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Sandra Pierce teaches English to children in
(Kazhakastan, Poland, Ukraine, China)
When and how did you learn about Global Volunteers?
I learned about the organization through someone I met at the an
airport when I was traveling internationally on business. He told me about the
organization, and I thought it sounded great for someone I knew who was retired
and had the time and money to travel. I was growing my own small business at the
time, and I had neither of those things.
I requested information and got onto their mailing list. Then,
in 1992, I got a letter from Global Volunteers describing a program that they
were starting in the former Soviet Union to teach free enterprise,which was
right up my alley. I made the time, raised the money via contributions from the
wonderful community I live in, and went.
Let's talk about your trip to the Ukraine. What did you do as
I led a team of business people (to teach business) and other
volunteers who taught English. We went for two weeks.
Do you have any special qualifications as a volunteer?
I'm an entrepreneur who started a business out of my garage with
less than $1,000. So I could identify with people who have the same desire.
Are there any experiences or high points that you'd
especially like to relate?
The high points are the warmth and appreciation expressed by
those you've helped. I've traveled all over the world on business, as a tourist,
and as a volunteer. I'll take traveling as a volunteer any day because you get
to know the people and the culture from the inside out, instead of being outside
I remember going with two other volunteers to a news conference
that was being held to announce our arrival in the city. To our surprise, there
were over 30 journalisms there to greet us. They asked us about our work and
impressions of their city.
The countries of the former Soviet Union are having a tough
time. I remember going to a special meeting with the head of a program that
trained social workers at a local university. During Communist times, there were
no social workers. Before the university started its program, it had to figure
out what to teach. They tried to gather the latest information from other
countries that had established programs.
They had just graduated the first class of social workers before
I arrived. The reason they wanted to talk to us was because of the serious
growth of social problems that appeared to be related directly to the
seriousness of their economic woes. Suicide rates were high; physical abuse,
alcoholism, and teen-age delinquencywere problems that this very small class of
social workers had to deal with as they began their professional careers. They
asked that we go back to the United States and encourage social workers and
teachers of social work to come to the Ukraine and share program information
with them so that they might better serve.
What kind of preparation or training did you receive from
Global Volunteers before your trip?
Global Volunteers does an excellent job of providing information
about the location, the culture, and the assignment. I didn't know anyone at the
organization when I signed up for Kazahkastan. I wondered if I could trust these
people to get me there and back safely. My fears were short-lived. I developed
confidence in them, since they provided excellent leadership before, during, and
after the trip. The sites, hosts, and team leaders are selected with care. I
was, and continue to be, impressed with the organization's ability to deliver a
good experience. It's obvious that our hosts and the people we work with are
very appreciative of our time and efforts.
What about room and board?
We generally have very adequate accommodations.
Did you have much free time for tourist activities?
Weekends, for sure. And the host usually plans a couple of
outings on weekday evenings. For instant, we went to an excellent musical
Many of us were lucky enough to be invited into homes.That's a
real treat--to see how people live, and to share dinner, laughs, and music.
Do you have any caveats or suggestions for readers who are
interested in becoming Global Volunteers in Europe?
The experience is best for people who enjoy serving their fellow
man. They have to get along well with people on their team. Teamwork is
important, since we spend a lot of time together. It really isn't fulfilling to
those who prefer independent travel, but it's much better than any canned tour.
Flexibility is stressed, and a good sense of humor is helpful. Things don't go
according to plan all the time!
Would you be a Global Volunteer again?
Ron Kensey, President
Kennon Aircraft Covers
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