The Best Volunteer Assignment in the World!

These excerpts are from the August 2018 summer camp team journal. The team was a mixture of alumni and first-time volunteers.

Welcome to Camp

Poland’s welcoming and colorful culture, irresistible cuisine, unmatched landscapes and best yet – the most engaging Polish youth you’ve ever met make this a dream volunteer program. Poland is a modern and very European country. The dollar goes a long way here, and I’ve spent some awesome weekends in Warsaw, Kraków, and Gdansk. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, and that’s why I keep on coming back. Today was the first day of classes. My students were delightful and eager to learn. At lunch, everyone shared an activity that worked well on the first day. This evening there was a karaoke program. It was fun to see the students so eager to sing popular songs. I was even able to sing “Mamma Mia” to karaoke with some of my students.

our home far away

Reymontowka manor house, the camp where volunteers in Poland serve.

Day 2 at Camp

Today we started a review of the vocabulary learned this week; I described the word or idiom and students told me what the word or expression was. I was surprised how well they did. Then, we had an interesting discussion about Global Volunteers, where we serve and what volunteering means. Unlike some past years, students told me they didn’t know anyone who volunteered or thought it was in the Polish mentality to entertain the concept of volunteering. They agreed though that they didn’t think I was crazy paying to volunteer unlike some of my friends. During fourth period, we played the ever-popular dice game, where music is played and students had to run to a volunteer holding a number corresponding to a dice number when the music stops. It was a lot of fun and students really enjoyed running and taking a chance that the volunteer they had chosen will not have his/her number called. The evening activity was a talent show which again showed the great enthusiasm and energy of the campers. Many singers had 10 – 20 back-up dancers. Everyone showed great support for each other, and a great time was had by all.

Day 5 at Camp

My class made history for me — they refused to take breaks because they were “too busy,” too involved writing stories (setting, character and plot) and designing the puppet characters. It was a first! We split up for the afternoon. I’m the English language Pronunciation Consultant, helping with the dreaded “th” sound and explaining, if possible, which letters are silent and when “ch” sounds like ch in belch (“cz” in Polish), or K in stomach. Tonight was Polish Night, a knockout production that covered the whole of Poland’s history, from the year 998 to today, in dance, song, presentations, video and even a short, but very dramatic, play about how Krakow came into existence. The storyline had a fire-belching dragon, a beautiful princess, and Krak a poor but handsome shoemaker, and . . . oh, never mind, I don’t want to give the story away.

Day 8 at Camp

Today was our afternoon outing. It was particularly special because of the wonderful people we met. First stop was to visit with Mariusz Chojecki who grows mushrooms commercially. He showed us the large climate and humidity controlled rooms in which he grows the mushrooms on shelves stacked from floor to ceiling. We saw spores just starting which will have mushrooms in three days. As we left, Mariusz gave us a crate of the mushrooms – which we definitely look forward to eating. Next stop was the palace in Korczew. It is in the process of renovation and absolutely glistens. It was fascinating to see the picture of its condition in the past, murals in the process of completion, painters’ tape still in places, and a hall to the kitchen that goes not where. All the work that it takes to bring such a beautiful place back to an elegant state makes one appreciate all the work that has gone into many of the other sights we have seen in Poland. On to the ferry to cross Bug River, just two men with wooden clubs with two notches wedged against a steel cable pulled the van and us across this swiftly flowing river. This was followed by a quick walk to castle hill to see how strategically placed on the river the former castle was and to see bathers enjoying a distant beach. Throughout our journey, we were treated to apple trees overflowing with fruit, bales and bales of hay, houses of all sizes and styles, and fields of many colors. With Sylwia answering questions about a variety of topics and the beautiful scenery, this trip gave us additional, valuable insight into the history and life of Poland. The nice camp staff gave us a late supper which was topped off by a Sękacz, which Sylwia purchased. A perfect end to great trip.

Day 10 at Camp

It’s hard to believe this is our last day. All of us felt our students had made great progress. It was hard to say goodbye to them! Part of the morning was spent practicing for the big performance tonight for the parents in the tent. The beautiful sunny day turned into a full-fledged storm in the evening so the program started right away. The students all did a great job presenting dancing, singing and circus acts under the tutelage of their very talented drama teacher. Each class also did a performance in front of the audience: Matt’s class sung and pantomimed “Go Banana”, Luke’s did drumming, Agnes’ did animal skits, Georgianna’s did skits and sang “What a Wonderful World”, Susan’s performed “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to various tempos, Sue’s did an “invisible” bench ski and Jim’s sang “Mamma Mia” and clapped out the Cookie Jar song. By the time the program ended, the storm had also ended, so parents, students, staff and volunteers were able to go to the BBQ area for Polish sausage and drinks. It was very strange to go back into the manor house and not hear the students in the halls. And so ended another very successful and fulfilling English camp at Reymontówka. See you next year!

” And so ended another very successful and fulfilling English camp at Reymontówka. See you next year!”

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