Peace Corps Romania Quarterly Newsletter Spring 2012


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Peace Corps Romania Quarterly Newsletter Spring 2012

  1. 1. Peace Corps Romania Quarterly NewsletterIssue 6, Spring 2012 INSIDE THIS ISSUE: Letter from the Country Director 2 Volunteer Stories Farewell to PCV Group 27 3 PCV Justin Setty Comes in 6th at the Cluj Marathon 5 Good Projects Skype Session with Senator Isakson Environmental Project: Trees for Peace 6 7 Volunteer Voices Spring Forward PCRV Jennifer Brooks: Teaching Independent Life Skills 8 Let’s Put On a Show! 12 Volunteer Interview Peace Corps Volunteer Leader: Andrew Matusick 15
  2. 2. Peace Corps Romania Office Letter from the Country Director, Sheila Crowley Dragi Partners, Supporters and Peace Corps Community, Spring, the season of rebirth and renewal has arrived bringing not only the rains, and the flowers but many new exciting projects and a busy work schedule for our Volunteers. From teaching independent life skills, piloting non-formal educational activities, to planting trees PCVs are making a difference in their communities and through their partnerships they are inspiring more and more people to do the same. The people to people connection that Peace Corps Volunteers promote in their everyday lives is at the core of volunteerism, they give of themselves and strive to make a difference in the lives of many. How do they do this? Through community empowerment, skills exchange, collaboration and partnership. By listening and being there for their friends, students and colleagues. By modeling the essence of service that it is better to give than to receive and by honoring Kennedys vision that to achieve a world of peace you must promote peace and friendship. Across Romania, PCVs are teaching countless of hours in classrooms, engaging in extra curricular activities and building relationships. I admire their achievements and I am inspired daily by their enthusiasm, optimism and desire to do more. In Peace Corps Volunteers the spirit of civic responsibility lives on as each one of them embraces the call to serve and one by one, hand by hand and heart by heart, they leave their „world” a little better than when they discovered it. This is something truly worth sharing. So read and enjoy as we share and highlight the exciting things that Peace Corps Volutneers are doing in their communities. In Peace and Partnership, SheilaDirector Sheila Crowley together with Page 2 PCV Kevin Denunzio
  3. 3. Volunteer Stories Farewell to Group 27 “The biggest lesson I have learned thus far is just up and do it; try; go; do. Even if it seems hard or long or exhausting, new things, new activities, new experiences matter more here and teach you more here than in any other aspect of your life.” Emily Franzen “The most recent lesson I have learned is relatively simple: try everything at least once. This is directed toward the dinner table more than anything else. Food is an excellent way to experience a culture. MetaphoricallyIt’s been almost 24 months since Peace exchange and a window opened to s p e a k i n g , ex p e r i e n c i n gCorps Volunteer Group 27 came to understanding the world. You will soon a n o t h e r ’s f o o d i s l i keRomania with the task of sharing their be gone but will certainly never to be receiving nourishment fromknowledge and expertise with the forgotten for your hard work and their culture/heritage”Romanian people. unending efforts to serve others. Marco Rufolo-RogerOver the past 2 years, Peace Corps In your last moments as Peace Corps “In teaching, one must beVolunteers in Group 27 have taught volunteers before your official split from patient. Sometimes it takesEnglish to more than 27,000 young Romania you say goodbye to PeaceRomanians. Not only that, they have Corps, but not to your friends. Savor the time and respectfulhelped to educate thousands of time you have left in Romania and persistence, but finally,Romanian English teachers. They have cherish both the goods and bad for they suddenly, even a half-also worked in many communities have made you what you are today: attentive student can amazethroughout Romania in environmental ambassadors of peace and friendship, you by what he or she hasprojects, while others have worked in role models and catalysts for change. All picked up in your hourssmall towns as community development the good work you have done is truly together”advisors. inspiring! Kristi St. AmantIt was Shakespeare who wrote, "Parting So our message to you is to continue to “There is only so muchis such sweet sorrow", and so it is. Many try and make a difference. Give life preparation for things youschools and small communities all over nothing short of your best. Try your bestRomania will miss the help and guidance in everything in what you do and what can take into account for untilyou provided as Volunteers over the past you say. Trust your decisions for YOU can you actually arrive and settle2 years. But the legacy you leave behind be anyone you want to be, you just have in at post, but now I can easilygoes beyond the knowledge of the to try! call Romania home.”English language; it’s a two-way cultural Christopher Williamson Page 3
  4. 4. Volunteer Stories Group 27 Statistics R A E A S B R H E O L C N E C Y A B R A B E L E A L N N E N N A A C E M H L R A L I N I S D S A E In just 2 years, 32 Peace Corps Volunteers have V F J R A worked with: E L E M Y Y E 144 Organizations N A S 475 Service Providers (e.g: teachers, health care educators, community leaders, peer educators) A J N 26,463 Students O A J C S U E T L L A I Y S N I A K R E B I M R S I A T L D I Y M T M S E S M N A E A A A I I R S R R G K C A S T A A E K H Y A N SM M TA R J K T A ER Y P U Y A RI A H L L R CS N A I E A OS N EA I
  5. 5. Volunteer Stories PCV Justin Setty Comes in 6th place in the Vodafone Cluj MarathonPCV Justin Setty came in 6th placein the 2012 Vodafone ClujMarathon. The second edition ofthe marathon took place on April22nd and it comprised 5 races:Marathon (42.195 km); HalfMarathon (21.0975 km);Marathon Relay (4x10,55km);Popular Race (6 km) and Kids Race(2 km). 91 male and 11 femalecrossed the finish line at the end ofthe race.Justin started his 14 year distancerunning career when he joined thecross-country team in the 7thgrade. “Luckily this is a sport youcan continue your whole life andthe marathon is one of the stepsyou come to after finishing college.Three of my former teammatesand I completed our first marathon been a goal for Justin. “I happened made a few really good friendsin Ohio in 2008. I finished in 2 to sign-up for the Cluj Marathon here at site that I wouldnt havehours and 59 minutes. I because it was at the right time for made if I hadnt decided to comeremember it as one of the most when I would be healthy enough. I back to running. Im glad I had thesatisfying days of my life. When I was hoping to run faster than my opportunity to compete in Clujjoined the Peace Corps, I found personal best of 2:59 by about 10 because it helped validate what Imyself putting running on the minutes but it was too lofty of a do. Placing well in this marathonb a c k - b u r n e r. I p l a y e d goal. I maintained a pace at the helped my friends and studentsfootball/soccer with my beginning that would eventually understand why I run. Imcolleagues at site for over a year, tire me out and I hit the proverbial currently training again for a trailwhich prevented me from running wall around the halfway point. m a ra t h o n i n t h e A p u s e n iseriously due to a persistent knee When I crossed the line, I was mountains in July. Fortunatelyinjury. I eventually decided to stop surprised I finished 6th in 2:57 when I tell people now that I needplaying and focus on rehabilitating since I had slowed down so much to go run they understand exactlymy k n e e . A f te r a ye a r o f toward the end. what I mean.” Justin concluded.rehabilitation and building kneestrength, I was ready to train for Being a distance runner in my Justin Setty is a 3rd year TEFLmy second marathon.” Justin said. town is lonely because this isnt a Volunteer currently serving in sport that is well understood or RomaniaRacing another marathon during well recognized by the generalhis Peace Corps service had always public. On the other hand, Ive Photos by: Dalina Borcan Page 5
  6. 6. Volunteer Stories Skype Session with Senator IsaksonLast Thursday evening, May 24TH, four the students themselves. Topics thathours after their normal classroom were discussed were decided upon byhours had ended a group of twelve the students and included publiceighth grade students gathered service, government, ambitions, goaltogether, along with their English setting, environmental health andProfessor, Lizeta Ducec, and Peace Corps economics. The experience affordedVolunteer, Melissa Royer, for a very both parties the opportunity tospecial event at Scoala cu Clasele I-VIII, communicate in English, exchangeNr. Suceava. Dressed in their best, cultures and ideas about the world.participants from class 8A, were “It was a joy to not only see ourafforded the opportunity to speak with students speak confidently in EnglishSenator Johnny Isakson, a to a widely respected politician, butrepresentative from the state of Georgia also to see their faces fill with joy andin the Senate of the United States of optimism, and to see their minds hardAmerica. Using the internet program at work, analyzing the responses theycalled Skype, Senator Isakson and the were given,” said Melissa after thestudents were able to see each other meeting had taken place. Both groupsthrough a webcam and to speak with were extremely pleased with theeach other via microphones. success of the collaboration and hope to continue collaboration efforts inThe Senator gave a short 2-3 minute the future.introduction about himself and his workas a Senator to begin the session. Melissa Royer is a 1st year TEFLAfterwards, the Senator opened the Volunteer currently serving infloor for Questions and Answers, led by Romania Page 6
  7. 7. Volunteer Stories Environmental Project: Trees for Peace communities that have for years to come, the sense of helped it prosper in accomplishment that the students will Romania. “The idea and be continuously reminded of and the the symbolism community’s capacity to conduct this represented in the easily replicable project in the future. At project were important the same time the project brings to light but it would have been e nv i ro n m e n t a l i s s u e s , s u c h a s logistically inefficient to deforestation and littering, that NGO’s plant just one tree in well l i ke A s o c i a t i a M a i M u l t Ve r d e o v e r 2 0 0 d i f fe r e n t continuously work to address“ PCVL communities. For that Andy Matusick says. purpose the project was changed so as to keep The 10 Peace Corps Volunteers involved the meaning of the in the project worked with their project but to make it counterparts to organize small tree more efficient given the resources planting projects in their communities.When asked at the 2011 all-TEFL available.” said PCV Andy Matusick, the Using funds from a mini-grant providedconference to think about projects that coordinator of the project. by the US Embassy they acquired thecould celebrate the 22 years of peace trees while other necessary materialsand friendship promoted by Peace Corps Peace Corps Romania has teamed up where either acquired with the funds orin Romania, a group of Peace Corps with the United States Embassy, donated locally. In addition to gatheringVolunteers came up with the idea all necessary materials, the PCVs,of planting one tree in each PCV together with their counterpartshost community. Trees have been selected volunteers from theira long-time symbol of life and classes to plant the trees. MMVgrowth and, as Peace Corps provided instruction on properRomania comes to a close, a tree planting techniques andseemed to be an appropriate organization so as to educate notsymbol for the sustainable only the planners of the projectdevelopment that is central to the but also those students withorganization’s role around the shovels in hand on how toworld. Even though the agency’s properly develop and implementwork in Romania is coming to an this kind of project. Additionally,end in 2013, the impact will seven of the 10 communitiescontinue to grow in those involved in the project workedcommunities where volunteers with American Corners tohave served, with seeds planted organize a field trip for theirnot only in the projects that students to visit the closestvolunteers have completed along-side Asociatia MaiMultVerde (MMV) and American Corner to their site. Transporttheir Romanian counterparts, but also in local communities to plant 22 trees in 10 for the students was acquired locally andtheir countless interactions with communities throughout Romania. The the PCV worked with a representativeRomanians. project’s aim is to promote volunteerism from the American Corner to develop an at schools where Peace Corps volunteers educational program related toPeace Corps placing one tree in each host are serving as English teachers. The volunteering for the environment. Thiscommunity would have not only students were directly involved in a not only gave the students a chance toinstalled this symbol in a community that beautification of either their school or see a new place and learn abouthas worked hand-in-hand with Peace other parts of their community. The available resources but also acted as aCorps, but it would have also been Peace project’s sustainability will be evident in reflection of the volunteer activity thatCorps way of giving thanks to those the growth of the trees that will be seen they participated in. Page 7
  8. 8. Volunteer Voices PCRV Jennifer Brooks: Teaching Independent Life Skills to the Blind This series of spring visits took us to The hope was that through the Targu Frumos, a small town in the provision of this facility and the trained northern part of Romania, to visit teachers, students would be able to Jennifer Brooks, a Peace Corps transition from an institutional setting Response Volunteer (PCRV) currently and a dependent lifestyle to a life of working at a highschool for children independence. ”Teaching basic life with visual impairments. A former skills can easily improve a students Youth Development volunteer, quality of life. It can allow them to be Jennifer started working at Liceul self sufficient and therefore be able to Moldova back in 2007. Founded 45 attend to other needs such as years ago, the school offers a employment and giving back to their harmonious education for visually impaired children and youth, helping community” Jennifer adds. them both to properly integrate into society, as well as to be as Jennifer applied for a SPA grant and autonomous as possible. with the money received, the idea of the kitchen lab turned into reality. The Soon after her arrival at site, Jennifer lab was equipped with all the began looking at ways to implement appliances and tableware that one can projects focusing on teaching find in an ordinary kitchen: gas stove, students with visual impairments electric plate, microwave, plates, daily living skills, such as teaching cutlery etc. During the first week, the kitchen skills through a series of students were taught basic orientation techniques specially tailored for the of the room and the appliances: where blind. “Although Romania had made the fridge was located in relation to great strides in transitioning into a the stove; exploration of shelves, democratic society, there still remain drawer; exploration of the oven to portions of the population that understand where the gas is lit and continue to need assistance from where the flame is located, civil society organizations, including manipulation of the items while the children with visual impairments.” oven is cold so that it can be easily Jennifer says. done when home. As students became more and more familiar with the new Acknowledging the need to integrate lab, they were then taught how to turn teaching of independent life skills on the stove, how to cut, peel, and into the curriculum for children with slice, how to measure and weigh visual impairments, School Director liquids and dry ingredients and Margareta Pristavu welcomed the properly boil fry and bake. idea to create a kitchen lab furnished with kitchen appliances for teaching Almost three years later, the students life skills to visually impaired students. are now able to move around the At the time, the school had no kitchen independently and perform a equipped facilities to properly teach variety of tasks with minimal the students these skills. Continued on page 9... Page 8
  9. 9. instruction in the areas of sexual education, hygiene, and self-care. This specialized instruction includes specific or adapted equipment as well as instruction in methods that have been proven efficient for those with visual impairments. The creation of a special studio where this equipment can be used as well as where these, perhaps delicate, discussions and lessons can take place on a one-to-one or small group basis was ideal. Together with her colleagues, Jennifer applied again for a grant, this time a VAST one. With the money received from the Peace Corps, a hygiene lab was created. The studio consists of separate work areas for boys and girls. Each area is...Continued from page 8 equipped with a vanity style desk with a sink, mirrors, magnifiers, shelving for intimate items, adjustable mirrorssupervision. Due to the availability of teacher the need for his mother or which magnify, Braille and large printthe lab and proper instruction the sister to cut his finger nails as he had labeling, and special lighting which canstudents now have the necessary life never learned due to fear of hurting be adjusted per student visualskills to live independently and when himself. All of these events came to the preference.they finish school, they will have a attention of one professor of the schoolgreater chance of becoming active, who, after seeing the success of the It is truly remarkable what the smallcontributing members of society due to previous independent living skills group of professors at Scoala Moldovathe independence that they have activities began to set in motion and one PCV were able to do for theseacquired through these classes. alongside Association Respect students. Being the first school in the Diversity the idea of a hygiene studio. region committed to teaching theseIn the spring of 2011, experts from skills, Scoala Moldova has the potentialvarious other European countries Typically, students with disabilities- to become a resource center for othervisited schools and organizations especially those with visual schools and organizations in the areathroughout Romania, including i m p a i r m e nt s - te n d to b e l e s s e i t h e r b y s h a r i n g t h e w r i tte nMoldova School, to learn about the knowledgeable about their bodies and information, materials, or the actualstate of special education in Romania. sexuality. This lack of knowledge can be two labs. Moreover, the successes,The visitors were impressed by the a direct result of their visual struggles, and results can be shared withkitchen lab and the progress made by impairment: they do not have the other schools for the blind who can thenstudents but one of these visitors typical visual input that most children use the model as a starting point formentioned a school for the blind in their have (of bodies changing, of physical their own kitchen and hygiene studios.own country also having a special place differences between boys/men andfor students to learn how to take care of girls/women), or it can stem fromthemselves. cultural taboos or misinformation. For example, parents can be reluctant to See page 10 for a one on one interviewImmediately following this, there were discuss these topics of sexuality and/or with Response Volunteer Jenniferincidents between students that not know how to explain them to their Brooks.resulted from lack of knowledge and blind child.curiosity towards their sexuality. In thatsame year, a ninth grade visually Due to a students visual impairment,impaired student expressed to his head he or she may need more specialized Continued on page 10... Page 9
  10. 10. ...Continued from page 12 PCRo: Many volunteers needs to be involved hands-on in worry that they may not every step of the process in order to have the correct skills to understand. add value. Was this one of your concerns when When I first arrived to the school, the you started working in director gave me a tour throughout Targu Frumos? the school. She mentioned wanting to create a kitchen in one of the rooms JB: Actually it wasnt- I and the idea caught on from there! was very pleased with the placement. It seemed, PCRo: Do you see a change in the and has proved to be, a childrens behavior since you first perfect match. I have started working there? If so, what are much to offer the some of the most obvious changes? teachers and students here and they are more JB: The look of triumph on their faceOn the ocassion of our visit to Targu than willing to take advantage of my when they finally peel the potato thatFrumos, we asked Jen to tell us a few help- the only thing missing is enough theyd been fighting with for 20words about her work as a Peace Corps time! :) minutes; the pride that shows whenResponse Volunteer in Romania. they eat their pizza that they made for PCRo: What are some of the most themselves; the delight when they tellPCRO: Tell us a little bit about yourself. common challenges children with me how they helped their mother visual impairments face in Romania? cook dinner over the weekend byJB: This is my fourth year in Romania, first cutting up a carrot for her…. Theseas a PCV and now with PC Response. I JB: I believe the largest obstacle that new attitudes are priceless!worked in the States as a teacher for the these children face is the mentality thatblind and have transferred that they are incapable and should be We knew that giving the childrenknowledge to my work here in Romania. dependent on others. Many people, t h es e im p o r ta nt s k ills wo u ld sadly, feel sorry for the poor blind child empower them and thereforePCRo: How did you become interested and therefore do everything for them or increase their confidence and self-in working with children with visual expect less from them than they would esteem…. However, I never expectedimpairments? from other children of the same age. to see a difference to the degree that However, everyone, regardless of their weve witnessed in the children atJB: I kind of just fell into this field and circumstances, needs to feel useful and Moldova school.ended up loving it; I read an article about to feel that they have something thatOrientation and Mobility Specialists they too can offer others. By providing They suddenly have the desire to try(who teach methods and techniques for these children with life skills, we take a things for themselves in other areas ofa person without sight to travel safely step in that direction. We are telling the their lives; they want to be involved inand as independently as possible around child, “Yes, you can” rather than, “No, even more activities; they hold highertheir home, school/work, community, dont”. expectations for themselves and forand to use public transportation) I their peers which, in turn, almostbecame fascinated, found out where I PCRo: Where did the idea of the forces us adults to hold highercould study this field, and it all happened cooking class come from? expectations! Their self-esteem andfrom there! I received a Masters degree confidence have increased more thanin Education for the Visually Impaired in JB: In the States, these activities are I could have imagined!2007. part of the Curriculum for children who are blind. Young children can learn PCRo: What are some other thingsI absolutely adore working with these about day to day tasks simply by you would like to achieve whilechildren; I know that what I teach them watching others and copying their working at Scoala Moldova? Futureare practical skills that could change movements; however, a child who istheir lives for the better. blind cannot learn in this way. He or she Continued on page 11... Page 10
  11. 11. ...Continued from page 10projects? JB: What lessons have I not learned the blind in Romania. during my time here in Romania shouldI believe that what we have achieved be the question! Our hope is to spread thehas exceeded, far beyond, my original I believe that the main lesson I have accomplishments from Moldovaexpectations. I am extremely impressed learned is patience and what patience school to the other seven schools forwith my colleagues who have worked really means: to be patient with myself- the blind throughout Romania. Somevery hard in changing their teaching using Romanian grammar correctly will work in this area has already beenmethods, incorporating new teaching not happen overnight; to be patient done (I have completed teacheractivities, and advocating for these with change- it may not always occur trainings at a school for the blind inlessons in order to give these kids a quickly and it takes time for it to take Bucuresti and the other schools havechance at an independent life after hold permanently; finally, I have been attended a conference at Moldovagraduating from Moldova school. reminded to have patience with the school on Independent Living Skills children in that they need repetition projects.) but there is plenty more toFuture hopes are to include Orientation and practice in order to learn these do. There are over 1000 children withand Mobility into instruction by necessary life skills. visual impairments enrolled in schoolsproviding teacher trainings as well as to across Romania who need these samecontinue to incorporate hygiene skills PCRo: What plans do you have for the skills, but are not yet being reached.into the Independent Living Skills future, once youll be completing youractivities. We are also working on PC Service? Jennifer Brooks can be reached atoutreach to other schools for the blind forso that their children too can benefit JB: I would love to find a way to further information on her work withfrom these activities. continue my work here in Romania with schools for the blind. schools for the blind; I am hoping to findPCRo: What sorts of things did you another international organization,learn in Romania that you think will interested persons, or a local NGO thatprove valuable lessons in your career would like to get involved in this projectand life? and make a life-changing difference to children in all of the special schools for Page 11
  12. 12. Volunteer Voices Let’s Put On a Show!!! An Article by Kathleen Stocking You know youre probably going to get fact, suggested to an overweight, into trouble when you come up with a always tired, old-before-her-time, great idea for a gala open house for a African American single mother of 10 thousand parents and five hundred small children that her offspring might children in April during the aptly named enjoy making chocolate chip cookies “Something Else Week” -- a great idea with her some afternoon after shed that you have loosely attributed to one come home from her double-shift as an of your host country counterparts since LPN and before she made them supper. everything must be initiated from the I lived in the African American grass roots, as we had been told during community and as the story of this training. But you figure this is going to be suggestion made the rounds in alright since the Altfel Week is totally churches and corner grocery stores it new for everyone, being something the was greeted with hoots of laughter and Ministry of Education came up with just rambunctious knee-slapping. I could this year, and since everyone has to only imagine that my fellow teachers in come up with ideas the counterpart Romania, many of whom had taken on seemed cool with it, it would look extra jobs in order to make up the good on paper, and all the Ministry income theyd lost when their wages expects is that educators “do had been cut 25% because of the 2008 something different”. economic crisis, felt much the same way about the gala Open House during That was back in December. I talked Altfel Week suggested by the too- up the idea every chance I got but it earnest Peace Corps volunteer. was pretty clear that my Romanian language skills werent up to the Not that it mattered. I had 500 students challenge. As the time drew near for and theyd all been doing good work. I the Altfel Week Open House it was had about two decent, displayable looking more and more like I might pieces from each student, poems and be the only one doing it. The cookies essays and short stories, 1,000 more or and cakes from the mothers and less. I had asked the kids who finished bunicas, the student writing which Id first to illustrate their writing while they tried to solicit from my five waited for their classmates to complete counterparts, the student artwork the assignment. I had plenty of from the two art teachers, just wasnt illustrated writing. But where was I materializing. going to display it? I could recall a time back in 1968 when I I was shown a dark, cluttered storage was a Head Start teacher one summer room, up a cluttered staircase in a back in Ann Arbor, all of us cute and sweet building, a room that would need a lot little co-eds whod been recommended of work before it could become a by the University of Michigan Education display space: cleaning, painting, even School, and one of my fellow teachers, lights. There was also my classroom but the cutest and sweetest and littlest, in it was a tiny, hot, top floor, corner room Continued on page 13... Page 12
  13. 13. ...Continued from page 12and the three flights of stairs – 67 steps – Easter vacation. Was there going to be deliberately doing the work in front ofwere a daunting prospect. I would have anyone left? everyone – on the front steps of thehad to have started with big yellow school if it was sunny and inside in thearrows at the front gate – and a student The week before the event, I learned the lobby if it was raining -- so thatstanding by each arrow – to even get the Small Project Assistance (SPA) grant to parents might come out of curiosity, ifparents up there. There was only one host the Altfel Week Open House had nothing else. “Che facette?” peoplechoice. The Open House was going to been approved. My very first thought would ask. And I would say, “Oo La La!have to take place in the front yard of the was that I should turn down the money. Altfel Open House!! Trey Aprillie.” Ischool where parents coming to pick up But I hate to turn down money. I weighed always liked saying “aprillie” becausetheir children wouldnt be able to miss it. the pros and cons and ultimately it came it made me feel like Chaucer saying,But how crazy and aggressive and way down to my Calvinist-banker-horse- “Wan that aprillie . . . than longentoo earnest and in-your-face was that? trader-rum-runner DNA. This is not the folke to goon on pilgrimages.” I wasWell, totally. visible DNA, the free spirit-poet-I know- longing to goon on a pilgrimage youll-still-love-me-in-the-morning- myself, a long one. This whole AltfellII thought the smartest thing I could do anything-for-a-windmill-Don-Quixote- Open House thing was a big mistake.would be to cancel the whole thing. join-the-Peace-Corps DNA; this was the It was going to be a horrible disaster. INone of my counterparts were remotely hard-drive DNA that goes back before was going to do all this work, day afterinterested. The students had never done Calvin to mastodons and before that to day, and when April 3 arrived I wasanything like this before and now, some swamp where I crawled onto the going to be sitting there alone, in thewhenever I mentioned it in class, which land. It was only a little money, $500 is a rain, with my crepe paper streamers.was pretty often, the kids would look little money, but it was money. I felt Idown at their desks and finally someone would have to go through with it. I had generated the writing with mywould say, “Im not going to be here that usual tricks: turning cartwheels andweek.” The student population of the For the next few days I spent hours somersaults on the lawn, chasing myschool, even the week before Atlfel putting student writing, photos and tail and emitting high-pitched yips ofWeek, had thinned out alarmingly. illustrations in plastic protector sleeves, joy. Saying, “Bravo!” And, “Way toStudents were clearly leaving early for hours cutting crepe paper streamers, go!” And, “Good job!” And, “I love Continued on page 14... Page 13
  14. 14. important. I was saying they were important. With that thought, I knew I was going to string up their writing if it was the last thing I ever did in my life. The worst thing that could happen was that Id make an utter fool of myself and that was nothing new. I was very good at that. It was far and away my best talent. My mind went back to a day a few weeks earlier when I had been in my Margaret Thatcher mode with a new set of students. They were all looking at me in a slightly shell-shocked way after Id given my Sermon from the Mount demanding that in my classroom they participate fully, be kind to each other, not bad- mouth gypsies or anyone else, express their thoughts and feelings, and not be...Continued from page 13 tardy. “This is an American classroom,” I said emphatically, “and we do things thewhat youre doing.” And, “Wow! Youre phrases of self-encouragement: there is American way.” This was utter nonsenseall doing such incredible work!” I no success without failure; stay calm and since I had no more idea about what anlearned long ago that all anyone needs carry on; there is work to be done in the American classroom might be than theyis a little encouragement and theyll do dark before the dawn; no guts, no glory; did. “And,” I clarified, “Im not doinggreat things. Children dont know they you have to stand for something or fall for things the American way because Imcant write novels. Im really a cheer- everything. trying to change you, Im doing thingsleader not a teacher. But I did this all – the American way because its the onlyat least the cartwheels and somersaults But what did any of this stand for? I had a way I know.” This had never occurred to– metaphorically, not physically. little time to think, sitting there sorting them and in fact, had never occurred to kids writing for hours, getting it ready for me until I heard myself saying it.If this crazy Open House idea was ever presentation, pretty much like working in Substitute “my way” for “the Americangoing to happen, I was going to have to a Chinese laundry. I guess, in a nutshell, it way” and youll have something closer toget physical and go up a ladder and came down to democracy: all of this the truth. And, naturally, being an adult,hang crepe paper. I was going to have to stood for democracy. You cant have a I was trying to change them which,rake the litter out of the grass in the democracy without thoughts and naturally, being kids, they knew. Infront yard. Once I was young and feelings and thats what the kids writing retrospect I think what I meant was that Iworked every conceivable job, from was all about. It hadnt happened expected them to have feelings, to havepicking strawberries to cleaning barns overnight. It had been a slow process. thoughts based on those feelings, andt o h e f t i n g h e a v y t ray s w h i l e First there was no writing at all. “But I that I just couldnt help myself fromwaitressing, but I havent picked have no ideas, teacher.” Then there was expecting it.strawberries since I was 12, havent bad writing – take me out and shoot mebeen up a ladder since I tore my ACL bad writing – produced by people whose They had done it. And the more they didtendon in Thailand five years ago, only exposure to writing was essays on it the more they liked it. And the morehavent done any serious raking for the furniture in the Royal Palace. Finally, they liked it the better than got at it. Andlonger than that and have steered clear there were little glimmers, like the here was the proof of the pudding. Itof hefting and hauling for years. So, like daffodils in front of me trying to poke would be a kind of crime not to recognizeMadame DeFarge with her knitting their way through the frozen ground of their efforts.during the French Revolution, I just kept the schoolyard. And, at last, real thoughtssitting there doing what I could, and real feelings, from every kid. If I When I began to rake the yard, threerepeating in my mind little clichéd displayed their writing I was saying it was sturdy janitors showed up and did it for Continued on page 15... Page 14
  15. 15. “Scoala Altfel” “Scoala Altfel” is a new initiative by the Romanian Ministry of Education promoting non-formal education. For one week, schools are given free hand to i n c o r p o ra t e i n t o t h e i r curriculum a series of activities that go beyond the national curriculum on education. The initiative is hoped to bring value to the entire school community andContinued from page 14... to harness competency, me. When I began to weed the flower telling them were going to display it cohesion, teamwork and last beds, they came out with the proper tools at an Open House with crepe paper but not least put a smile on and did this, too, a million times better streamers. I had coffee, tea, sugar students’ and teachers’ faces. than I would have ever done it. Someone and hot water but no cookies. But showed up with flats of pansies and these cookies miraculously appeared, The program was developed were planted in the freshly tilled ground. too. as a tool for engaging both When I asked for a ladder and began to string up writing and crepe paper students and teachers in If it had rained, the whole thing streamers, my students appeared out of might have been the disaster Id i n t e re st i n g n o n - fo r m a l nowhere and began to do that. been picturing in those first few activities that can enhance days as I sat there sorting student the value of their talents, Things were starting to look beautiful and writing. But the weather was extracurricular interests and clean and shiny and fresh. There were perfect: not too hot, not too cold, competencies in a variety of lines and lines of writing hung up like little sunny and glorious. Blue skies. fields. baby clothes. We ran out of places to hang Parents came. Lots of them. One writing and had to set up tables in the hall. of my counterparts, the one who The place looked like a hillbilly yardsale: had a daughter in one of my To promote best practices, More inside!! The kids, by the day of the classes, had a husband who used the Ministry of Education has Open House, had simply taken over not to be a journalist and he still had also launched a competition only all the physical work but the contacts in the media and he called where it invites people to selection of writing to display, the hanging them and reporters came from the vote on the 10 most of the home-made banner, the welcome newspaper and the TV station. The interesting activities sign on the white board, basically kids were thrilled. It was worth it. everything. At one point I said to one of So, yes, “Lets put on a show!!!” You organized between April 2-6, the girls, “Thank you so much for doing all never know who will come. 2012. A list of all activities of this. I never expected all of you to developed during the “Scoala come every day and help.” She said, Altfel” week can be found on somewhat non-plussed, “This is what we Kathleen Stocking is a 1st year TEFL the Ministry’s website: like to do.” And I thought, slyly to myself, Volunteer currently serving in next year Ill entice them to write by Romania. www. Page 15
  16. 16. Volunteer Interview Peace Corps Volunteer Leader: Andrew Matusick In this issue of our Newsletter we when I first considered doing Peace asked Andy Matusick, Peace Corps Corps. These were my reasons for Volunteer Leader to tell us about her filling out the online application. experience as a volunteer in Romania. PCRo:Many volunteers worry that they may not have the correct skills PCRo: Tell us a little bit about to add value. Was this one of your yourself. concerns? AM: Well, I’m 26 years old and I come AM: Yes, this was absolutely one of from a medium sized family with 3 my concerns both before leaving for brothers. I grew up in a small city Romania and then again when I was named Corning located in a really leaving for site. I had no previous nice region of New York. If you’ve TEFL experience and I didn’t really heard of Ithaca, NY I’m close to study English at college. At the same there. I stayed in the area for time I kept no secrets from Peace U n i ve rs i t y atte n d i n g S U N Y Corps. They new about my previous Cortland where I studied History teaching experience, they saw my and a bit of Psychology. I’m a fan resume, they met me and they still of both subjects. Other than that chose to send me here. Reminding I grew up loving baseball, myself that Peace Corps believed extreme sports and my most that I had the correct skills to add recent passion is travel. value to a post helped me believe the same. PCRo: You’ve been a PCV in Romania for 3 years now. What PCRo: You started as a TEFL led you to pursue this unique volunteer and then applied for a experience? PCVL position. What made you want to extend your service? AM: I think it was early in my college years when I first heard AM: I had been at site for about a about Peace Corps from a year and a half when I decided to recruiter and when I arrived extend as a PCVL. At the time I knew home that evening I did some I was ready for something else but I more research. I’ve always didn’t yet want to leave Romania. wanted to travel and see the My language was finally coming world but I saw Peace Corps as an around and I was speaking daily in opportunity to do more than just Romanian with people at my school see. Learning the culture, who I had been speaking to in speaking the local language, English just a few months earlier. developing relationships and The PCVL position was a chance to integrating into a community that I try out something new for a short would eventually call my second period of time but continue to be home were the things I imagined Continued on page 17... Page 16
  17. 17. volunteers that I’ve worked with there. PCRo: Take us through a typical day of work at Mai Mult Verde. AM: A typical day of work at MMV is usually me in front of my computer s e n d i n g o u t i nfo r m at i o n to volunteers and responding to emails. My colleagues at MMV are always there to help me with something that I don’t understand, look over my emails before sending them if I need and let me know if there is something that I need to be doing. If there is any down time at the office I am usually researching environmental issues and environmental NGO’s in both...Continued from page 16 Romania and the US so I can get a better idea of what is going on in the field.involved with Peace Corps and the going at their sites and in their lives.volunteer community. After I really enjoy hearing about what’s While a typical day at MMV is at myworking as a TEFL volunteer I had going on with volunteers because computer communicating withbegun learning about NGO’s and every situation is unique and each MMV’s rather large volunteerdevelopment work. I thought that it volunteer has an interesting story to community, there are a lot ofwould be a great experience to work tell. I was fortunate to have the atypical days at MMV. The atypicalfirst hand with an NGO to learn more chance to visit several volunteers in days are the days when I get to meetabout how these organizations the fall and see what life is like at new people, spend the day outsidefunction and gain some valuable their sites. The site visits were and take part in some good old-professional skills in the process. It probably one of my favorite parts fashioned manual labor that Ireally did seem like the best option about the position. missed so much when I wasfor me at the time and I feel very teaching.fortunate that I was given the At MaiMultVerde I coordinateopportunity to work as a PCVL. volunteers. I chose to work for PCRo: So what makes Romania MaiMultVerde because they have a different from the other countriesPCRo: As a PCVL what are your main lot of volunteer activities and I knew you have visited?activities in Romania? that I would get the chance to meet a lot of interesting people who AM: This is a really difficult questionAM: As a PCVL my main activities in believe that they can make a to answer because before coming toRomania are split. I have my difference in their community. Romania I hadn’t really visited otheractivities with the Peace Corps office MaiMultVerde does a lot of tree- countries. Now that I’ve beenand then I have my activities with planting activities and I have been traveling a bit over the past 3 years Ithe NGO that I chose to work with, responsible for coordinating can probably make a comparisonAsociatia MaiMultVerde. volunteers and our team of but not without bias. volunteer coordinators in thoseSome of my Peace Corps activities activities. I also help to organize In my first vacation as a PCV I joined ainclude summarizing feedback secondary activities for some of our few other volunteers on a New Yearsforms, helping out with activities or most active volunteers. The position Eve trip to Belgrade. On our waysessions at trainings, making the at MaiMultVerde is really putting my back into Romania the border guardannual report, finding and sending Romanian language skills to the test. saw by looking at our passports thatuseful information/resources to I have met some great people at the we were from the United States andvolunteers and chatting with organization and have developedvolunteers to see how things are some lasting friendships with the Continued on page 18... Page 17
  18. 18. PCRo: What plans do you have for the future, once you’ll be completing your PC Service? AM: I don’t really have any set plans quite yet but eventually I would like to get back into teaching. Being a PCVL has given me some great insight to the world of NGO’s and development work but I miss being in the classroom and I think that’s really saying something. That doesn’t mean that skills and knowledge that I have gained as a PCVL won’t prove useful in a career as a teacher, if in fact that is where I end up. I see a lot of ways in which the things that I do now in...Continued from page 17 Bucharest will be helpful in a future teaching career, both on a resume and in practice.he greeted us in English. We smiled their own pace in a way.back at him and responded inRomanian. That was the point In the TEFL program you must dowhen I first felt that Romania was your teaching hours but aside frommy home and I was glad to be back that it’s up to you and yourhome. Maybe it was the smile on community what you do. Thehis face or the unique exchange program gives the volunteer a lot ofthat made me feel so good about opportunity to make their servicebeing back in Romania. It made me truly unique. At the same time itrealize that what sets Romania requires the volunteer to take a lot ofapart for me is the outright initiative. You don’t have the CD Founded in 2007,friendliness and hospitality. I have looking over your shoulder all the MaiMultVerde is a non-profit,met people in other places that time making sure that you’re doing non-political, non-have been friendly and a good specific projects involving a certain governmental associationconversation or a fun night out amount of beneficiaries. The committed to protecting thetogether will come of it. Only in experience has forced me to become environment.Romania I’ve met people who after the kind of person that takes thea short conversation are willing to initiative and strive to make positivehelp you with anything you need. Mission change. I think that this quality,This quality was a bit shocking at learned in Peace Corps, will be onefirst but because of it I have that proves valuable both in life and To build a new culture ofd eve l o p e d s o m e in cred ib le in my career. volunteer work for thefriendships. environment in Romania. I hope to leave Romania more like aPCRo: What sorts of things did you Romanian. The hospitality that I have Strategic Goallearn here in Romania that you seen and experienced in Romania isthink will prove valuable lessons in something that I hope I’d like to To create an active communityyour career and life? share wherever I end up. It is very of volunteers that will make important to me to walk away fromAM: There are so many things that sustainable changes for the this experience having picked up atI can take from this experience that least this quality from the many environment in Romania.will prove valuable in career and Romanians that have helped melife. Peace Corps is designed to along the way. www.maimultverde.roallow the volunteers to work at Page 18
  19. 19. Peace Corps Romania Quarterly Newsletter is published by: US Peace Corps Phone: [40] 21. 312. 12. 89 Fax: [40] 21. 312. 30. 04 Website: Editor: Diana Toda Design&Layout: Diana TodaFront Cover Photo: Manuela Lapadat Contributors: Sheila Crowley Justin Setty Melissa Royer Kathleen Stocking Andrew Matusick Jennifer Brooks Editorial Policy Articles published in the newsletter represent only a snapshot of PeaceCorps Romania’s volunteer activities.For further information about Peace Corps Romania please contact theeditor or visit Peace Corps Romania’s website at Editorial Submission We welcome letters, unsolicited articles or photographs. Queries should be sent to the editor at