Poland may not top your list of “must visit” European sites, but it should! And, Global Volunteers Director of International Development and Poland Team Leader Dorota Wierzbicka is one of the reasons why. It’s said that experiencing a new culture requires local perspective, and we agree! As a Polish national, Dorota is proud of her homeland and grateful for the volunteers who visit every year to teach and encourage its youth. Added to the verdant countryside setting, the exceptional food and lodging, and the unmatched hospitality, Dorota’s graceful program leadership ensures you contribute to the best of your ability and experience the best of volunteer travel in Poland – all in one or two weeks! Read on to learn why we’re so certain:
How Does Dorota Ensure Premier Volunteer Travel in Poland?
Dorota Wierzbicka manages all aspects of Global Volunteers’ service program in Poland including the logistics, project assignments, and cross-cultural experiences – making sure that all volunteers have a safe and meaningful experience. She’s a pro! She supervises your daily teaching assignments, maintains your health and safety, steers you toward fulfilling after-work activities, and will even teach you some of her native language.
Her history with Global Volunteers spans nearly as long as our partnership in Poland. Starting as our local volunteer consultant at language camps in her home town of Siedlce, five years later she became our staff team leader. Now, twenty-five years after our first collaboration, Dorota performs parallel roles as Global Volunteers Poland Country Manager and Director of International Operations. In her Country Manager role, she maintains our Poland program and as a team leader, Dorota has no equal. Since 2000, she has led a total of 122 teams – more than any other staff member – not only in Poland, but also in Hungary, Nepal, Tanzania, and South Africa. It seems that volunteer travel in Poland is indeed her calling! Furthermore, as Director of International Operations, Dorota oversees all but one of Global Volunteers’ 14 international programs, and manages all other Country Managers.
How a Young College Student Found Global Volunteers
Dorota was born and raised in Siedlce, a town of about 76,000 people where Global Volunteers has partnered since 1990. Poland was under communist rule until 1989, and Dorota lived under that system for the first thirteen years of her life. She says, “I still remember how few things were available at that time, and there were very long lines outside shops.” Now a speaker of impeccable English, Dorota recounts how she did not start learning the language until she was a teenager: “I did not have the opportunity to start studying English until I went to high school, as when I was growing up, Russian was the foreign language taught in most schools in Poland.”
In 1996, Dorota was a freshman in college studying to become an English teacher, and she sought out opportunities to improve her English during her summer break and spend her time in a meaningful way. She recalls, “Global Volunteers and Reymontówka are both very respected organizations in my area, so I knew that English camps with volunteers were taking place there. I was very fortunate that I was able to come to Reymontówka that summer and start my adventure with Global Volunteers, which has now lasted for almost 25 years!” Dorota volunteered at the summer camp in 1996 and was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Global Volunteers and campers, and to improve her English language skills. She says, “Thanks to Global Volunteers, I could practice my English and really learn to understand and speak English even though I started learning it so late in my life.” Dorota continued to assist the program on a temporary basis.
In 1998, she earned her degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and went on to graduate school that same year, earning her master’s degree in the English language (teaching and translation) from the University of Warsaw in 2001.
While Dorota continued volunteering at the summer camps in her home town, in 2000, the then Poland Country Manager was leaving Poland for her home in the United States, and the position of Team Leader opened up. Dorota submitted her application, participated in interviews, and was hired as Poland Team Leader. She attended Team Leader Training in Minnesota for the first time in December 2000 and began leading teams in Poland in 2001. A few years later, she was promoted to Poland Country Manager. In 2007, Dorota also started assisting Global Volunteers’ headquarters in Minnesota with international operations as Associate Director of International Operations. In 2011, she was promoted to the position of Director of International Operations. In addition to managing the Poland program, Dorota currently oversees twelve additional international programs.
A Short Interview with Dorota
What compels you to work for Global Volunteers?
I really see firsthand how volunteers are helping the children and adults from my community to improve their English skills. I am also very moved by how dedicated volunteers are to helping my community. In addition, I love watching how volunteers and the Polish people interact with each other, become friends, and stay in touch with each other for years. I see the students’ lives being enriched by the volunteers, but also the volunteers’ lives become enriched by their service and interactions with their students. I see firsthand that Global Volunteers’ philosophy of service and mission are working, and I love being a small part of this wonderful initiative.
“I see the students’ lives being enriched by the volunteers, but also the volunteers’ lives become enriched by their service and interactions with their students.”– Dorota Wierzbicka, Poland Country Manager
What is one of your favorite parts of your job?
I like how local students and teachers comment at the end of a service program that they were assigned the best volunteer and how volunteers say the same about their students. It brings me a lot of joy to see how this relationship between volunteers, students, and local teachers develops during the course of the service program and how everything works out so well at the end for everyone involved.
Why should people sign up for volunteer travel in Poland and spend a week or two in your community?
The need for speaking the English language is really great in my community. So many companies have customers or headquarters in other countries, and the language in which they communicate is English. Everyone needs to know English in order to be successful in their professional life. All volunteers who speak English can truly help local children communicate, become more confident about their skills, and motivate them to learn English by showing them support and encouragement. We have great teachers in our schools, but volunteers are needed to assist with practical skills such as pronunciation, enunciation, and communication skills.
“All volunteers who speak English can truly help local children communicate, become more confident about their skills, and motivate them to learn English by showing them support and encouragement.”– Dorota Wierzbicka, Poland Country Manager
Why do you recommend a Global Volunteers service program in Poland?
First of all, Polish students are very eager to learn English and get to know the volunteers and learn about their home country. Second, our host, Marek Błaszczyk, is very dedicated to the program and has been such a welcoming host for Global Volunteers since 1991. He is employed by our host organization, the County Government of Siedlce, and manages Reymontówka Manor House, where volunteers stay in Poland. This charming manor house is located in the peaceful countryside among forests and meadows. It serves as a cultural facility for the county, so it often hosts piano recitals and art exhibits, especially during the spring and fall. I would also recommend delicious Polish food that is always freshly prepared at the manor house for the volunteers. One of our volunteers said that when she “came to Poland and stayed at Reymontówka, Poland came to” her as she could learn about such a variety of aspects of the Polish life. Many volunteers also call Poland a “hidden jewel” because of the beauty of numerous places they can explore during their free weekends, ranging from the beautiful historic cities of Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk to many places of natural beauty. Volunteers can experience a meaningful volunteer experience and enjoy beautiful sites through volunteer travel in Poland.
What Volunteers Have Said About Their Poland Team Leader
Dorota Wierzbicka’s leadership, dedication, and service to Global Volunteers and her community have been recognized through numerous awards. In 2010, Dorota was awarded Staff Person of the Decade. She is beloved by the country managers she supervises at Global Volunteers for her kind, caring, and dedicated leadership style. Country managers admire her for leading by example. While participating in volunteer travel in Poland with Global Volunteers, you will be guided and supported by an exceptional Team Leader. Here is what some volunteers in Poland have said about Dorota:
“Dorota is completely committed to making sure each volunteer is welcome, and volunteers are very lucky to have her. She is well spoken, respectful, and shows her knowledge of the teachers, schools, and anticipated goals. There is a need in Poland and teachers are familiar with Global Volunteers – everyone wants a volunteer. It has been an outstanding time.” – Barbara Dunham, 5-time Global Volunteer who has served three times in Poland
“Dorota was professional, warm, and extremely helpful. She encouraged us and was a positive force for our team. She went above and beyond every day and helped to make this a wonderful experience for all of us.” – Jessica Blight
“Dorota was obviously devoted to the mission of Global Volunteers. She was always available, made me comfortable at the facility, and showed respect and kindness to all people (student and staff). She is a perfect team leader and representative of Global Volunteers.” – Vicki Sorber
“Dorota makes you feel welcome and part of an exciting team from the first time you meet her on the Saturday of your service program. She willingly answers texts quickly with any questions or issues you may be having – day or night. While I absolutely love this program and the children, I made the decision to return these past two years because of Dorota.” – Diane Lindy, 6-time Global Volunteer who has served three times in Poland
“Dorota is an excellent leader, supportive of the team, very responsive, an excellent resource for the teachers, and, an outstanding cultural guide.” – Noel Kreicker, 2-time Global Volunteer in Poland
“Dorota played a key role in making this experience as successful as it was. She interpreted words, situations and cultural background. She was a trusted professional for all aspects of our service activities.” – Larry Flick
“Dorota radiates warmth. She is beloved by the community, a full believer in Global Volunteers, organized, and punctual, and she has a heart of gold.” – Lucy Heegaard
Dorota Off the Clock
Dorota has a small family and is very close to her mom, who lives in the same town. She and Krzysztof, a mechanical engineer, were married in 2006. In her free time, Dorota likes to hike. She says, “Poland is a beautiful country with a lot of scenic places where I love to spend my time. They include the valley of Bug River near Siedlce and the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland. In the fall, like many Polish people, I love hiking in the forest and looking for mushrooms there. My husband and I also like to travel in Poland and abroad and learn about new cultures.”