Global Volunteers - Volunteer Programs in Poland

Provider: Global Volunteers

You're needed as a volunteer to teach in rural school classrooms in the Siedlce region, east of Warsaw and at English language camps in the Tatra mountain village of Zakopane - teachers and non-teachers alike are helpful! The primary objectives are to intensify the young students' desire to learn English and to enhance the adults' ability to communicate in English. Summer teams are a fun family Adventure in Service! Volunteers and Polish school students take trips together and play American games.
Occasionally, activities outside of teaching include:

  • After-school tutoring: Mentor and teach disadvantaged elementary students. Tutoring responsibilities include assisting in studying and homework assignments and improving social skills.
  • Special needs assistance: "Caritas" Institute serves adults age 18-50 with physical and mental disabilities. Volunteers lead English cl

Program Info

Location: 
  • Poland
Program Length: 
1-2 weeks
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
See site for details.
See More
Age Group: 
14-18
50+
Cost Description: 

Program fees, based on the GV's costs, include food, accommodations, transportation within projects, project costs, administrative expenses, and support from Global Volunteers staff. The rest of the costs are used to support the continued development of host communities. Discounts are available for

Languages: 
English
Polish
Application: 
Online Application

Program Reviews (7)

100%
Positive
Leave a Review
  • Impact
    94%
  • Support
    100%
  • Fun
    96%
  • Value
    100%
  • Safety
    100%
  • Emily H
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Scottsdale, AZ
    The GV Poland Experience Changed My Life
    03/29/2012

    I volunteered with GV in 1996 in a location near Zakopane which is no longer available. Our group stayed in the small town, with transportation daily out to even smaller communities. The logistics of getting enough community volunteers with cars to help each day was our biggest struggle, because it was a small, rural town. The community embraced us wholeheartedly, turning out nightly for dances, music, and cultural exchanges, and everyone was so appreciative that we were providing opportunities for their children. My biggest praise comes for the Poland program structure and in-country staff/translators who made the experience seamless and allowed us to focus on teaching, learning, and cultural experiences. We had assistance where needed with transportation, money conversion, events, and introductions but were also allowed to experience on our own if desired. I built wonderful friendships which continue today, and gained valuable cultural insights. I considered myself a veteran traveler and had experienced many cultures prior to experiencing Poland, but the quiet fortitude, humility, and graciousness of the Polish people made a lasting impression on me.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 2 Inspiring: 3
  • Jim Podraza Tampa, Fl.
    Age: 51 or older
    Male
    Tampa, Fl.
    Other
    A Wonderful Program!
    03/19/2012

    I have been to Poland five different years as a volunteer with Global Volunteers, and I will be returning again this year for 4 weeks. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who may have an interest in volunteering. The students are engaging and eager to learn, and the staff at Reymontowka are fabulous. Can't wait to return later this year to volunteer for 4 weeks.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 2 Inspiring: 1
  • Steve
    Age: 51 or older
    Male
    Hanover, New Hampshire
    Dartmouth College
    Experience living and working with Polish students and teachers
    03/16/2012

    I have been to Poland twice with Global Volunteers. I spent 2 weeks at the Reymontowka summer camp. I had a great experience. You will have an opportunity to teach English to Polish children and live and work with the Polish students and staff. The staff are great, very supportive I have made numerous friendships. The students are very bright, and much more like American kids than I suspected. To make the most of your time at Reymontowka you should try to spend time with the students and staff outside of the 4 hours teaching English. There are many opportunities for this, whether its riding bikes, playing basketball, or sitting on the porch drinking coffee. Be prepared for a full immersion, up close and personal experience.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 3 Inspiring: 1
  • Lisa W.
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Minneapolis, MN
    Other
    teaching middle school students English in Zakopane
    03/14/2012

    What a wonderful opportunity to a part of the world that isn't always the most popular toursit destination. My goal was to visit somewhere not so typical and really see it up close, not just thru a tour guide's lense. My goals' were fulfilled and then some... I was able to help Polish Middle Schoolers improve upon their english speaking skills AND really see a new part of the world, first hand, NOT like a tourist. A bonus... the mountains of southern Poland are gorgeous (put on your hiking boots and try a hike or 2). I would highly recommend this program with Global Volunteers. I went solo and met some fun people of all ages as well. Excellent opportunity.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 2 Inspiring: 0
  • VirginiaG
    Age: 51 or older
    Female
    South Lake Tahoe, CA
    Other
    Make lasting friendships and learn lasting lessons.
    03/12/2012

    We've gone on 3 trips with Global Volunteers to Poland and loved every one of them. The organization of each trip was slightly different and the students were always enthusiastic and wonderful to work with. Getting to know a country and the people this way is the best way to travel. Traveling and making a difference in the lives of many teen agers is so rewarding. And Global Volunteers has such a well organized and thoughtfully structured approach to their group efforts. They don't go into a community telling them what they need - they listen to the community representatives and then help them working together WITH the community - not doing it FOR them And the Global Volunteers trips are enriching for volunteers of all ages, and I look forward to being able to travel with them again.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 1 Inspiring: 0
  • Lori
    Age: 51 or older
    Female
    Saint Paul, MN
    Other
    You have a Polish Soul
    01/22/2012

    I have participated in 15+ Global Volunteer programs in Poland. I've done the language camps for high school students in Zakopane, participated in teaching in the village school programs, and also participated in multiple language camps at the Reymontowka Conference Center near Siedlce. My experience now ranges over a 10 year period and I can see the impact of the English teaching program, as I've seen children move from elementary school to becoming successful university students.

    A typical day is to teach about 4 hours and then have the other half of the work day for preparation for the next day. At the language camps we often are treated to programs by the students in the evening as they share their talents or do a program to acquaint the volunteers with Polish history and culture. Often when teaching the village school programs, one is invited to go along on a field trip with the students to a national park in Poland or a historic site. If one is there on a holiday such as Mother's Day, of course the volunteers are included in the activities the children present for their mothers. When one is at Reymontowka in May, the volunteers can enjoy a cultural festival called Majowka, and often regarded as honored guests by the Polish people.

    The weekends are free time. I've traveled to many other places in Poland during these weekends. The train system in Poland makes it easy to get to Krakow, for example, from either Zakopane or the Reymontowka Conference Center. Warsaw is only an hour away by train from Siedlce, so it easy to go there for the weekend or even just an afternoon.

    I'm often asked if I have Polish ancestry and explain no. That's when one of the Polish teachers with whom I've worked several times interrupted and said, "But you have a Polish soul."

    I've never had difficulties during any of these programs. The only real difficulties I've seen others have are health problems such as a dental emergency. The Global Volunteer team leader is trained to deal with problems such as this and help a volunteer to get needed health or dental care.

    The Polish countryside is beautiful -- this often a surprise to a visitor to the country for the first time. The food is plentiful and excellent. Now in 2012, it is easy to access the Internet to keep in touch with home.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 3 Inspiring: 2
  • Ginny
    Age: 51 or older
    Female
    Oviedo, Florida
    Zakopane, Summer 2009
    01/22/2012

    The Polish people are absolutely wonderful people. In the two weeks that I spent in Poland, being around them was the best part of this experience. They were so happy to have us there and made us feel so welcome, whether it was at our site in Zakopane or during our free time activities.

    The country is beautiful. We were settled in the foothills of the mountains. The weather was fantastic. I can't leave out the food, which was delicious.

    One weekend, we went to Krakow. It is a beautiful medival city. We toured the salt mines and had a college student take us on a city tour where we saw the actual site of Schindler's List. There is so much to see an do in this country.

    The team I was on worked with high school students. We taught them English. The students are so grateful to have native English speakers work with them over the two weeks. The time they spend in the camp improving their English skills enables them to bring more to a college application/experience. We saw the impact we made over the course of two weeks.

    We also saw the bigger picture. Because Global Volunteers has been coming to Poland for many years, students who acquire English skills are able to get better jobs. This, in turn, has helped improve the economy of the country of Poland.

    Finally, Dorota is fantastic at what she does. She makes sure every volunteer has a positive experience. She was so excited to be able to share her country with us.

    I know the volunteers were able to help the students in so many positive ways. At the same time, the entire Polish experience was good for me in so many ways. I highly recommend this program.

    Was this review...?
    Useful: 1 Inspiring: 1

Alumni Interviews

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Global Volunteers in Poland?

    Lori: That is still a good question that I have difficulty answering! Two things influenced me to choose that country. I had a great-grandmother who considered herself German when she came to the United States, but came from an area that is now present day Poland.

    When I was a young university student someone from the United States simply couldn't go to Poland. One time while on a ferry between England and the Netherlands I met a woman from Poland and for years I felt badly about my lack of language skills and not being able to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about Poland.

    Today the politics are different and my children have grown up so I now feel I have more free time. I am a public health nurse by profession and found the Global Volunteers principles consistent with my ideas about good public health work -- one doesn't come in and tell people what to do, but rather one works with communities to solve the problems of their concern and the solutions are developed together. The other principle that is important is the side by side work. Volunteers work with people from the community and the point of the work is actually to develop relationships between people; the work, while important, is secondary to creating the relationships.

    young kids in Poland
    Spend time with the youth of Poland

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Lori: The day to day schedule varies by the program. The program always begins with at least a day of orientation. Volunteers review their understanding of the Global Volunteers principles. They articulate three personal goals for the experience and then use those personal goals to develop 3-4 team goals. For example, nearly always one team goal is to help children expand their English skills and another nearly always is to learn about Polish culture. Volunteers also articulate characteristics of a good team and this helps volunteers realize they are a team and not a group of disparate individuals each doing their own thing.

    Monday-Friday are usually teaching days, although sometime Monday remains an orientation day, particularly if one is teaching in a school based program. A usual schedule is to teach about four hours. This may be an entire morning or will sometimes be divided between two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. The remaining time is spent in planning the next day's activities. Some of the time during the day may be cultural activities with the students. I've participated in Mother's Day observances (also May 26th in Poland), gone on afternoon visits to a museum, attended "Polish night," a program given by students to help the volunteers learn more about Polish history and culture, gone to a "bonfire" with the Polish teachers with whom I've worked, gone with the students on a full-day field trip to a Polish National Park, or attended a piano recital given by music students from the University of Warsaw.

    The weekend is free time. Volunteers can stay at the hotel as always or travel elsewhere in the country. The volunteer time nearly always ends with a final celebration of some sort. Students display their new English skills and everyone says farewell.

    One unique aspect of the summer language camp is that the volunteers stay in the same lodging accommodations as the students. This provides many opportunities for informal conversations.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Lori: I am a university professor with a doctoral degree -- I'm done with academic education, but not as a professor yet. Personally, volunteering in Poland has been incredibly enriching. I have friends now in Poland and enjoy seeing messages arrive via e-mail or on Facebook. At a time in life when social contacts may be contracting, my life continues to expand.

    Professionally, these experiences gave me good preparation for a Fulbright appointment at the University of Pecs in southern Hungary, where I spent six months in 2010. There I taught courses to doctoral students in the Faculty of Health Sciences, as well as help with university terms and English for Special Purpose classes. I have done a lot of conversational English teach before going to Hungary and developed a lot of skill for this. One of the nicest compliments I received came from one of the English teachers which whom I worked. She said, "Your walked in here and knew what you were doing."

    Right now I'm teaching a Global Health Issues class and explain to students how communication and information technology changed in Poland from 2002-2011. I teach at a university which as many students who are immigrants or refugees. My experience with teaching conversational English helps me help these students.

    I kept a blog while volunteering in Poland which you can visit at www.adventureshereandthere.blogspot.com. You will find entries in May 2011 and from late June to mid-August 2011 about my volunteer experience in Poland, as well as photos from that time. There are never enough volunteers for this program -- more students want to learn and expand their English skills than there are volunteers to help.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with GV in Poland?

    Virginia: The first time we went because my dad found a trip in an Elderhostal list about a joint trip between both organizations. That one was full but we went on a different one that summer and loved it. It was initially a sort of "Roots" trip for my dad because his mother was born in Poland but we were so hooked by the entire process that we went back to Poland for 2 more GV trips and then another time on our own just to visit people we'd gotten to know. We also did 2 trips to Mississippi (one a leader training and one we served as leaders) and really enjoyed those as well.

    Streets of Poland
    Explore the streets of Poland

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer in Cambodia.

    Virginia: On our trips to Poland the main focus of our day to day activity was to work with high school students in English. They had already studied some English in school and mostly wanted to practice spoken English. Each volunteer was assigned a small group of Polish students and we would spend the mornings doing a variety of lessons. We would do some drills and dialogues and other language games depending on the language level of the students.

    At break times we often met with the whole group to sing songs in English. One year we had a volunteer with a guitar and other years we had tapes for the music. After lunch and a little rest we would go on field trips with the entire group. Sometimes we'd each take our small group and practice English as we explored. Other times we split up volunteers and students and did our own things. In the evenings we had a variety of activities and discussions. One year the students requested evening presentations on different subjects - the Vietnam War, life in different parts of America, etc. Later in the evenings the volunteers often went to a nearby pub to relax over a wonderful Polish beer.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Virginia: Getting to know the people and country of Poland gave me lots of insight into my family traditions and heritage. I feel that I also have a much better understanding of global politics and economics and how people outside of the US live. Seeing Poland change so drastically after the fall of communism was amazing and to compare their development to those of other post communist countries was very interesting as well.

  • Local girl from Poland
    Learn about Poland's culture

    Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Global Volunteers in Poland?

    Emily: The Global Volunteers opportunity in Poland met many of my needs and wishes for an adventure. First, it allowed me to work with children and adults in local communities who were eager to learn, and played to a basic strength - speaking English! Secondly, it was a two-week trip, with opportunity to lengthen the trip at either end, so I could stay and travel. I found two weeks to be a great length, allowing enough time to commit to students and also to explore the country. Thirdly, it gave me a chance to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, which was a life-long goal.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Emily: We were housed in a centrally-located motel, which had formerly been a Communist Party retreat. The volunteers took all our meals communally, so we gathered for breakfast, were brought back for a hot lunch, then again for dinner. The entire town was small, probably 4000, but each volunteer was picked up daily by a town leader (the mayor, vice-mayors and school officials) and driven into a nearby community of about 300-400, where all the students walked to a community school. There were about 7 of these community-based schools serving our town, and one volunteer per school. My school was for first through eighth graders, and I taught each class every day.

    In most classes, there was at least one student with command of English who could interpret for me, since I understood no Polish. There was an English teacher, with whom I worked 3 days a week. This teacher was a Polish engineer who could read from English textbooks but loved having a native speaker to help with pronunciation. The entire school was abuzz about my presence, and on my final day they held a festival and gave me handmade gifts which I still have today. The students were eager, bright, and without trappings of materialism. Most evenings, after dinner, our entire group was invited to the community center for some sort of cultural or social event, in which adults and families from the town presented a different program.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Emily: This is my favorite question - because I can demonstrate profound ways this program changed my life! I enjoyed my experience so much, and found such a kinship with my fellow volunteers, that we gathered 3-4 times in the year after our experience for reunions. These reunions were held in Minneapolis, as it was centrally located and 2 volunteers lived there.

    My experience in Poland reinforced a desire to expand my horizons, both personally and professionally, and I found that I loved the Twin Cities area. It was clean, progressive, very "outdoorsy" for an urban area, and had a great economic base offering lots of jobs. I moved to Minneapolis, took a job at a company and worked my way up to management, making many friends and enjoying my work very much. I met my husband in Minnesota, and we have now been married over 7 years. Because of the friends I made in Poland, I expanded my world, my professional life, my career, and my life Even now, the experience continues to impact me, providing me with an appreciation for cultural differences and making me less likely to jump to conclusions or criticize based on perceived differences. I remember the wonder and appreciation of my students and the Polish people, and try to capture that daily in my world view.

About the provider

Global Volunteers, a private, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-governmental organization, has been giving short-term volunteers the chance to provide essential services to local people on service programs since 1984. Volunteering under the direction of local leaders, team members form groundwork for international peace via common, global understanding. Our goal is to sustain authentic development projects with the host community and give volunteers wide opportunities to help.