

The children crowded 2 to 3 to a desk, the older ones sitting in the back of the class. Very few volunteered to answer questions with the exception of a few keen and confident ones who always raised their hand. Each child had a chance to type on the computer and we learned that we need to hand out numbers so they can each take their turn in a more orderly fashion! The children are keen to return tomorrow to continue with their computer training and perhaps some creative writing or geography lessons.

In the afternoon we went to a fascinating local market… crowded, noisy and vibrant. Everything could be found there, from Kleenex and dried fish to dress makers and live chickens. A very different, hot and earthy world. Patty and I are having a dressmaker make some outfits for us for an incredibly reasonable cost. Our market visit was followed by a trek to the Volta Hotel for a glass of wine.

The real excitement happened just before dinner when Patty spied a HUGE spider on our bedroom ceiling. We (calmly) had to call in Philip to dispose of it so that we could sleep in peace.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Marcus Annaeus Seneca

April 25, 2010

Prepared by Kathleen

Patty arrived in Ghana safely Sunday morning and met Robb and me for breakfast at 8 a.m. at the hotel. We started our journey to Senchi Ferry at 9 – Esther, her son Yaw, niece Sarah, Patty, Robb, the driver and me.

Along the way we saw many beautifully dressed Ghanaians on their way home from church.

The highlight for me was seeing some baboons trying to cross the road.

We arrived at the St. James Guest House and quickly turned on ALL the fans and air conditioners, unpacked our clothes, and met with Esther to over our goals and commitment to working together as a great team!!

In the afternoon we attended a welcoming ceremony at the Palace hosted by the Queen Mother and a number of village elders. There was an oral telling of the village history and Scnapps were poured at the feet of the elders as a traditional gesture of welcome and prayer of thanks to the ancestral host for our safe journey. This was done with intriguingly loud chanting or “noise” in Twi. We concluded the ceremony with sodas and then ventured over to the new library. I think this was particularly exciting for Patty and Robb, who had worked on it in the early stages a year ago. Incredible to see the progress and BOXES & BOXES of books!!!

Had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with Amo (Esther’s assistant) and finished the evening with a glass of wine and a game of Sequence. I triumphed with unquestionable skill and just a little luck. (-;

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 24th, 2010

Prepared by Robb

Despite worries of volcanic ash causing flight disruptions, it was a thunderstorm in Denver which causes delays and a missed flight. Still made the flight to Accra which was key, but Kathleen and I missed each other on the Accra flight. Esther was waiting proudly with the Global Volunteers sign and gave me a big warm hug and Akwaaaba. It was nice to be welcomed so warmly. Kathleen, who was on the same flight, arrived shortly thereafter. Esther again dispensed her warm hug and Akwaaba. Then we were off for the Airport View Hotel.

Kathleen and I then headed off for the western shopping mall of Accra. Young adults filled the place just looking and hanging out. The crowds did not deter us from our mission of wine and snacks. Filled with a cart of wine, we fled the mobs, negotiated for a taxi and then headed back to the Airport View Hotel for dinner with Esther, Yaw, and Sarah. The company was great, the food was decent, and the lighting was brutally bright. The day of entry into Ghana was smooth and easy. Spending time with Esther and Kathleen and knowing we would be leaving for Senchi Ferry the next day, made me forget the volcanic ash and the thunderstorms as I was back in Ghana.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

As the gate to SEAM Children's Home opened, I watched as ebullient children ran up to us, eager to meet the new team of three. Stephen, our team leader and host, introduced us to the children.

The children had seen countless Global Volunteers pass through the gates of the home; even so, they ran to us, beaming with smiles. I pulled out my camera and watched as the children's attention rapidly shifted toward the device. They began to rattle off sentences in the local language of Tamil, an unfamiliar one to me.

I was 14 and spending a month of my summer before sophomore year in India. The previous day, my dad and I had left the comforts of my grandparents' home in Bangalore, India, for a father-daughter bonding experience we had never had before. My dad had wanted me to realize that not everyone is alike with respect to economic background.

I spent the weekdays in two locations. In the mornings I worked at Assisi Illam, a day care and orphanage, teaching the alphabet and basic numbers to children between the ages of two and five. Fortunately, the language barrier between the nuns in charge of the school and me did not prove much of a problem, although hand gestures came in handy most of the time.

The afternoons, on the other hand, greatly tested my confidence as I was assigned to teach English grammar to four nuns-in-training. Ironically, the women addressed me as "maam" even though they were five to six years older than me. Although daunting at first, I gradually began to enjoy the role of a teacher as I organized lesson plans for my students every night.

As a result of my experience in Chennai, I had the desire to revisit the following summer. Yet less than two months later, the demands of high school again became my topmost priority and center of focus. I remember my dad occasionally bringing up the country of Ecuador as the idea of summer vacation loomed overhead. Neither of us had been to South America before and my dad's final decision for us to volunteer there proved to be a second remarkable experience.

Our experience in Ecuador, also with Global Volunteers, was quite different from that in India as our team consisted of 14 eclectic people. Spending two weeks in a day care center for young children, I rediscovered my passion for working with children. Like the kids in India, children came from impoverished families. I was also given a chance to experience Spanish culture at its best and immediately fell in love with the music, traditions and food.

My most vivid memory is of Emilio, a three-year-old boy who rarely took the time to smile or even talk. After two weeks of joking and playing around with him, I noticed that he began to let out a few giggles towards the end of the two weeks.

After saying my final goodbyes to Emilio and the rest of the children, Edith, our team leader, told me a heart breaking story about Emilio. Edith said his shyness was a result of a car crash his parents were involved in. His mother had rarely spoken to or smiled since his father had died in the crash. Upon hearing this, I felt so much better about my time spent with Emilio as it proved to be rewarding for both of us.

Many people think of volunteering abroad as a life-changing experience. In my case, I realize that I have returned to my regular life. Yet there is no doubt that my two experiences abroad gave me personal insight that has made me more aware of my lifestyle as a blessed one. As a result, I discovered my passion for teaching and enjoyment of Latin American and Indian cultures.

I realized that across the world we all hold common goals. Between the novices and the Ecuadorian children, I understood that though we differ in economic background, we all strive for a good lifestyle and education. Volunteering opened my eyes to this, and I hope to continue helping others while opening my eyes to the reality we miss each day at home in Palo Alto.
- Sonali Sastry, grateful Global Volunteer

Monday, April 05, 2010

"I would like to thank the babies of Tutova. We've talked about how sad and difficult their lives are (and this is true) but in many ways, they've already done more to impact the world than many people ever will. These babies unite strangers from all over the world with different life experiences, religions, political views. The babies have opened our hearts to love more, understand more and to do more. So thank you to all the babies of Tutova- past and present. The world is a better place because you exist."

-Laura, Romania Volunteer April 2010

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Partners in Development: A Message from Global Volunteers' CEO Bud Philbrook

Global Volunteers facilitates human and economic development at the community level and engages volunteers to do much of the work. But as is stated in Global Volunteers "Philosophy of Service -- Strategy for Development," only local people actually do development. An organization like Global Volunteers can help facilitate development and volunteers can help catalyze development, but only local people do it. With that said, facilitating and catalyzing are vital activities in the development process.

Development professionals have known for decades that merely providing financial resources, even in the form of education and medical supplies, is insufficient. USAID, the World Bank, and other government development agencies have spent literally billions of dollars over the past 50 years with varying degrees of success. More often than not, where only financial or other material resources have been offered, little or no development improvements can be measured. The most successful efforts have been at the local community level where local leaders are in charge and outsiders provide appropriate catalytic assistance. That is what Global Volunteers strives to do. We offer volunteers to work under the direction of local leaders on community-based projects that the community determines are important to its long-term human and economic development.

How can anyone, therefore, individually make a significant difference in three weeks? Most people can't. However, Global Volunteers sends multiple teams of volunteers to each community every year, year after year. Every volunteer becomes a vital link in a long chain of volunteers. For the local children, each volunteer makes a world of difference because without all the volunteers who came before and after, their lives would be very different. We know this is the case because we've been working in some communities for more than 25 years and adults with whom we taught 10 or 15 years ago tell us that this case.

Some say "Passing along knowledge and training would make a better mission for Global Volunteers than just stepping into the places of community members." I could not agree more, and that is always our objective. However, human development is a generational process -- it takes a very long time. That is why we focus on children. It is our experience that children we teach will learn things they otherwise would not and be motivated to do constructive things with their life that they otherwise might not have even imagined. That in fact, is the principal way in which we facilitate development.

Others suggest it might be better to provide financial resources rather than volunteers so the local people could be paid to do local construction work. We would agree provided the only objectives are to construct or repair a building and increase local income. But Global Volunteers is about waging peace and promoting justice. We attempt to achieve this goal by working hand-in-hand with local people on community development projects that community leaders deem important. Our objective is to create an environment where local people and volunteers work together on a common project such that in the process of working together they become friends. Friendship is very important to what we do because friendship is foundational to peace and justice in our world. When there is a dispute among friends, friends will generally resolve their dispute nonviolently.

When people have a friend against whom an injustice is being perpetrated, they generally want to do something to right the injustice. Consequently, the more friends there are in the world, the more nonviolent dispute resolution there will be. The more friends there are the world, the more people there will be working for justice. For Global Volunteers, the work project is the vehicle to establish friendships. In addition, we do provide financial resources so that local laborers are paid.

Sean Penn recently said about his work in Haiti, "The first person served by service is the server." We agree fully.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Dirt

Red dirt – that has been our home for the past three weeks. We have walked countless miles around the village and on that red dirt we practiced our Kihehe and Kiswahili terms.

On that red dirt we saw the smiling faces of mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, and the crying faces of babies who couldn’t handle the paleness of our skin.

On the red dirt we came together with locals through playing soccer, reconstructing/building a house, fetching water, spreading grass seed, hiking to waterfalls, and dancing while watching stars.

The same red dirt has come into our house and around the table where we shared countless hours of laughter, insightful conversation, cultural learning, candlelit eating, and competitive card playing. Here, we became family.

That same red dirt was carried upstairs where we spent each night writing in journals, reading or discussing the future, boys and bodily functions. Each night like a small girl’s sleepover with rolling laughter as new inside jokes were created.

As we leave the red dirt, I know that each of us will take part of it with us wherever we go. The world will look different as we have seen a new culture and way of life. Forever we will reflect on the endless memories we’ve created.

-Kayli, Tanzania Volunteer, January 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's a Small World...of Volunteering

Now as I'm on my way with Global Volunteers to serve on a team in the Cook Islands, I remember when I was first inspired by Global Volunteers with a 2004 newspaper photo featuring a local woman, Kristina Flanagan, in Romania with twin babies sitting on her lap and her lovely story. It was definately something I wanted to do one day. I kept that story in my mind, and when I retired in 2008 I took the opportunity to go to Romania. I'm not related to Kristina (although we share the same last name) and I never met her, but I did communicate briefly with her by e-mail shortly before I left for Romania on my first Global Volunteers service program. While serving in Barlad, I also communicated by e-mail with Kristina's daughter who served with her mother in Romania when she was age 16. She shared some of her exciting experiences with me regarding her team and her work at Tutova clinic taking care of babies and toddlers.

I spent the majority of my time at the clinic in the infant room. There were seven babies (six girls and one boy) and the average age was seven months. Celine was forever smiling in spite of her congenital hip defect and our "little gymnast" Alina, who was very active, had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Our team of sixteen volunteers really bonded and we traveled together on the weekends to Transylvania to see Dracula's Castle and to Moldova to visit the painted monasteries. The time I spent in Romania was one of the best experiences of my life!

Last year, I had the great pleasure of serving at Caritas in Poland, and now I'm on my way to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I look forward to spending time with the elders at their day program, working with adults who are developmentally disabled or tutoring children in reading and writing. Please follow my blog entries beginning in Mid-March at: http://cookislandsteamjournal.blogspot.com/

- Grateful Global Volunteer Ellen Flanagan

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mother and Son Serve in Romania

Delta Wichner Nuthak learned about Global Volunteers' Romania service program online, but it was her excited phone call that convinced her son Trevor to join her on the humanitarian journey. “It took me about two seconds to decide, I just couldn’t say no,” Trevor said.

Within months, mother and son travelled to Tutova to help care for underweight, disabled and abandoned babies at a Pediatric Recovery Clinic in Tutova Hospital near Barlad in east-central Romania. To nurture the infants' natural growth, Trevor and Delta played with and fed them -- basically offering love to every child in the clinic, they said.

Delta explained that the clinic is not an adoption agency, but rather a place for the children who have medical conditions and whose family can't afford to care for them. “In Romania, there are no outside adoptions. That means, in order to adopt a child in Romania, you have to be Romanian. You can’t be from another country,” she said. Many of the children in the clinic are orphans, but a small number of the children in the clinic have parents, but they are too poor to afford medical care for their child. Throughout their three weeks, Delta and Trevor became attached to each child, but they still formed favorites. “Sammy was probably my favorite. He was definitely a hair-grabber,” laughed Trevor, who also taught English language skills at the area high school.

Read more here about Trevor and Delta's Romanian Journey of the Heart. Learn more about Global Volunteers' Romania Service Program here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Poland Sponsors Invest in Learning

Through the generosity of Global Volunteers' Poland classroom sponsors, the students of a small village elementary school are enjoying field trips, new teaching materials, school supplies and books to learn English this school year. We're so grateful for sponsors' commitment to ensure that the students have resources for their intellectual and social development, and that their most important growth years are successful!

The first semester has just ended, and the students are beginning the second one. The eight students of Grade 1 will continue to learn the letters of the alphabet and numbers up to 100 (in English, of course!). They will also practice their penmanship, reading, adding and subtracting. The 19 second grade students are "branching out" with their English lessons; telling time, days of the week, months of the year and seasons. Grade 3 has 12 students, and they're finishing the first level of their education while becoming very involved in school life -- with dance, music and special celebrations. The five girls and five boys in Grade 4 are developing nature interests, and greatly enjoy field trips to the forest. Meanwhile, the 17 fifth grade students had the highest average grade in the first semester in the entire Cisie school! They're really looking forward to working with the next team of Global Volunteers! They are planning to prepare a play for their colleagues from Grades 1-3 soon.

The students of Grade 6 are preoccupied with preparations for the National Examination Board competence exam which will enable them to graduate and move on to secondary school. They understand how important English is for their futures, and truly value the times they have to learn from Global Volunteers' native speakers.

We have exciting upcoming plans for the classrooms as well: In March, we'll begin to set up a brand new English language lab with audio equipment, desks, chairs, white board, bookcases and bookshelves purchased with sponsors' funds.

All of this is made possible with assistance from Global Volunteers, and the students and teachers are very grateful. We look forward to many more volunteers to work with us in 2010 and beyond. Please learn more about our programs here: http://www.globalvolunteers.org/poland/default.asp

Dorota Wierzbicka,
Poland Country Manager

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I Volunteer.....

A few years back I was going through a rough period in my life. I had just finalized a divorce, albeit an amicable one, it is still somethingthat impacts a person emotionally and physically. I was at a crossroadsin my life as I had moved half way across the country away from my family when I got married. I had a great job and had good friends, but was far away from where I grew up and where my family was. I usually take a big trip every year and often it involved either hiking some big mountain in some far away country or working with organizations like Earthwatch, where you join on scientific expeditions.

After my divorce I decided that I wanted to do something different and needed a chance to be alone with my thoughts to help me figure out what direction I should go in next. I was looking into other Earthwatch expeditionswhen I came across the Global Volunteers website and knew that this was what I needed. In particular, the trip to Costa Rica looked amazing...great scenery, helping to build a community center and a place far away to take my mind off of things.

The Costa Rica trip was a very memorable one in that in helping others, I learned an awful lot about myself and what is most important to me. The local "ticos" where not only warm, friendly and open-hearted, but they also have an extremely strong sense of family.
Everybody contributed to the well being of the family and community without complaining and without reserve. The members of the local communitywould wake up, perform their farm responsibilities, join us for 6-8 hours in painting/constructing a community center and then head back home for more farming. They cooked us fantastic meals and made us feel like we were part of their family. When the trip was coming to a close, we all traded gifts and many tears. It made me realize that family and community is something that should be at the top of everyone's list and clearly the right answer for me was to move back home. Moving back home was the right answer as I am closer with my family than I have ever been, am now re-married and am happier and more satisfied with my life than ever before.

It is said the experience is not aboutwhat happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you. My experiences in Costa Rica helped me to cleanse my soul and inspire me in a way that I didn't expect, but am ever so grateful. Global Volunteers is a special organization and will always be special to me. Since Costa Rica, I have also volunteered in Australia with an Aborgine group and look forward to more trips in the future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thank you so much for all the work that you do!

What an exciting adventure my husband, Tim, and I had as members of the 92nd Global Volunteers team to Lima, Peru! We worked at the orphanage - PPA (Puericultorio Perez Aranibar)! It is a life-changing experience to leave the comfort of one's home in SE Minnesota and travel to another continent and experience a life so different from our own. Yet, even with all the cultural differences and the poverty, the same wonderful human spirit shines through.

Working with a Global Volunteers' team is so unique because the volunteers come from around the States (and with this team - even Canada!) to volunteer together to wage peace. We first get to know one another through a series of questions about team work and goal setting so that when we begin our work, we know one another better.

The work in Lima at PPA is so worthwhile because at the orphanage the children need the love that the Global Volunteers bring and the staff appreciates the help. Each team builds on what the former teams have done and sets the stage for the next team coming in.
Gratefully, Bonnie Rietz, Peru volunteer

Sunday, February 14, 2010

(Marek Blaszczyk is Global Volunteers' long-standing host representative in Poland. See his interview on You Tube here)

We are proud to have had more than 2500 volunteers teach English in our country and each one leaves a small part of their heart in Poland!

Global Volunteers has worked in Poland since 1990. Next year we will celebrate our 20th anniversary in a close, fruitful partnership. Bud Philbrook came in 1989 and went to the Polish Parliament where he met members from our region – the Siedlce District. "Bring your volunteers to Siedlce," our representatives said and help in our small villages. In 1991 I found out about Global Volunteers and invited the volunteers to stay at Reymontowka.

The idea of teaching of conversational English came from Poland. 1989 was the time of changes in our country (we changed from communism to democracy) and Bud Philbrook asked a Parliament member how Global Volunteers could help. They said we have enough hands to work but we need to speak English. We wish to work more closely with the western European countries and the US. We need to speak English.

Bud Philbrook said we can’t promise to send teachers but we can send people who speak English. Since that time the program has grown and been very successful in Poland and in other countries. I know people who now are about 40 who started learning English about 20 years ago through Global Volunteers. The best students got good jobs and they are changing Poland.

Poland is a good country, a part of the European Union and NATO. Global Volunteers stay in a small farming village of about 100 people and now nearly everyone speaks English. The cleaning lady at Reymontowka who learned English now runs a business in London. That’s how the volunteers have changed the people. Many young people – we are an open country now – can work in other countries. The children who learn English get good jobs and they can travel around the world. I think last year the first person from Poland volunteered in India.

When volunteers first came to Poland they taught business and technology to unemployed people. Global Volunteers never told us that you have to do something this way or that way. This is very important to us. That’s why next year we will discuss how we can do more with Global Volunteers. We will introduce the organization to others through the 20th anniversary of Global Volunteers in Poland.

Global Volunteers is very famous around the Siedlce District (in eastern Poland) but Global Volunteers is not known all around Poland. We will use this chance to tell about it at a big conference in October and we will invite people from other countries to attend. In time, Polish people can and will volunteer in all parts of the world.

Remember, we still need volunteers in the Siedlce District because everybody doesn’t yet speak English. But, we are proud to have had more than 2500 volunteers teach English in our country and each one leaves a small part of their heart in Poland.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Why I Volunteer.....

“Challenge is not a curse or a punishment, but an opportunity to shine. If life were easy all the time, we would not deepen in love, compassion, and wisdom, or learn how to sink a pipeline into the well of true strength within us. Often we do not know how powerful we are until we are faced with a challenge that draws forth our greatness.” -Alan Cohen

People ask why I spend my annual vacation time volunteering abroad. The secret truth is that in helping people to build better lives through self-reliance, whether it’s teaching English/math/computer technology, loving orphans, or constructing playgrounds, one develops equally in return through the local community’s demonstration of genuine kindness, enduring strength, and motivated spirit despite their lack of materialistic conveniences and pleasures. Global Volunteers summarizes the benefit well in their Philosophy of Service: “By serving others, we honor the human dignity of those we serve while acknowledging our own dignity in the process.” I am forever grateful for the opportunities made available to me as a result of Global Volunteers’ twenty-five years of genuine and impactful service throughout the world.

Thank you, Dank u, Merci, Gracias, شكرت أنت, Grazie, Danke, Σας ευχαριστούμε