Time to make a difference.

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Time to make a difference.

Postby leedarkwood » Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:56 am

One for the charity section please Mod.

There is an opportunity coming up for those of us who live permanently here in Bulgaria to make a big difference in our adopted home.

For some years now the American peace corp has sent volunteers here to work in various projects across Bulgaria, working with the environment, language classes, children's homes, tourist development and writing funding proposals. They come for two years, learn the language in an eyewatering three months and then are placed into their new position. Some have left no trace of their time here, many others have been the main stay of projects that have made changes happen. However, it is now rumoured that the next intake of volunteers will be the last to come to Bulgaria. The peace corp normally do this, moving on from one country to the next after some years have passed so this is nothing odd.

But it occurs to me that if you have (as we do) a peace corp worker in your area, you could maybe ask to shadow their work over the next two years, improving your own Bulgarian during this time, and taking on something of a replacement role in the future. Already schools and local societies are worried what they will do for English support. There are a lot of potential benefits for anyone considering doing this. Getting involved in your local community is good for you, you make new contacts and friends, new people that can often support you in return when you need it. A two year run up to improving your language skills with a goal at the end might help kick start your communication generally. I have just read a book (Living younger next year, an amazing book that I completely recommend) that claims that social involvement has a direct positive affect on your health! We have personally found that the more we put into our local communities the more we get out in return. It can be hard to find a way in, this might be an idea that would open doors for you.

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Postby Seedy » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:11 am

Well, it's a great picture you paint, Lee - but it isn't entirely like that.....

Most of the Peace Corps volunteers spend 3 months NOT learning Bulgarian at all well and struggle with the language during their whole stay.

Many/most of the projects they're involved with are - surprise, surprise! - to help "disadvantaged minority groups". We all know just what THAT means....and what political ends it serves.

Many of them (but, to be fair, by no means all) are trying to help kids learn English from a position of considerable ignorance of syntax and grammar. By that I'm not talking about Americans' inability to speak/write what they quaintly call "English English" :wink:

The Peace Corps has a chequered history in some eyes; on the one hand its aims are ostensibly good and indeed laudable, on the other many people around the world see it as a thinly-disguised means of cultural and economic imperialism. I'm sure the US government feels that spending 400 million bucks on foreign ambassadors with fresh faces is a worthwhile investment, but one might also feel they'd be better off ploughing the money into their own slums and ghettoes rather than patronising foreigners.

Leaving all that aside, I agree with you 100% that ex-pats who seriously come to Bulgaria to settle and make new lives would benefit greatly from involving ourselves in helping our local communities in any way we can.

As to "English language support", many of us might find it beneficial (or indeed humbling) to look at some of the English questions asked of children graduating from the local gymnasium - I'd confidently wager that most of us would struggle VERY hard to find correct answers without resorting to Google! :oops:

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Postby scot47 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:15 am

Not all is positive about the Peace Corps in BG or in other countries where it operates.

They have produced some excellent material for learning Bulgarian and anyone interested would do well to contact a local PC volunteer for a copy of some of the materials.

I have to agree with the sentiments expressed above - if you are coming to live here make some attempt to learn how to communicate.
Last edited by scot47 on Mon Mar 07, 2011 5:50 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby leedarkwood » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:37 am

Seedy wrote:Well, it's a great picture you paint, Lee - but it isn't entirely like that.....

Most of the Peace Corps volunteers spend 3 months NOT learning Bulgarian at all well and struggle with the language during their whole stay.

Many/most of the projects they're involved with are - surprise, surprise! - to help "disadvantaged minority groups". We all know just what THAT means....and what political ends it serves.

Many of them (but, to be fair, by no means all) are trying to help kids learn English from a position of considerable ignorance of syntax and grammar. By that I'm not talking about Americans' inability to speak/write what they quaintly call "English English" :wink:

The Peace Corps has a chequered history in some eyes; on the one hand its aims are ostensibly good and indeed laudable, on the other many people around the world see it as a thinly-disguised means of cultural and economic imperialism. I'm sure the US government feels that spending 400 million bucks on foreign ambassadors with fresh faces is a worthwhile investment, but one might also feel they'd be better off ploughing the money into their own slums and ghettoes rather than patronising foreigners.

Leaving all that aside, I agree with you 100% that ex-pats who seriously come to Bulgaria to settle and make new lives would benefit greatly from involving ourselves in helping our local communities in any way we can.

As to "English language support", many of us might find it beneficial (or indeed humbling) to look at some of the English questions asked of children graduating from the local gymnasium - I'd confidently wager that most of us would struggle VERY hard to find correct answers without resorting to Google! :oops:


Well as so often my experience is different from others.

We have currently five peace worker volunteers that we regularly socialise with. Three are teaching English in local high schools, one in the main town and two in large villages. One volunteer is the third to continue a project working in the local town hall, on developing the local forests as a tourism resource, marking trails, building rest huts, producing leaflets. The fifth is working within the local children's homes teaching computer skills. I am really not sure how any of these except prehaps the last is helping "disadvantaged minority groups'. Since we have been here over the last four years we have been in contact with 10 volunteers, all of whom shamed us by their rapid learning of the language. As they have to pass strict langauge tests at certain intervals or be sent home, they have a good incentive to learn. Of the ten, one was a complete idiot that just wanted to disco and play around, the other nine are very well spoken of in the community. We have enjoyed spending time with them, and often drive them to local events as they are not allowed to drive while abroad so often can't get back into the countryside. We will miss them when they are not here, as will the communities that they have have helped.

I am sure that both the peace corp and the British VSO programs can be seen as having hidden agendas. I am pretty sure in both cases the main benefits given by these programs is to those who go on them, who have the chance to see something of the world in depth, and take a new viewpoint home. I myself at the age of 38 volunteered with a British program called BESO (British Executive Service Overseas which is now merged with VSO), and worked for six months in rural Tanzania, living in village accommodation, learning kiswahili and eating practically nothing but maize porriage. It is a great slimming diet if anyone wants to try it! I couldn't spare two years but it has left me with a fondness for those who do give up so much of their time. However my point was that if and when the peace corp stop working there, they will leave a gap in the community that maybe some people here would find enriching to fill.

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Postby Moscow_Wolf » Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:34 am

I know nothing about the Peace Corps (will Google and read up later), but I am aware of the VSO although, I am more SOE than BESO. wink.

On first reading, it appears like something I might wish to do, but I am not prepared in any way to promote American propaganda however subtle or Bible bash. If this is part of the curriculum then, it would be a non-starter for me.

What does, 'shadowing' actually mean and what are the distances involved, would I have to 'chauffeur' all over my part of Bulgaria or can smaller areas of coverage be determined? Is it all Voluntary or are there expensed to be claimed.

And finally, where can I find out more about the Bulgarian part of the Peace Corps?


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Postby scot47 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:43 am

Peace Corps was set up by JFK and his allies. It was and is intended to give young Americans a chance to travel and contribute to the "Developing World" The initiators were influenced by the VSO and other wings of the UK based Volunteer Movement (IVS, CIIR etc). I have seen both Peace Corps and VSO in action, in Bulgaria and elsewhere.

Lots of misguided idealists are involved - as well as career administartors.
The Peace Corps was very much a child of the Cold War.
Last edited by scot47 on Mon Mar 07, 2011 5:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Jonnie » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:16 pm

I have only one experience of the Peace Corps work in Bulgaria and it was very positive. Christmas Day 2007 at Stoikite Orphanage. A young American girl was working wonders in a very cold old orphanage. She could speak Bulgarian and was an absolute credit to herself and the human race. Whatever the politics of the Peace Corps, she was helping those kids, no question.

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Postby leedarkwood » Mon Mar 07, 2011 5:41 am

Moscow_Wolf wrote:I know nothing about the Peace Corps (will Google and read up later), but I am aware of the VSO although, I am more SOE than BESO. wink.

On first reading, it appears like something I might wish to do, but I am not prepared in any way to promote American propaganda however subtle or Bible bash. If this is part of the curriculum then, it would be a non-starter for me.

What does, 'shadowing' actually mean and what are the distances involved, would I have to 'chauffeur' all over my part of Bulgaria or can smaller areas of coverage be determined? Is it all Voluntary or are there expensed to be claimed.

And finally, where can I find out more about the Bulgarian part of the Peace Corps?


I am just suggesting that you might like to find out if there is a project in your area that is currently being supported by the peace corp, make friends with the volunteer and see if you can or would like to carry on some aspect of that work when they leave. Shadowing = see what the work involves. it wasn't that complex really....

We joined up with a local organisation last week, that puts together activities for school kids including exchanges with other countries. We will help put their applications from 'bulgarian english' into good English, contribute some office supplies from time to time and generally show an interest. We will probably also spend some time online looking for opportunities for them to chase up. Total time, maybe five hours a month? I was interested to see one campaign they are invovled with was a national one, to try and get the funds to improve school toilets. We are told that in a great many schools the loos are so horrible that kids won't use them, and it is leading to bladder and other health problems as they try to 'hold it' until they can get home. The kids are designing posters and trying to get meetings with those in charge of funds! Good for them. Bulgaria needs future adults that can take action and responsibilily for problems.

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Postby Moscow_Wolf » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:18 am

Thanks Lee, but as appealing as you make it sound, I'm worried that 'some folk' might get the wrong idea if I'm seen hanging around School Toilets. :lol:

I had a look late last night at the links Scot or Seedy posted and didn't find much about anything going on in my particular area, but I must admit, I'd had a fair few beers by that time and is probably why, I'm finding posts of mine all over the forum that I don't recall making. After a while spent apologising, I'll try to get back to Peace Corps and see what fresh eyes can find.

Cheers.


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