Celebration Day!

POL1505A1 (114)And what a celebration day it turned out to be! Our first celebration on this day was that we could sleep in and not need to be at breakfast until the late hour of 8:30! After breakfast we scattered in many directions. Some went for a walk and some went to the teachers’ resource room to get ready for the Monday teaching. Many again went to Mass at a church in nearby Żeliszew Duży. There Gary was one of the readers, and to his relief, he could do this in English.

We gathered together with representatives of our Polish host for obiad at 1:00. Rich conversation bounced about the table.

Then at 3:00 the anniversary program began. Marek Błaszczyk, Director of Reymontówka, opened the program by recalling how Global Volunteers first came to Poland and then how Reymontówka became the home away from home for the Global Volunteers who serve in Poland. He was followed by the County Governor Dariusz Stopa. He welcomed many of the distinguished guests, but in the distinguished list he also included the school teachers and summer language camp staff who work with the volunteers, the students to whom they teach, and the parents who drive the volunteers to and from school. Pan Stopa has reviewed some of the history and noted that in the early 1990s there was dire need for English teachers in the rural area. He thanked the volunteers for their sacrifice – sacrifice? I don’t feel it is a sacrifice – it is a life-enriching experience. But he also said we have been in Poland long enough that we are no longer guests – “you have been with us for ages.”

Next Governor Stopa offered a surprise. He said the County gives awards to those who provide great POL1505A1 (123)community service, but for the first time an award was being given to someone who lived out of the county. He called Bud Philbrook, Co-founder and CEO of Global Volunteers, forward to receive this award. Bud was indeed surprised. He said Dorota was supposed to keep him up to date on what is happening with the Poland program, and had somehow forgotten to tell him about this.

Next Mr. Philbrook spoke. He again thanked everyone who has made the Poland program a success, particularly again noting the students who participate in the classes and the parents who provide great support. He introduced each of the 11 volunteers on this team, noting their service to Poland as well as service in other countries. He explained Rob learned about Global Volunteers through his church; this was a direct result of the Bishop of Siedlce sending a letter to Polish churches in the United States.

Mr. Philbrook went on to describe two gifts that Global Volunteers has received from Poland. He explained how Poland became the first place in which volunteers taught English. He said the knowledge and expertise gained in Poland is now used in 15 other English teaching programs spread around the globe. He said Global Volunteers is honored to work in Poland, an emotion I more clearly identify with then sacrifice. He explained the second gift from Poland to Global Volunteers is Dorota Wierzbicka. He described how Dorota began first as a translator at language camps and now is the Director of International Operations as well as Poland Country Manager for Global Volunteers. He firmly said Global Volunteers could not do the work that is done in many countries without Dorota’s support and expertise.

Following his remarks Mr. Philbrook presented awards to Zygmunt Wielogorski and Marek Błaszczyk. These awards recognize their valuable service to the success of the Global Volunteers effort in Poland.

Next Corrine McCarthy, a member of this team as well as being a member of the very first team in Poland in 1990, spoke. She said the first team was welcomed with gracious hospitality, kindness, and good food and eagerness to learn. She said she could now see how the schools are better, the roads are better, the infrastructure is better, but what has not changed: the gracious hospitality, kindness and good food.

Stanisława Prządka, a member of the Polish parliament spoke briefly. She remarked the way the County of Siedlce and Global Volunteers work together truly represents a unique partnership.

Zgymunt Wielogorski, now President of the Siedlce County Council, followed. He noted he has worked with Global Volunteers for 16 of its 25 year history in the County of Siedlce. He said he has gained new viewpoints through his work with the organization and the volunteers. He said the service work may change in the next 25 years because English is now being taught in pre-school in Poland.

Following the speeches, we all were surprised to receive a certificate of recognition and a wooden carved and painted flower. Perhaps I was the most surprised when it was revealed that these flowers had been made by the students I have in my 2nd hour class at the Kotuń Community Center. They surely do know how to keep a secret. Other certificates were given to those who have supported the teaching of English in Poland. I think perhaps Gary and I had the most fun for we kept saying to each other: “Oh, there’s the camp nurse; there’s the camp director; there’s the theatre director.” We saw many with whom we have worked during the summer language camps.

POL1505A1 (129)Now the celebration turned to dance and music. Several dance performances were given by those who are studying at the Caro Dance school in Siedlce. The dances ranged from ballet to jazz dance to hip-hop. This is a premier dance group in Poland, having won many national and European awards. At the end of the performance the dance teacher said many of the dancers had been students of Global Volunteers. She noted being able to speak English facilitates their travel and interactions when they are in competitions outside of Poland.

Next a vocal performance was given by Ula Chruściel and Peter Gozdek, with Kamil Malinowski providing additional beautiful music on his various collection of sax instruments. Both Gary and I have worked in summer language camps where Pani Ula is the camp director, and I have known Peter since he was barely tall enough to peek over the top of the keyboard. He was talented then and his talent continues to grow. Their music is great and seeing them again brings back great memories.

The last performance was given by the Polish-American rock band, Runaway Train, based in Warsaw. Their music added to the celebratory feel of the day.

Meanwhile, many were inside Reymontówka enjoying the wonderful buffet that had been prepared by the Reymontówka kitchen, and the equally wonderful conversation that was going on in all corners of the room.

Yesterday’s journal ended with the statement that it had been long day, but one to be remembered always. Today’s hours were not as long, but the day was filled with so very many wonderful events that it seemed like a long day – and again it was one to be remembered forever.

Journal by Lori

Messages of the Day: “Learn from yesterday; live for today, and hope for tomorrow.” Shared by Bettina

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