Global Volunteers’ service program in Siedlce, eastern Poland, celebrated its 30th Anniversary on October 10 with a special gala at the Reymontówka Manor House. The service program in Siedlce, Poland is Global Volunteers’ oldest European partnership; one which began in 1990 to help Polish students advance their English skills. Guests of honor at this celebration were Global Volunteers President and CEO Bud Philbrook; Director of International Operations and Poland Country Manager Dorota Wierzbicka; and the team of five volunteers serving during this special program: Duane Besso, Joyce Burr, Penny Louise Flavin, Dawn Marquez, and Leo Pyzynski. Read on for details and photos of this special celebration of over 30 years of cooperation between Global Volunteers and Siedlce County.
The 30th anniversary gala was hosted and attended by Governor Karol Tchórzewski, Deputy Governor Małgorzata Cepek, Marek Błaszczyk (director of Reymontówka manor house and a Siedlce Country government employee), Mr. Marek Gorzała (the President of the county council), county government representatives, school administrators, teachers, community partners, and current and former students. In his speech, Governor Karol Tchórzewski thanked Global Volunteers and the some 3,000 volunteers who have served in Siedlce county since 1990, mentioning, “I believe that even more important than the tangible results of Global Volunteers’ work in Poland is the number of students or the benefits of other forms of assistance — the friendships, the openness, the selflessness, the optimism. Each of the students, thanks to contact with volunteers, has become a different person — more open, more spontaneous, better.”
Director of Reymontówka manor house Marek Błaszczyk, who has worked with Global Volunteers since the beginning of our partnership in 1990, emphasized the importance of learning English in order for Poland’s youth to access job opportunities, and that the impact that volunteers have on students’ language skills is immeasurable.
In His Speech, Global Volunteers President Bud Philbrook Reflects on Beginnings of Teaching Conversational English
“Global Volunteers program goes beyond teaching English. Volunteers and local people become lifelong friends. For example, Duane Besso & Dorota and Christopher Piekart have become dear friends. Mr. and Mrs. Piekart have hosted Duane in their home on multiple occasions. Last night Duane joined their family for a cookout and church service this morning.
“Leo Pyzynski stays in touch with students and English camp staff he met in 2019 and last July. Leo joined 14 students yesterday afternoon in Siedlce for several hours of conversation and fellowship.
“And I thank all the volunteers on this anniversary team – Penny Louise Flavin, Dawn Marquez, Joyce Burr, and Leo and Duane.
“On my drive from the airport to Warsaw on Friday, and to Reymontówka yesterday, I was amazed at the enormous progress Poland has made in the past 30 years. The buildings, the colors, the highways, the houses, the people – all absolutely amazing. I remember clearly my first visit to Poland in May 1990 – all the buildings were gray, the roads were difficult to travel, many houses were in disrepair, and very few people smiled. That has all changed. I’ve traveled to more than 60 countries in the past 30 years, many multiple times, and the Polish people have made more progress in the past 30 years than any other country I’ve visited.
“When I met with Senator Gabriel Janowski at the Sejm at that time, I explained that Global Volunteers only serves where we are invited, we only do that which we are asked to do, we always work under the direction of local leaders, and we work hand-in-hand with local people. When I finished, he asked me if our volunteers would teach English to children in rural areas. He spoke excellent English, but explained that children in rural areas did not have the same opportunities as children in the cities. I listened to him, but then responded that we had never taught English and didn’t know how we would do that with volunteers serving only two or three weeks.
“He replied, ‘You just told me Global Volunteers does what you’re asked to do.’”
“I thought about that for a moment, and said, ‘But all of our volunteers are not English teachers.’“
“That’s OK,'” he responded.
“All of our volunteers are not even teachers,’ I told him.”
“He said, That’s OK; all your volunteers do speak English, don’t they?‘”
“That is how we first began teaching conversational English around the world. In the past 30 years nearly 3,000 volunteers, mostly from America, have taught over 30,000 Polish children in classrooms and at English language summer camps.
“We have been privileged to teach children and adults in Siedlce, Dobczyce, Mietne, and Zakopane. We started here in Poland and since then we have taught English in 17 other countries.”
“I remember clearly my first visit to Poland in May 1990 – all the buildings were gray, the roads were difficult to travel, many houses were in disrepair, and very few people smiled. That has all changed. I’ve traveled to more than 60 countries in the past 30 years, many multiple times, and the Polish people have made more progress in the past 30 years than any other country I’ve visited.”– Global Volunteers President and CEO Bud Philbrook
After the speeches, the “honorable” guests were presented with commemorative gifts. Bud Philbrook was presented with a 30th-anniversary plaque. The team of volunteers was presented with certificates and appreciation gifts. And Poland Country Manager Dorota Wierzbicka received a colorful bouquet of flowers.
This 30th anniversary gala was featured in the local news.
Translation of the blue font: “Bud Philbrook from Minnesota – president of the Global Volunteers organization, visited the Siedlce poviat. The meeting was an opportunity to recall the history of volunteers’ visits from Global Volunteers to the Siedlce region. The beginnings of this cooperation date back to 1990.”
The guests at the gala delighted in a classical music performance, traditional Polish singers, and a modern dance performance.
Like our community partner in Siedlce, we at Global Volunteers were delighted to celebrate our partnership spanning over 30 years in which students and volunteers have learned from each other and built friendships, which is the basis of our work in the world. We are so pleased that to have been invited to embark upon this new project in English teaching in 1990 and are honored to continue working in partnership with Siedlce County for years to come.
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