Waging Peace

Article & photo by Kenita Gibbins

Every other year I go to teach English to village children in Poland who otherwise have little or no chance of hearing native English speakers. We actually teach the Queen’s English, since their curriculum comes from England. What is strange to me is that the students are taught to use only can – not “may I” and “yes you can.” In May 2015, I went for the seventh time to serve as a Global Volunteer (GV). The organization headquarters is in St. Paul, Minnesota and has stations in many places around the world including the United States. Not all locations teach English. Some volunteers do manual labor. We always work side by side with the natives.

Our expenses can be deducted from our income taxes. It is my way of waging peace by showing my students Americans do care about them

This visit six Global Volunteers were given permission to miss a day of classes, go to a lecture and have three meals with other groups staying at the Manor House called Reymontowka. Since we are adventurers, we turned over our passports for inspection with little questioning. We were told that a background check was necessary for joining this conference. We weren’t told how the conference called The Communication & Education Conference came to be, except that the professors gather every year in different countries to discuss how best to educate their university students. The conference people, who have nothing to do with GV, wanted to know what we do in the United States. The participants were from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland. In the brochure, I was described as “M.Sc Kenita Gibbins (Museum in Denver, Colorado USA) The art as a medium of communication.” I figured that sounded pretty good.

Reymontowka’s manager frequently hosts diplomats from many countries. My GV team had been invited to participate in the exchange of ideas about education and observe. I’ve always felt the county-owned manor house is a safe, isolated place. Many ideas regarding important issues like education and agricultural endeavors find solutions there. The conference afforded my first diplomatic trip outside of Reymontowka. Global Volunteers in Poland are frequently invited to learn from people in government work.

I have about 20 Polish words. I know no words in the languages of the other countries. Fortunately, most of them know some English. Smiles, music, dance, and vodka are barrier breakers.

On the road to Debin.
On the road to Debin. The Poles jumped off the bus to shift the tree out of the way.

The Communication & Education Conference field trip participants boarded two buses to go to the Polish Air Force and Aviation Academy in Deblin two hours away. This was a first for Global Volunteer teachers; not many Americans have ever been invited to view the Academy. The Polish Air Force is trained here, hence the NATO connection. We saw why our passport inspections were necessary. I did know the Polish military people are strong allies of the United States. The program also includes training for commercial pilots.

Bartek, a former Global Volunteer student, greeted us. Bartek wishes to be a commercial pilot. He acted as our interpreter as his English was excellent. The day consisted of a tour of the facilities, including a lecture about the program. We saw a mock traffic control room, multiple simulators for different types of aircraft including helicopters, training apparatus for extreme conditions of speed flight, a swimming pool and a video overview of the academy. After lunch we were invited to see an outdoor museum of retired airplanes.

I felt excited and oh so lucky about this incredible opportunity. It did run through my mind that I was with people from countries that had been enemies of my country. Maybe our governments are still enemies, but this I know: as people we are friends with one common goal—to be the best educators possible.

As long as I continue to draw breath I will wage peace.