Monday, April 25, 2011

New Service Adventures in Education, Childcare and Labor Available

A Season of New Beginnings in Romania and we want you to be a part of it all.

If your passion lies in serving at-risk youth, working with your hands, or if it's teaching that inspires you, we now have wonderful new opportunities for you to contribute in Romania. We have worked at the Tutova Children's Clinic since 1999 however in recent weeks, that Clinic has closed, and the children were relocated to new facilities. We now have the opportunity to help care for some of those same children at our new work sites, along with many more children needing your support. While we regret the Romanian government's decision to transform Tutova Hospital and Children's Clinic into a senior center, we were heartened by invitations from other child-focused community partners enabling us to serve the broader Barlad community.

One Door Closes...Others Open

Residents and staff of The Elena Farago Center in Barlad await Global Volunteers teams.

You'll be one of the first volunteers serving these new community partners. With that in mind, I'd like to ask you to do two things. First, please let me know which of the following volunteer options appeal to you the most. Second, because of the wide variety of new service opportunities, I ask that you invite others to join you on your service program as we establish our new relationships. Here's how you and your friends and companions can contribute:

First, Dr. Magdalena Cozma, director of Barlad's St. Nicholas Children's Hospital , has invited Global Volunteers to continue our work with at-risk children at her hospital. This is essentially the same work assignment as at Tutova -- holding, feeding and entertaining babies who need care. (As is so often the case, "when one door closes another one opens,"and some of the babies and toddlers on the other side of that door are from Tutova -- still counting on your love.) The children don't care that the door is different, just that you come through it!

Year-round service opportunities at George Tutoveanu School in Barlad. Volunteers are needed to teach conversational English to primary and middle school students during the school year and to middle and senior high students at English language summer camps. The focus is on conversation - visiting about everyday subjects and real-life situations so the students can increase their vocabulary and practice English language skills. While you'll teach in the classrooms, during the summer camps students also enjoy taking volunteers out to show them highlights of their city, such as museums, live theater, zoo, and public garden -- providing additional opportunities to interact while speaking English. This is a great new opportunity for your companions who may not be interested in caregiving assignments.

Third, if you enjoy working with your hands - repairing, painting and renovating buildings -- you're needed to help improve apartments at the Elena Farago Center. This is a rewarding opportunity to work alongside some of the residents and the local carpenters and handymen to make these homes more livable. What's more, we hope to establish a community garden project as our new partnerships progress so students and young adults can join the worldwide movement to understand and practice better nutrition choices.

You can also offer psychosocial support to teens and young adults for all our part of your volunteer assignment. The Elena Farago Center in Barlad cares for some 40 teens and young adults from age 12 to mid-20s. (Photo on top) Most of the residents are orphans, abused children, or from families too poor to care for them. About 10 percent have mental disabilities, and 20 percent are HIV positive or have AIDS, mostly contracted from blood transfusions. The residents live together in apartments, three to five per unit, with guidance from local staff. This is a great opportunity to help young boys and girls who are preparing for a productive and independent life. Initially, volunteers will befriend the residents by working with them on arts and craft projects, teaching how to cook nutritious meals, helping with homework, communicating in English, playing sports and more. We'll also tutor teens and young adults in conversational English at the Elena Farago Center, although teaching English will not be a full-time assignment at this facility.

Finally, if you have experience or interest in assisting children with autism and/or Down syndrome, you can serve at Barlad Center for Children with Disabilities. This is a multi-unit complex that cares for children with mental disabilities as well as those who are blind and deaf. This project can be a full-time or secondary project, splitting your work on one of the above primary projects.

We're very encouraged by these new service partnerships with local Romanian agencies and the expanded opportunities to engage volunteers in serving Romanian children. Your contribution now is more important than ever. Please allow me to answer your questions and fill you in with additional details on your upcoming service program. Again, we'd greatly appreciate you referring your friends and family members to serve with you or on other 2011 Romania service programs. Everyone makes a significant difference in this time of new beginnings on our Romania service program!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Join us at 'A Passage to China' at MOA!

If you live in Minnesota or happen to be at the Mall of America this weekend, don't forget to stop by 'A Passage to China' to meet with our wonderful staff and volunteers!!

You can come take part in the fun event activities and learn about our volunteer service programs in Xi'an, Kunming & around the world!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Last Day Journal Entry from U of Minnesota Team

Written Friday, March 18th, 2011

Journal Entry by: U of M Volunteer Brook

Message of the Day: “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Last full day today. Awoke and gathered in the lobby in our usual fashion, trickling in just before or just after 8am. Had our breakfast, stared at the clouds which look full and threaten rain and discussed the previous nights’ adventures. The bus arrived on time and we trundled up the mountain one last time. By now the people of the center are used to our presence and shouts of Kali-Mera! greet our entrance. We finished some crafts, had some delicious Greek pastries provided by the center and then went up the hill to practice parade marching in anticipation of St. Spiro’s participation in the Easter parade. After a couple turns around the circle we joined in the fun and marched with them.

It is amazing, at least to me, the way these people so easily let us in to their lives, allowing us to come in, sit with them at their table, use their materials and participate in their activities – all without argument, judgement or a second thought – we were included by them. There’s a lesson in that.

After parade practice we got a surprise, a trip down the mountain a little ways to the local monastery. We paired up, held hands and proceeded down. The monastery was quiet, serene, peaceful as well as beautiful. Quite a setting there up in the mountains. We were treated to candies and a hearty ring of the bell by the nuns present. We were allowed to roam a bit and take photos, an opportunity we made good use of. After our visit we passed back through the stone archway and up the winding road to the St. Spiro center once again.

We took some more photos, had some small conversation and played basketball for a few minutes and then it was time for lunch for the people at the center. Aphrodite was particularly aware that it was time for us to say goodbye and posed for many photos with us as well as giving most of us hugs. As the bus pulled away we got yet more waves from some of the guys who had eaten quickly so they could play more basketball. Though it was not a grand farewell it was a fond one.

I think we’ll all remember our brief encounter with the people at St. Spiro, from George the atomic bomb kicking whirlwind to Yanni of Canada fame to Kaite who really loved playing ball, it was a joy to share a brief moment in their lives and share in their spirit of caring and openness. Once back at the hotel we enjoyed what we’ve come to expect, a delicious and filling (or over filling) lunch, with pizza made especially for us.

In the afternoon we went our separate ways, some napping some visiting the beach or going into Gazi or to Carfore one last time for a look around and some chocolate. We then met up to travel into Heraklion for a farewell Gyro dinner.

Sam cried when we gave her her winter hat which would especially equip her for her next visit to Minnesota when we would all see her again. We all had taken our pictures in the hat as well for an added dimension to the gift which Brook promised to get a collage made and a print sent to Sam as a keepsake of our visit. It has been an amazing week with amazing people, both Greek and American, and it has been an experience none of us will ever forget. It has been a week of surprises, both large and small - there were a lot of twists and turns for a short spring break trip such as this. Through it all the kindness, patience and generosity of everyone we met and the flexibility and willingness to just go with it from the Global Volunteers team means I can confidently report we didn’t just meet our goals but we exceeded them, and we had a great time along the way.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A New Community Partnership in Greece Continues to Flourish!

We are the second Global Volunteer group to be involved with St. Spiros so I have chosen a proverb as the thought of the day: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

It's 8:30 am and we are off to our worksite. I don't think we can tire of the bus ride to St. Spiros. The landscape looks like a quilt of greens, grays and browns.

At first we were very busy at work with our wood and leather scroll icons then we had plenty of time to color, read and interact with our new friends. The wood crew was presented with their wood icons and the leather crew received drawings from Aphrodite. Unfortunately, she was not there to personally thank.

Some of us chose not to eat in for lunch so Paul, our host, prepared giant sandwiches and oranges for us that he put in giant orange bags. We scurried out with our big bright bags to catch the bus to Iraklion.

Our mission was to visit the Archaeological Museum. The museum was wonderful. We were very happy with the time we spent there.

Dinner at 7:30 pm and then our much anticipated Greek Dance class. Sam, Gabriella, Alice, and Rafaela were great instructors. We practiced Siganos, Hanitos and the Charlie Brown slide. -- O pah!