As a country, Poland’s geographical borders changed countless times over some 1,100 years. A former socialist state rich in history, today's Poland is a place where modernity and tradition exist side by side. The strong and resilient society which emerged from the former Soviet Union in 1989 and which joined the European Union in 2004 produced a model of new democratic development and economic security in Central Europe. Poland today is ethnically almost homogeneous - some 98 percent of the nearly 39.5 million citizens are ethnic Poles. The largest minority groups are Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Germans. By contrast, in the pre-World War II period, there were significant ethnic minorities - 4.5 million Ukrainians, 3 million Jews, 1 million Belorussians, and 800,000 Germans.
A key to Poland’s rapid advancement as a free state is the promotion of English as the language of commerce, technology and instruction. Volunteers have much to offer as classroom resources and coaches for acquiring easy conversational skill. In the large cities of Krakow or Warsaw as well as in the bucolic villages of Poland’s vast agricultural countryside, English is heard routinely, and is accepted as the globe’s common language. Opportunities for volunteering throughout the country expose you to the best of Poland’s vibrant culture and hospitable people.
Teaching conversational English skills to youth and adults is a popular volunteer project in Poland. Whether in small groups, at summer camps or in lively classrooms, you can share your knowledge of the language with Polish students from all backgrounds.
Tutoring at-risk Youth
You can often work with school children with disabilities or from challenging homes to help them complete homework assignments, learn basic English, and improve their social skills.
You can learn about and support the Jewish community in Poland through labor projects with synagogues and in community-based efforts to revive Jewish life and culture.
Volunteer in community centers for middle-aged and elderly Poles on educational activities such as language courses, seminars, continuing education courses, and computer classes.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Poland
As a modern European country, volunteers will encounter few, if any, health risks in Poland. Before you head to Poland, consult your own physician, public health clinic and/or travel clinic for detailed travel health information for this region of the world. Generally, Hepatitis A and/or B is recommended for international travel. At higher elevations, you must take care to avoid altitude sickness indicated by headaches, dizziness and low energy, which can become life-threatening if not treated. Water is safe in most urban areas of Poland.
Visas for Volunteering in Poland
Poland Visas – a tourist visa is required to volunteer in Poland. Apply for your visa at least four weeks before your program begins. More information on visas can be found at VISA HQ.
There are 25 European countries that are party to the Schengen Agreement, which eliminates all internal border controls between them. Once you enter one Schengen country you may travel continuously for up to 90 days within the member countries. Within the Schengen area, you do not show your passport when crossing country borders.
Travelers for business or tourism are permitted to stay in the Schengen area for 90 days within a six month period. Once the 90 day maximum is reached, leaving for a brief period and re-entering the area does not entitle a traveler to 90 more days within the Schengen states. The traveler would have to remain outside of the Schengen zone for 90 days before reentering without a visa.
Contributed by Dorota Wierzbicka