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A fun way to level the playing field

To the extent that English is the international language of business, then those who do not possess the skills to use it will not be able to participate in all that is conducted in this "global language." That creates a situation that we could call a disparity of opportunity, or as I like to phrase it, "the short end of the stick."

I've had the pleasure and privilege of volunteering with Bridges For Education (BFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that operates intensive summer English conversation camps for high school students in Central and Eastern Europe--a part of the world that, unfortunately, understands "the short end of the stick" all too well. But the students who are selected for these camps are definitely not short on talent. I saw this quite plainly in the lessons and activities that I planned in order to help them develop their spoken English. I had to constantly remind myself of BFE's motto: "Teachers speak 25%, students speak 75%." That almost sounds like a recipe for pedagogical anarchy, but it's just what the doctor ordered when it comes to teaching English conversation. And it's also what makes this type of teaching extremely fun!

Our group of teacher volunteers arrived in Minsk, Belarus a bit weary from the everyday grind, but departed after the three-week camp with more energy and optimism than we ever knew. That's because the students showed us that, in a way, less is more: living on a daily basis with uncertainty, as they do, reminds us that we're not the ultimate authors of our lives. This tends to take the pressure off of our "rugged individualist" American way of life, which can otherwise get pretty intense. But the camp also showed us just how valuable we are to each other, and in ways we perhaps couldn't begin to fathom outside experiences such as these.

Michael Bégin
BFE Group Leader
International English Camp in Minsk, Belarus (July 2004)

To volunteer, please call (859) 257-8237 or send an e-mail to

My name is Ola Chmielewska and I'm 18. I live in the capital city of Poland where I was born. Poland is in the east of Europe and its quite a big country. Its also a place where BFE camp are organised. Actually my first BFE camp was 5 years ago in Poland in Tuchola.

At first I wasn't sure if I really wanted to go there, because I didn't know English very well, I had to go alone and I was really afraid of everything. But during 3 weeks I met a lot of people, I learned new things, new ways to understand people. This camp was only for Polish people so I could get to know something about each and every part of Poland.

My next two BFE camps took place also in Poland but this time in Rzeszow. It was different because there were people from Europe and not only. I had a chance to meet Russians, Ukrainians, teens from Belarus, from Hungary and also from Lithuania. This was the first time I had to speak in English more than only in lessons! Because we used to go out all together in the evenings, we used to eat dinners togethers and so on. Never before had I thought that although we were from different parts of the world we we all were the same. This is what I like the most about BFE camps.

To tell you the truth at first I was laughing at the slogan "Bridges for Education" because it didn't mean anything to me, but during all those camps and after meeting a lot of totally different people than me, I started to realise how important BFE camps are in my life...well I'm sure that not only in my life!

Last year I went to Hungary with my friends, that I met year earlier on BFE camp, and I really can say that it was my best experience, because for about 120 students there where only 12 Polish people and the rest were foreigners. The organisators decided to put participants in rooms in the way that in each room were 2 people from one country and 2 from the other, so we could learn from each other. And I think it was a great idea. I was together with my Polish friend, with two Romanians and I must say that they were the most inteligent girls I have ever met!

People always are afraid of something new. They don't want to change their habits, they are afraid of everything what may disturb their lives. There are always some stereotypes but I think the BFE camps help to crush them!!

In the end I would like to say something about American staff, because without them those camps wouldn't exist. I think they are really great. They don't have to do it, they just want to teach us. I know that when I used to talk with any of them I knew that he or she were really interested in what I was saying. It's very important for me, because when I know that my teacher really cares for me I can tell him or her everything. Well I should rather write friend instead of teacher, because they behave like friends not only like teachers! They try to teach us but not like at school when you have to write everything what teacher says. Americans give us a chance to prove our skills.

There are always classes in the morning when we talk about society, about our countries, about us, our plans for future,actually about everything! Then there are classes before and after dinner and the last ones are chosen by us. I will not tell you what are they like, but I can tell you I really enjoyed them! And everytime you need help there are teachers to help you. I remember when I was on camp two years ago I hurt my hand and , even it wasn't so bad, just after few seconds my teacher took me to her room, gave me a bandage, some aspirine, she also drew smilling face on my bandage and she took care of me and she didnt want to listen that I could do it by myself! she was really helpful, she was for me like my mother! Even now we send emails to each other when sometimes something is wrong!

American teachers show us also a new ways of living. For example last year there was reallly great woman - Sharon Pontious, she showed me and taught me that the most important thing in our lives is helping people and making our world better. Maybe its silly and everyone knows about it but only after meeting her had I started thinking about it.

Now when I'm 18 and I have just passed entrance exams to the University I know I'm different person than I was 5 years ago when I first went on BFE camp. I'm more open, I think my English had become much better and I'm not afraid of the world! Im really glad I could participate in those camps, because I know now that it is possible to build the bridges between all nations!!!

Ola Chmielowska attended the BFE International Camp in Targoviste, Bulgaria summer 2003 with 140 students from Russia (Smolensk and Volvegrad), Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Poland. She will study tourism and international relations in college.

Dear Mrs. Ciesielski,

Last two years my daughter was very glad to take part in your camps, first in Poland, second in Bulgary. Each time after her returning I was glad to meet a bit another girl thanks to international and multicultural experience she met in your camps. She became more serious, her English and French is practically fluent now. She is a leader in their school . Thank you very much for this, Beth. Besides that last time she invited with her a big group of her friends. This year she and all her friends ask about new opportunities.

Best regards,
Gennadiy Chizhikov

Dear Beth,

It was very nice to see the BFE web-site and to know that your hard work continues to bring joy and new experiences to many people in different countries.

You might (not) remember me. I was a student in you 1995 Lviv camp. A year later I spent a year in Warsaw, NY. Harvey Granite invited me to finish Hight School there.

I live in Kiev now.

I just wanted to say hello and to let you know that I remember about the good times we had during the camp and to thank you for all you enthusiasm.

Best wishes
Anastasiya Leukhina

Dear Beth,

I am sure you are getting very busy organizing your camps all over Europe! But I thought I would write you back before I get crazy busy. [...] Here are some good news to keep you updated. I got accepted to the University of Notre Dame nearby Chicago to do my masters in international peacebuilding:):):) So if everything goes well I might be coming to the US. I also have an interview in Kiev to go to at the Central European University in Budapest next week. I will pass it, but won't go to Budapest for my studies. And I got a nice job opportunity to be a Public Relations manager in Kiev. All these choices to make... [...]

I will always be glad to hear from you.

Hi, Beth!

How are you? Busy, I bet!

Here's something for you - everything happens for a reason. In 1999 there was a BFE camp in Palanga. Stuff happened. For some reason I came home with 45 litas.

I read in a journal about a residency program at Europas Parkas, a sculpture park approximately 11 km. from Vilnius, and I applied as a photographer. I was accepted! I will be in residence there from July 1 - 28, 2000. I hope to do lots of shooting and audio taping. Now I know what I'll do with my 45 litas! I have several ideas for my focus and am excited beyond belief.

I doubt this would have happened had I not been a BFE volunteer. Thank you!

If there's anything I can do for you while I'm there, let me know. And rest assured I'll be back with Bridges in the future!


Report to BFE from the Group Leader for the camp in Cluj, Romania - Summer 1999

Mr. Andrzej Szlachta
Prezydent Miasta Rzeszowa
Ul. Rynek 1

Dear Mr. Szlachta:

I am sure you are knowledgeable about the summer English language camps that have been held every July for the past five years at Zespol Szkol under the direction of Mr. Tadeusz Bajda and Bridges for Education. As other letters you have undoubtedly received by now have stated, Bridges for Education (BFE) is a non-profit organization that cooperates with the Ministry of Education and School Directors to organize international English language camps in various towns and cities in Poland and other countries in Central & Eastern Europe. BFE recruits teachers from the United States and Canada to prepare and teach a three-week curriculum that enables students to practice and improve the English they have learned in their own schools. These teachers are volunteers who pay for their own airfare and teaching supplies as well as providing dictionaries, t-shirts, and other items for the students. BFE and those who participate in its camps work hard to provide a worthwhile,meaningful experience for the teens who attend.

Equally important in the success of these camps is the host director and staff. I want to commend Mr. Tadeusz Bajda and his staff for providing excellent facilities, successfully recruiting and selecting students from Poland and neighboring countries, and organizing and managing the camp and students with outstanding efficiency. Mr. Bajda has worked with BFEfor five years, and even though I did not participate in the camp at Rzeszow until July 2000, I have heard from group leaders and teachers of past summers about the excellent direction and support given by Mr. Bajda and his staff.

This partnership between Rzeszow and Bridges for Education is a mutually beneficial relationship. The city of Rzeszow is a beautiful city of perfect size for a camp such as this. It offers a lovely centrum and shops where students and teachers enjoy spending leisure time, and it is located in an interesting region of Poland close to many historical and natural sites suitable for weekend trips. The location of Zespol Szkol is excellent, being only a few minutes walk from the center of town. Simultaneously, BFEs beneficial to Rzeszow: Teachers and students shop in the stores and eat in the restaurants, thus bringing business to local merchants. They experience the ambiance of this lovely city and go back home, whether to other towns and cities in Poland or to other countries, and tell people about Rzeszow, thus creating positive connections with people in many parts of the world and perhaps motivating them to visit your city. Since one of the goals of BFE is to promote tolerance and understanding, Rzeszow, by welcoming BFE students and teachers, is supporting that worthy goal.

Also, for the first time this past summer, students in the BFE camp became involved in a community service project for the benefit of the orphanage in Rzeszow. We believe that the time, service, and money they gave to this worthy children’s home was beneficial to both the teens who gave and the young children who received. We believe that the young people involved in this project realized that freely giving of their time and talents to others will make the world a better place, and many will continue to give service to their communities, wherever they are.

We hope in future summers that it will become a tradition for the BFE camps in Rzeszow and elsewhere to create a connection with their host cities through community service.

Once again, the BFE camp at Zespol Szkol, under the direction of Mr. Tadeusz Bajda and myself, as the Group Leader of the American teachers, was a success. It provided teens a chance to improve their English speaking and leadership skills, make friends with other young people from Poland and neighboring countries, and learn about this very important and interesting region of Poland. I congratulate and commend the city of Rzeszow and Mr. Bajda for having the foresight to open the doors of the city for such a worthy endeavor.


Mrs. Corliss Jacobs
Group Leader & Assistant Director of Planning
Bridges for Education

Dear Corliss

Thank you for your wonderful note, and sorry it has taken me so long to write you back. I am back in school, and I'm really enjoying it.

I just wanted to let you know how much I LOVED Poland and the camp. When I first talked to you about going, I admit, I was apprehensive. I couldn't understand how people could say that the experience changed their lives, I didn't think it was possible. I changed my mind. That whole experience opened my eyes to so many things, so many possibilities and a ton of wonderful people that I met. Everyday I think about it and how much I miss Poland and everyone there. It was wonderful. I admit, it was also one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was worth it. It also helps to hear the good things you have to say about my work, it makes me feel better about what I did, to know I was appreciated. I absolutely loved it, and would go back in a second.

I hope you are having a great school year. Have you had the reunion yet? I'm sorry I won't be there for it. Tell everyone hi for me.

Ashley Walker
college student at Brigham Young University in Utah who was a TA in Rzeszow, Poland
summer 2000

Good Afternoon.
I would like to begin by introducing myself. My name is Leigh Bastable and I am a graduating senior from Fayetteville-Manlius High school. A few weeks ago, at the F-M Highschool Awards night ceremony I was a recipient of the Fayetteville-Manlius Rotary Club's 13th Annual Lou Marshall Award. It is a true honor to be here and I am grateful for your recognition of me and some of my accomplishments. [...]

Because Rotary has such international dimensions I thought that you might be interested in hearing some of my experiences with an organization called Bridges For Education. Before I begin to tell you about these experiences I would like to introduce to you,Carol Decker, the person who got me involved in this program and her husband Frank Decker, a member of the Syracuse Rotary Club. Also, I would like to recognize Gretchen Steppenbech, Ruth Brown and Dr. Peggy Marshall, other women who encouraged me to participate in the Bridges For Education programs. For the past two summers I have had the unique opportunity to represent the United States in Poland and Belarus as a member of Bridges for Education (BFE).

BFE is a voluntary non-profit organization, the purpose of which is to "promote tolerance andunderstanding using English as a bridge through educational assistance inCentral and Eastern Europe". In the summer of 1999, as the youngest member andonly high school student of our team of nine people, I spent four weeks at acamp of 108 students, ages 13-15, in Tuchola, Poland. This past summer I joined a different team of fourteen people, again as the youngest member, traveling for a month to Zhadonovichi, Belarus, to serve 80 students, ages 15-19. Both countries, once satellites of the Soviet Union, are now independent developing nations. The people of Poland and Belarus are eager to join in the partnership with Americans in the education of their current and future generations to "build a more peaceful world without borders" . The efforts of our BFE teams to work and live with groups of Polish and Belarusian students provided an ideal opportunity to share our cultures, raise awareness of our social, economic, and political similarities and differences, and develop life-long friendships.

I was recruited to be a part of these teams, once as an assistant teacher of English and the other time as a teacher. Prior to each trip, we spent a significant amount of time and effort over a five-month period building our team, planning activities, developing teaching materials, and collecting supplies. This was no small feat. We were required to bring anything andeverything needed to educate the students. During our stay at both sites we taught intensive morning classes devoted to immersing students in the use of conversational English. The afternoons and evenings consisted of a variety of hands-on activities, which also encouraged students to apply their skills incommunicating through the use of English. Because I was so close in age to the students, it was an incredible feeling to realize that I served as a role model for them, especially the girls. In Poland, as in Belarus, there is equality in education, but a definite gender gap exists in these two societies when it comes to opportunities for women in politics, jobs, the military, and sports.This reality became most apparent to me when I joined an all men's basketball team at the camps in Belarus and Poland. Many of the students and staff were amazed by the fact that I actually participated in the competition and that I am a member and co-captain of the girl's varsity basketball team at my highschool in America. Although basketball is a revered sport for men in these Eastern European countries, women, on the other hand, are not encouraged to participate in such contact activities. Of all that BFE brought to the Polish and Belarusian people, in return, we gained an incredible perspective of their cultures and a deep appreciation for their ways of life.

The key players in these connections - the students, the staff of the host country, the governments of both nations,and the American staff - helped to make both trips extremely positive, challenging and rewarding experiences. In a world that is becoming so interconnected, the influence of our visits has significance to the United States as a whole. To live and work beside people of other backgrounds is awonderfully effective way to build trust, goodwill, peace and understanding between and among nations. The BFE programs provided these students with essential tools to develop into future leaders of their countries. I was so fortunate to have been a part of this effort to make a real difference in the lives of others. My life, in turn, has been forever altered by these experiences.I can make many parallels between the goals and principles of Bridges For Education and the purposes andintentions of Rotary International.

When applying the Rotary's 4-Way Test of the things we think, say or do to the Bridges For Education organization, I was able to become more aware of the similarities between these two programs. One of the questions in the Rotary's 4-Way test is "can it build goodwill and better friendships?" My experiences with Bridges For Education have given me the unique opportunity to learn and broaden my understanding of the world inw hich we live. These trips allowed me to meet a variety of people, many of whom I still remain good friends with and in contact with.

Another question asked in the Rotary's 4-Way test is "will it be beneficial to all concerned?" I think from the explanation of my trips above, it is obvious that our time overseas was not only valuable to us but also, even more valuable and advantageous for the students involved. Next fall I am off to the School of Nursing at The University of Pennsylvania. I believe that nursing is a caring profession and one that is a great fit for me. In addition, I am joining the Navy ROTC unit at UPenn as a Navy nurse-option candidate. The Navy, I believe, will offer incredible experiences - a chance to foster commitment, honor,leadership, goodwill, and pride, as well as the opportunity to continue to serve a variety of people in communities around the globe as a representative of our great country. It is my hope that someday, through programs like Rotary International and its initiatives, more people will become ambassadors of international understanding, goodwill, service, and peace. As for myself, I want to continue to travel and I hope to use my nursing education, during my junior year at Upenn, to travel abroad to Mexico to teach and help others learn good health care practices. In closing, again I thank you for recognizing me. However, I want you to know that none of my contributions have been done for recognition, but because service to others comes from my heart.

Leigh Bastable

Dear Madam,

I am happy to thank you for teaching my child, Andrew Popescu from Romania in the Hungarian camp 2001. You and the staff were very good. Andrew told me about everything and I think he was very lucky to meet you

As a mother, teacher and expert in the Ministry of Education in Romania, thanks a lot!

Sincerelly yours,
Maria Popescu

Mrs. Ciesielski,

I am one of the students who took part in the BFE Language Camp programme [in 2001] and whom you met in Przytok, Poland.

Sending you this e-mail is most probably one of the ways to express my gratitude and excitement to have been a part of such a great programme. I didn't realise the importance this camp had in my life until

I arrived home and started telling all my other friends about it and looking at the photos taken there over and over again. What seems to be even better is that I continued to keep in touch not only with the Romanian group, but also with other campers from Poland(fortunately,we had the e-mail to rely on!).

Last but not least, I would also want to express my enthusiasm so as to taking part in several BFE programmes (not necessarily as a camper). For me this would be a most important experience.

Hoping to hear from you soon,
Diana Deaconu - Romania

Dear All,

Thank you for the opportunity to be the Camp Counsellor for the BFE Camp in Nyíregyháza, Hungary in Summer 2000.

I was responsible for maintaining the camp in the hostel and help the teachers' work. Although it was sometimes a tough job I loved it very much. I enjoyed being among so many different and nice people from several parts of the world. The camp gave me a lot of encouragement concerning almost all areas of my life.

The English-Hungarian Freindship Association in Nyíregyháza is organising the camp in Summer 2001 again. I hope I can participate in organising it again and I am looking forward to meeting both old and new people again from several countries.

Best regards
Roland Gyenes

Dear Julie,

This is an occasion for me to thank you and all OSI staff members who helped us to get funding for our students' participation in the BFE camp in Poland this summer. You gave this group of young people a great opportunity, which will, I am sure, have a long-term positive effect on them and society they live in, as well as today's joy from being a part of the three-weeks friendly student-teacher atmosphere in one of the beautiful corners of the world, Pulawy, Poland.

It's been always a very special trip and special pastime for our students. One should know a life of the young people in this part of the world, where there are very limited educational opportunities, and virtually impossible to keep connection with the rest of the world. Yes, we live in a world, which is isolated, because of lack of communications, presence of destructions and of other circumstances, which makes people's lives difficult and unperspective. This is all about Chechnya, epicenter of the war, and neighboring Ingushetia, place of the biggest displaced population in the entire Russia.

Nothing has considerably changed for the better during the last year. On the opposite, life conditions for people, especially for youth, are aggravating. The war is going on with civilians being killed on a daily basis. What little has been done by humanitarian community in terms of reconstruction of republic's infrastructure is not enough. People continue to live in insecurity and poverty, deprived of the possibility to satisfy the basic needs.

There is little hope that the war will be stopped in the next future. That means, that again our children and youth will get less opportunities to live a full value or decent life, where they can get good education, live in peace and security, have opportunity for informal communication with young people including the ones from the other countries, travel, sport, intellectual development, etc.

BFE camps gave them all of that. As a matter of fact, participation of the Chechen students in the camps has become a good tradition, which proved in the course of several years that, the international community in the face of OSI, BFE organization, American teachers, organizers of the Polish camps, do care of those disadvantaged. Realization of that Project has become an evidence of their readiness to respond adequately and do whatever is possible to give such opportunity.

Let me again thank you very much on behalf of all students, their parents, and myself.

I hope that the BFE program, which proved to be viable and effective, will continue in the future, and our students will be able with your help participate in it again next year.

With best wishes,
Fatima Yandieva

Dear Beth,

My name is Marija Milosavljevic. I was in BFE camp in Timisoara in august, perhaps you can remember me. I am 18 years old and I am from Bosnia.

I write you to tell you how much I enjoyed the camp and to ask you some questiones. I hope you can answer me becouse it's very important to me.

This was the first time I was in this camp. To be honest, at first I was wondering if I should go to Romania. I was a little afraid, because I should spend three weeks with people I never saw in my life. But I always loved meeting other people and other places so I decided to go to Timisoara. I'll never be sorry I went there.

In only three weeks I got used to those people so much like they were my family. After war in Bosnia there is still a lot of hate between different religions, but me and other young people are trying to escape from all prejudices. Three weeks in Timisoara I lived with kids who have other language, other religion, and I can tell you that those three weeks are the best thing that happened in my life. I was not only living with them, but they also became my friends, we were singing together, we were laughing together and we were crying together when we were leaving camp.

But when I came back to my town, people didn't want to believe that I could spend three weeks with kids that are Albanians, with kids that don't have my religion. People here in my town still refuse to accept the fact that we could live together in peace if we just tried. But this is not just in my town, this is situation in almost whole Bosnia. War is finished and we have peace now, but people are still angry. I just hope one day everyone will realise that thinking that one nation is better than other is stupid and that it's so much easier to love than to hate. I wish that all people can feel positive energy I felt in the camp. I'm so happy becouse I was there in the place where people are positive, honest, with no prejudices, where I was allowed to tell my opinion, to express myself, to do the best I can to become better person. It was so new for me, because my teachers here in Bosnia never talk with us like teachers in camp did. I was surprised how American teachers like to talk with us, to tell us about their lives, families, and how much they like to hear about our lives. In my country it's almost not possible that teacher tells us about his kids, about his hobby..

I think it's beautiful thing that you teacher can also be your friend, like teachers in camp were our friends. Other things about our schools is that we have to learn so many things, much, much more than in other countries in Europe or in America. But those are things that we can't use later in life. That's why I liked classes in camp so much: whenever we had a lesson, we were discussing about it, we could say our thoughts and our feelings. It's the best way to learn something, to learn how to deal with life, and it's so much different than classes in my country, where kids just sit and listen what teacher is saying.

This is my last year in high school. Next year I want to go to college. Going to college in Bosnia is easy for people who have a lot of money, but not becouse it's expensive, but becouse profesors are corrupted. Everyone knows that it is possible to finish the college if they just give some money to profesors. This way, rich people can get diploma without any knowlege.

I'm one of the best students in my town, but next year when I apply for college, it can happen that I don't get a place, becouse someone else will pay for that place. I can't let that happen and I don't want to let that happen. I really want to go to college, becouse with high school I can hardly get a job anywhere. this is where I need your help. When I was in camp I heard so much about colleges in America. I was thinking about that earlier, and I know it's far from my home and a big change, but

I would be ready to go to United States. I heard from some teachers something about scholarships for students that are not from America. I wonder if you could tell me if there's a way for student like me to get scholarship for college there? Is there any chance and who should I talk to? I thought that you might know, because I heard that your daughter goes to a college too. My biggest wish is to go to college in America. I don't see America as a perfect land, where I can get all I want just like that, but I really like the way teachers treat their students and I see America as a place where I have a chance to learn, to work and live free. In my country I don't have that chance. That's why I ask you to try to help me. I love my country but I don't want to stay somewhere where people don't understand each other. I really want to try with college in America, I know I would be the best if I just have a chance to do what I like.

I promised myself that one day I'll come to America. Specially I want to visit Buffalo and Denver, because my favorite teachers in camp are from those cities. I hope so much that I'll hear some happy news from you about that scholarship. Could you please send me an e-mail whatever you find out?

Thank you so much for the camp in Timisoara. I met beautiful people there. I'll never forget them and I'll never forget how beautiful Timisoara is.

Best wishes from Marija Milosavljevic

Dear Beth,

I wish I was able to write you sooner, but we had big problems with Internet access(this is small town). How are you? I heard about everything that happened. Watching WTC buildings collapsing reminded me of the time when we had war in Bosnia. I wish I could do something or say something that could help you. That was horrible act, what those people did with airplanes. I hope that you and all your family is OK. I know that it's very hard for American people right now, but you will recover. People that I knew died in war in Bosnia, but life goes on. When I was in camp, I felt strength that Americans have, and I know that America is going to be all right.

Thank you for your informations about helped me a lot. I did some computer search (but not much becouse of very bad Internet access). I already know more about colleges in U.S. I also visited and found all those websites about colleges.

You asked for my permission to list my letter on your webpage. Of course you can do that. Use anything from my letter that you think could make more kids come to camp. That's my wish too, that more people can experience what I did. Maybe then kids wouldn't grow up to be cruel murderers, like those people in planes who killed so many innocent citizens.

Thanks again for your help. I'll let you know if I find anything that could help me.

Stay strong and take care.

Marija Milosavljevic

Dear All,

My name is Basia Somerlik and I am a student of second year of English philology at The University of Silesia in Sosnowiec. I attended to the BFE Camp in Przytok and I must say that I benefited from being there greatly.

I can't express my gratitude to all the dear teachers from Kansas who made that time a real pleasure and adventure with English language as well as the school of life. I would like to thank Mrs Corliss Jacobs who was the leader of the camp and who did her best to make us feel great there. I say 'Best wishes and great thanks' to all the teachers who helped me to find my way of life. Mrs Jacobs, Eve Jacobs, Leah Neese,Mrs Grizzle,Mr Wheat, Mrs Eckhoff,Mrs Barney,Mr Walker, Mrs Hall, Ms Keil, Ms Schweitzer, Ms Spotts, Mrs Langmack,Ms Tomlinson, Mr Glenn with his daughter, Mr Cooper (if I happen to omit or forget anyone's name I'm really sorry )


Dear Beth

You asked me why do I like this camp so much .
At the first camp I have meet wonderful people from Belarus , but also from American staff . We had there great fun but also my English was getting better and better. Since that camp we all meet in Minsk every year (Polish group and Belarus people). For me (and for the rest of people who visits camp ) it's the best way to learn English language .
Also first contact with other nationalities and cultures was really great - we learned there also about tolerance and understanding other people. So I hope to improve my skills and meet my friends one more time.

Once more big thanks for this camp :)

student from Poland, 2002

March 1, 2002
Dear Beth,

It was great to get your e-mail! Your work is so appreciated. Our experience almost two years ago in Poland was fantastic and one that we will always cherish. Good friends were made as well as understandings of how others live in another area of the world were realized first hand in a way that would never have been otherwise possible. Tough we are unable to be part of a team this year we will pass on your e-mail to other who might be an asset for the program and experience the rewards that are only possible by reaching out and being there.

Thank you again for all that you do.

Very sincerely Yours,
The Grissing's - Terry, Ed, Leslie and Emily

Dear Mr. Collins,

My name is Aurelia Nica and I am Razvan's mother. Razvan asked me to send you one of his pictures, so I attached it to this message.
You have to know that Razvan is very proud to write you and he considers you as his best friend ( I'm sure you know that.)
I would like to thank you for encouraging my son to paint and to write and read in English language. In fact, this is the reason why me and my husband chose Poland camp for Razvan (Raz). (We hope that it would be possible next year too.) It was for Razvan "the first step" out of Romania and the results are positive. He become much more interested in learning English. He start to read English printed matters and he is happy when he read your answers to his e-mails.

You and your team are doing a very good job with and for all these children.

Best regards,
Aurelia Nica

Dear BFE,

My name is Fisnik Hajrizi and I'm 17 years old from Kosovo / Mitrovica,

Im writing this leter in behalf of Group from Kosovo, I was in BFE Summer Camp in Timisoara,last summer and it was my first time outside the country, last year around May, when my brother Florent (my team leader ) told me that he received an e-mail from you, and was informed about the BFE, and all your activities, he said that we will go there ,,and we will try to make it there, no matter how hard it is.

But to be honest, my first question to my self, was, " Why should I go there " and then I visited your webpage, even if my English language knowlege was so limited...but I was interested to know about you. Then we went to Camp in Romainia and I met a lot of interesting people, and it was new begining for me. In the first week I said to my group that I would like to go home as soon as I can. But than I started to like it and became friends with a lot people, especially the group of students from Bosnia. It was fun as long as I was there in BFE Camp last summer.

I want to thank all the peuple who made this happen for us,and i want to say special THANKS to BFE for thinking about us and for making our broken hearts feel a little bit better, after that mess that we been through in KOSOVO three years ago.

I also would like to thank all the TEACHERS from US, and I want to remind all of them that I always think about them, and I always remember our good time that we had together in BFE Camp.

I also would like to thank all Local Staff, starting from Mr.Unguras, the Camp Director, and all the people there. They were so caring about us and making us feel like at home. My English was so limited, and I was so shame about that. But in the same time I was so proud about me being in BFE camp. In our last week of being there my question to Florent was, "Why we don't stay here little bit longer"....but I left Timisoara, Romaina with good empression of people, and for Romania itself.

Since we came back here in Kosovo, all my friend/local radios/TV-s, were very interested to know who was it. This experience means a lot for me to be 17 years old and to be in good realations with a lot people from US,Bosnia, Romainia, Serbia, Poland... and all this happened because BFE made possible for us.

I'm looking foward to attend BFE Camps this year two, but this time I willbe more proud of me being in BFE Camp, because it will my second time.

I would like to send a message to all the people who will read this: PLEASE make that happen again for us,and our broken hearts, for all the kids of good will, and all the people who are trying to build peace and tolorance between human beings.

Thank you!

Hope everything is going good with you. I would like to finish this letter of thank you with one hope that I will have another chance to write another letter of Thank you,

Your dear
Fisnik Hajrizi - Mitrovica, Kosovo

Dear Beth,

Thank you for allowing me to participate in Timisoara's BFE camp. It wasa privilege to meet everyone especially the Albanian Muslims from Kosovo. In light of recent events, it is good to personally know that not all Muslims are terrorists or people who hate Americans.

I wish you and BFE continually success in overcoming cultural barriers and promoting tolerance. Hopefully people from Kosovo - both Albanians and Serbs will continue to participate in future BFE camps.

Sincerely and gratefully yours,
Carolyn Voelker

Dear Beth,

[...] Belarus is working with BFE program for 7 years and we really think that it's a great opportunity for students to build a bridge of mutual tolerance and respect using English language as material.

In practice this program is something much more than just language camps that help students to improve their language skills. It unites those who coordinate and organize the process in different countries. You start feeling like a big family with people you have never seen creating something really useful and unique like BFE camp.

The camp itself has some special spirit and atmosphere. It teaches not only English language but leadership and friendship, plunges you into a different environment reviling new talents and opportunities. American teachers make a long trip in order to share their knowledge with students from different countries as well as to learn something from them also.

BFE camps are really international. They gather young people from different cultures in order to make a great exchange of knowledge, opinions and thoughts, in order to create some unique common culture of the world.

Best regards,
Svetlana Palana - BFE Camp Director
Alexander Karankievich - President of UNESCO Clubs, Belarus

Hello my dear Beth,

You promised to write me after August 1, after you get back to the US. I decided to write to you myself to ask how are you? Were all the camps a success? Where do you plan camps next year?

As well, I would like to hear your opinion about our kids in Minsk camp. They came all today to our office. Just to meet - they are close friends now. I saw their happy faces. Their teacher is here too, and she sends her thank you for your help.

Anna from Poland said she's been to Minsk camp for three years, but this year was special, because of our students. I am happy to hear that. And I am happy that it was possible thanks to your help and kindness toward us.

All the best
Alim - Crimean Tatar NGO
Crimea, Ukraine

Dear Beth,

It was good to hear from you again. I fell out of touch with a lot of people from camp due to my senior year of college. Now that I'm back in touch though I'll give you the details.

The BFE camp I was involved in was Krakow, 2000. My decision to apply and then join the Peace Corps came before my BFE experience. I actually got involved in BFE b/c I was looking for teaching experience opportunities that would help me get accepted into the PC. BFE was perfect! The idea is similar in that the camps teach tolerance and understanding along with English. It also taught me that I could adapt to a different culture and language and enjoy doing so. It also made me realize I could live in another country away from my family and survive.

I feel like I have somewhat of an advantage over my other PC volunteers b/c I have been to Eastern Europe and enjoyed every moment of it. FOr me going to Ukraine is returning to a part of the world I know and love. The people are wonderful and hospitable and I don't question my decision to go at all!

I should thank you for giving me the opportunity to realize this about myself while also getting the chance to make new friends and learn new things. I think the BFE info. on my application definitely impressed the people who read it. I know in my interview I was asked about it and talked about my experience for a good portion of the time. If there is anything else you need to know let me know, as I will be happy to talk about my experience to anyone.

I hope this e-mails finds you and your family well!

Best Wishes,

Dear All,

Our names are Gary and Pat Huss. We have been associated with Bridges For Education (BFE) since 1999, first as volunteer teachers and most recently as Group Leaders at BFE language camps in Pulawy and Krakow, Poland. We support Beth and all she does with her organization. We truly feel that she best personifies the philosophy of BFE "to promote bridges of tolerance and understanding," especially in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe.

We are writing this letter on behalf of a small group of children from Chechnya who have attended BFE camps in Poland during recent summers. We first met these students and their leader, Fatima Yandieva, at a BFE camp in Krakow, Poland in July, 1999.

We have never met children more deserving of of the beneifits a BFE camp provides. To come from a war-torn and chaotic situation, most often refugee camps or displaced homes and families, to a place of peace and security, such as BFE provides, must have been an oasis of paradise for them. In recent years, some younger brothers and sisters have replaced the students too old to attend our camps. The hunger these children expressed to learn English and meet children and teachers from other cultures cannot be measured! If BFE exists to "build bridges," then the Chechan children are certainly one side of the expanse in which to begin the foundation of that bridge! The children of the emerging democracies of the former communist states of Eastern Europe can certainly bear witness to this.

Not a week goes by when we do not hear from our former students, often expressing gratitude for the work we do for all children. Hopefully, when peace is restored to Chechnya, these children, who are the future of Chechnya, will remember their experiences in the BFE camps. They will also remember Beth Ciesielski, the Group Leaders, the teachers and the seeds which your organization has helped to plant. These "tiny ripples" can bring down the walls of intolerance and oppression.

Last year at our BFE camp in Pulawy, Poland, one of the Chechan students, Bella Martazanova, was chosen for special recognition as an exemplary participant, based on nominations and points awarded from all 24 American teachers and other staff present at the camp. This award was only given to two students out of almost two hundred students at the camp. We were thrilled to present her with this award since she steadfastly demonstrated BFE principles.

We therefore ask and encourage your organization to continue funding the Chechan children for participation in our BFE camps. We commend you for your past efforts to support these children and hope that you continue your noble generosity during these urgent times when the world really needs to be tolerant and understanding of other cultures.

Gary and Pat Huss, BFE Group Leaders

Dear Mrs. Jacobs,

I finally made up my mind and I've decided to go to Belarus. After reading your message, I've recieved a couple of letters from a 2001 scholarship winner, who lives in Belarus and he quite succeded in convincing me to choose this country:)

I'm sorry that I've lost so much time and I didn't form a group, because all the applicants wanted to go to Poland. Now I have to start all over again,but I think I can manage everything. The only thought that I'll get to spend another month with a group of wonderful people inspires me and gives me a new energy..

Thank you very much for your information and please let me know what is the next step I should take.

Rodica:), Chisinau, Moldova

Hello Beth,

I know how you will be happy to know about achievements of any participant of BFE camps. And I am in a hurry to inform you that Masha gained the lead on Republican secondary school competition on French and was rewarded by French Consulate in Kyrgyzstan with trip to Paris and then to one international camp in France in August, from 2 to 14.

When I asked Masha if she is not afraid to be alone in foreign country for the first time, among students from other country. She told me that she had had good experience in the international camp in Belorusia and if anybody doesn't understand her in French she would talk in English, and now she was not afraid to communicate with people from other countries.

It is one of the best results of such important program as BFE, isn't it.

Thanks a lot for all that you and your program is doing, collecting participants from different country to study English as language of international communication Allowing youngs to find friends, using English as a bridge, it motivates them to study other foreign languages too.

I have a good memory about all our talks, and that you could find funds that my children, from such small country, could participate to your camp.

Best regards,

Dear friends,

I realise today was a difficult day for you, and for me too. Last year I couldn't believe what was going on in NY.

I always had the image of an old, wise man who can answer all my questions. I would like to ask him why people have to fight and kill each other? I can't find an answer to this question alone. There are innocent people who live in USA as well as in Romania, Afganistan, Hungary and so on.

I think BFE was the right place to demonstrate how easy people from different cultures can get along. I feel lucky I got to meet you and have such great friends. No matter where they live, or what nation they are.

With all my support,
Miruna Constantinescu,