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Global Volunteers - Turkey

ABOVE: Sandra Pierce teaches English to children in Turkey.

Volunteer interview: Ron Kensey (Kazhakstan, 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. [Editor's note: Ron Kensey is president of Kennon Aircraft Covers and several other businesses.] 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 a volunteer?

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 looking in.

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 concert.

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?

Oh, yes!

Back to: Introducing Global Volunteers

In this article:
Introducing Global Volunteers
Volunteer interview: Thomas P. Valenti (Italy)
Volunteer interview: Jeanne C. Davis (Ireland)
Volunteer interview: Ron Kensey (Poland, Ukraine, Kazhakstan, China)