Teach Conversational English
in Eastern Europe, China and Turkey
"Everyone should go someplace at least once in their life where they don't speak English." - Thorton Wilder, Our Town
I want recommend you warmly youth camps the Bridges for Education organise as one real bridge of education and tolerance given to youth from different countries of East and South-east Europe since '94. Often these young people coming in the camps from countries survived the hardest violence and war, such Bosnia&Herzegovina and other countries of former Yugoslavia, finding in them a safe place for everyone, opportunity to meet children from "the other sides" overcome enemy, even build friendship till the end of the camp.
Great co-operation the Centre for Culture of Peace and Non-violence has with the Bridges for Education, started in past 1997, when I personally met Mrs. Ciesielski, a founder and a director of the organisation; from this meeting we tried to find a solution to include youth from B&H in Bridges for Education camps' program. The first opportunity was in 2000, the next realised in 2001 and 2002, when mixed groups from both entities of B&H participated in camps in Cluj-Nappoca and Temisoara (two times). I personally led two groups, participating intensive in English lessons and all organised activities, observing the camps in aim to organise it in B&H, which is the CCPN long-term goal, in partnership with Bridges for Education and support of our local authorities.
My experience from summers in Cluj and Temisoara, was one of the best I have, working in similar activities since 1995. All the camps were organised on the high professional level by their local and international organisers, the Romania Ministry of Education, host city and the Bridges for Education teams, whose prepared and performed all the program realised for youth, by volunteers and professional teachers whose used own holiday and free time for work in these far countries. Their effort, openness and friendship was shared both with all the students, local staff and international group leaders, with whose Bridges for Education team realised close co-operation, making one special atmosphere of learning, fun, tolerance, respect and friendship. Many friendships, born in the camps, develop and continue further between children from different groups, from Bosnia and Serbia, hosts and teachers. Some of them coming back in their communities, in whose one invisible line divide people depend of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, but they keep these friendships in their hearts, with memories on common days and minutes of sharing. Sometimes, with ice-cream, they share the hardest experiences from war they lived, even witness of genocide, I listen from Serb and Albanian children from Kosovo, spoken without blame and hate. Much more positive experiences and knowledge, ideas and information share the students in their daily life, learning from each other as well as from the lessons.
Experience the students had from these camps was especially rich and of the highest value for all of them, confirmed also from their parents, in meetings the CCPN made with both of them before and after the camps. Except all the students improved significant their knowledge in English, they were educated in different issues connected with civil society, democracy, human rights, core human values, non-violent communication, bases of conflict transformation etc, with different arts, sport and other creative activities, offered to them in the morning and afternoon classes, as well as weekends. This fruitful, positive and creative atmosphere, life in separation from their families and in own responsibility, giving to the children one value experience, maturity and motivation for the life and it's the best sides, so often missing to young population, living in an atmosphere of conflict, fear, hate and destruction, without light on their own future. Living together with youth from different national, religious and cultural backgrounds, these young people has opportunity to deal in practice with prejudices and discrimination, learning from each other, from the guest groups as well as from the hosts and the American team.
With many long-term benefits the participants and their communities have from the camps, with the highest quality of their organisation and realisation , the Bridges for Education camps are the best place for learning, and living in tolerance, building the bridges of understanding and friendships among the people, countries, continents and cultures, I can heartily recommend to everyone.
- Cvijeta Novakovic, CCPN President, Tuzla, 8 January 2004
Thank you very much for the opportunity to organize a camp in Bulgaria. I had a chance to let our kids become citizens of the "global village". All of us had with us a great team of 11 American teachers, who came to Targovishte to teach tolerance, cooperation,understanding, friendship and love using English as a bridge. I was greatly impressed with their energy, competence,easygoing nature and continuous support. I can see that the kids, who attended the camp, keep in touch and hear from one another every day. I find it a great success. Even my daughter, who is usually quite critical of me, agrees that the camp was successful.
What teachers say
Bridges for Educationhas been on my mind and I just wanted to let you know how absolutely beyond wonderful the past 2 summers were. I could not imagine a summer now without Bridges for Education and I can't wait until July now. I keep thinking of the students I've worked with these past 2 summers now, and it is so hard to describe, I don't think the words exist to explain how much their friendship has enriched my lives. I think of students who have changed and grown, but as I'm sure you know, the teachers that change and grow also. I'm just starting to see that in myself.
Thank you Beth. Thank you for your advice and for being a wonderful example to me. You made me feel comfortable and able to try new things and succeed at them.
(..) My best wishes and I look forward to next summer!!!
- Sarah Banasiak
Dear Ms. Hayes,
Our names are Don and Marilyn Muench. We have been associated with Bridges for Education (Bridges for Education) since 1996, when Marilyn volunteered for a camp in Bulgaria. The experience was so wonderful that Don joined her the following year in Crimea. We also have volunteered as Bridges for Education teachers in Krakow, Poland in 1998 and again in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary in 2001 and now as Group Leaders in Targovishte, Bulgaria. We support Beth Ciesielski in her tireless efforts in founding and leading Bridges for Education. She is a prime example of the philosophy of Bridges for Education to promote bridges of tolerance and understanding, especially in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe.
We wish to testify to our own experience with Chechen teenagers who attended the Bridges for Education camp in Crimea in 1997 and to laud the extraordinary person who accompanied them to the camp, Fatima Yandieva. We continue to have contact with a couple of these students, who are now in university, and with Mrs. Yandieva, whom we count as a good friend.
These young people came with Mrs. Yandieva from the Chechen war zone in Grozny to what must have seemed to them to be a place of refreshment, light, peace and love. They were all brilliant young people, eager to learn English and to meet so many others from Crimea and Poland. The Crimeans they met were ethnic Russians and Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. They succeeded in building the bridge to those cultures and they were beloved by all the other students and their teachers and by the American teachers. I can give you the name of one of those Chechen kids, now a university student, and you can ask him yourself about what Bridges for Education means to him.
As we see what is happening in Chechnya today, five years later, we can see that it is still very important for the Chechen kids to be in our camps to cross the bridge to understanding, tolerance, friendship and trust with the kids from other countries, which often include Russians, specifically, and young people from other countries to the west. And if they can meet and become friends with them, then maybe there can be some hope for peace. Hope - that is what they need, that is what they need to experience.
We therefore ask and encourage your organization to continue funding the Chechen children for participation in our Bridges for Educationcamps. We applaud you for your past support of these deserving young people and hope that you will continue your generosity to help us in our bridge-building and promotion of tolerance and respect and understanding between cultures.
[Ms. Julia Hayes, Assistant to President, Soros/Open Society Foundation of New York City, NY. (funded Chechan students to Bridges for Education camps in Poland, Belarus and Romania.)]
"Dear Constantine Varvias,
I would like to write you about my experience with camp of Bridges for Education in Belorussia. I live in one of the Republic of former USSR - Kyrgyzstan. Last year, in the spring, I had read information about program Bridges for Education and I had decided to bring my children to the Bridges for Education camp in Minsk. In spite of very expensive tickets for the trip from Bishkek to Misk, I made a decision that my children had to be there to meet with other children from different countries and to realize how it is important to know foreign languages. Now, after one year, I have the same feelings in my mind how this program is important for youths. I have never regret that I brought my children to that camp.
Three weeks is very short period to make friends and, to tell the truth, I was a bit worried that it would be difficult for my children, from poorest country, to feel cosy. But all my fears were vain. They not only find new friends but also became more opened to dialog with representatives of other countries. I have still had only warm memoirs about everyone who ensured the functioning of the camp. Especially I would like to write about work of American teachers. I was pleasantly surprised how motivated they were. They could organize their work so, that became true friends of all students of the camp. Any day in camp was not without the additional evening activities spent together with American teachers. They told a lot about America, motivated students from different countries to tell about their own country, organized games, taught students in various handicrafts and so on. Every student could find desirable activities together with American teachers in afternoon. They could create such atmosphere in camp that every student felt him/herself like an equal,but at the same time every student was motivated to demonstrate all his/her abilities. I visited all lessons they conducted. Their lessons were outstanding. They brought a lot of quantity of an evident material on various themes. They could organize their lessons in such a manner that each student became the participant. Nobody was bored. We really felt ourselves like a big family.
I can say a lot about Bridges for Education camps, but I would like to finish my letter with what I have seen as a result of visiting by my children of this camp. My children haven't already had any fear of speaking with other people on English. My younger daughter (she was very shy) found her best friend in the camp.After coming back from the camp she found new friends from other countries in Internet and has corresponded on English with them about one year. All her pen pals are from different countries and they write each other in English. They tried to read books on English. They show interest to studying other cultures. I would like to say: My best regards and good wishes to all Bridges for Education camps and everybody who is interested in them.
[Mr. Constantine Varias, Executive Director of NGO Foundation]
"The four summers I've spent at Bridges for Education camps have been the most rewarding of my life."
"I have been a volunteer English facilitator in other programs in
Mexico, Romania and in the USA. I like Bridges the best because of the emphasis
on facilitating intercultural understanding using English as the language
"I believe this experience is the beginning of a greater thing than we realize today. Education is progress and understanding is a key to ending conflicts"
"It's an amazing chance to be a part of changing animosity between ethnic groups and to help build bridges between them."
"That the students made friends with the American teachers should help immunize them against (Soviet) stereotype propaganda."
"This experience gave me the opportunity to work with the best educational staff in my life."
"It was a pleasure to work with colleagues who faced the same problems as foreign language teachers here at home."
"Poland is more beautiful and prosperous than I had imagined... it was a very positive experience and one I can highly recommend"
"It is one thing to teach tolerance. It is humbling to experience it among students of different ethnic groups. The Bridges teachers were not just a team, but a family."
"My teaching experience last summer was unmatched by any other travel or cross cultural experience."
"I loved being part of a great galloping group of energetic, crazy teachers who, together, made fantastic things happen."
"As an experienced teacher of 20 years, I found the Bridges for Education opportunity both exciting and challenging. It was teaching at its best students eager to learn, a dedicated group of teachers, and a chance to be appreciated by Hungarian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish and Italian students. I would recommend this teaching and traveling adventure to anyone who is flexible and adventurous."
"It was fantastic. We came from all walks of life and ages. We melded into a nice group and we looked out for each other. I feel I reaped more than I imparted. I would like to go again."
What students say
"I was on the bridge... On a real bridge of friendship, learning and
tolerance. On a bridge built by people of good will, who came wishing to share their knowledge, culture and love with young people from the other
side of Atlantic; with girls and boys who came from different countries,
sometimes from war, from danger and hate - came to be friends and make the biggest, the most beautiful rainbow bridge - the Bridges for Education bridge...
"This camp was such a success...(because) most of us are now speaking English much better than when we came here. But this camp doesn't only teach English. It helps bring up a new generation, which will build a peaceful world without borders. A generation which will understand and live Neil Peart's words,"Better the pride that resides in a citizen of the world, than the pride that divides when a colorful flag is unfurled."
"I think a bridge for mutual understanding was built not only between us but between our two nations."
"In a way, you're our window on the world, because here the situtation's going harder and harder...please, think of us and come again."
"Because of the Bridges for Education camps I was able to pass the English comprehensive exams with a B+. Thank you for the best times of my life."
"I miss all the teachers very much. It was the most wonderful impression in my life."
"Though we were very different, coming from different countries and therefore different cultures, we were all treated equally by everybody. I think we have reached the goals of Bridges for Education, promoting understanding, cooperation and friendship."
"There was one very good thing about this camp: bringing together
children from so many countries (maybe not enough!) with such different
cultures because our educational systems aren't alike, and being
able to get them to get along as well as we did. That was truly
EXCELLENT! My respects for that. I hope next year I can attend another
Bridges for Education camp."
"I think this idea of bringing students from different countries to a
summer English camp is the best that you could come up with. I learned
many new things in this camp and I hope I'll join it next year, too, no
matter what country it's going to be in."
"This camp was wonderful and I think that in the future it will be even more wonderful. We perfected our English and we made a lot of friends friends..."
"I think this camp help very much and I don't care where it will be next
year I will be there for sure."
"Good teachers, good education, good people. I think that these things are the most important for this camp. felt good here."
"I had a great experience. I meet good friends and I had a good time with
them. I liked the teachers very much and the whole program. I hope that
I will see you all again next year."
"Well...I liked this camp very much. I had a wonderful time. At the same
time I learned English and I made wonderful friends. Besides English I
learned Polish too (that's wonderful). Teachers were great. I never had
that kind of teachers. I like lessons very much because in classes we were
free to do everything that we wanted without screaming (like it is in our
schools). I had a wonderful time, I liked school and teachers so much
that I would like to have school like that, always. Maybe I will if I
have a chance and money!!!"
"I think that the best thing about this camp is the fact that you get to
speak English a lot because you feel the need to communicate with the teachers and kids from other countries. I liked this camp although it had it's little problems."
What the Serbian students said after attending the Cluj Camp in Romania in 2000:
Gordana Bubalo - The walking and sight-seeing tours were organized very often, so that we saw many interesting sights of Cluj and it's surroundings.
Tanja Predojev - We were obliged to speak in English because all activities were organized in mixed groups. We were also settled with the participants from other countries, so we were getting to know each other and making friends intensively and in the same time practicing conversation maximally.
Jovana Sevic - I understood that more important than learning new words is using personal existing fond of words in order to comunicate.
David Losonc - We were chosing free activities every day and very often those were debates where we discussed human rights and freedoms.
Tisa Komadina - The professors were very tolerant and relaxed and we became the same, which was very important for us to gain self-esteem quickly.
(quoted in an article published in a local newspapers and translated into English)
Student Quotes from the Evaluation Forms, July 18-August 7, 2004, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria
"I cannot find anything that wasn't excellent. As a matter of fact, I didn't ever expected camp to be this interesting and fun at the same time. The activities were well organized, and of course different from one to the other. We didn't have time to get bored nor feel homesick; the teachers prepared an excellent program for us. This camp was the best opportunity to spend time in an useful way and have the best times of our lives as well."
"The Bridges for Education camp was extremely well organized and the teachers more than incredible. Overall, the teachers helped us a lot to improve our English, but they also became our friends, laughing and having fun with us."
"Bridges for Education was definitely a unique experience to each and every one of us, which we are never going to forget. From the very first week of the camp, with the help of our lovely teachers we were all standing on a true bridge of friendship. This camp has achieved its goals for sure: it helped us improve our English speaking skills. Meet different people, and of course make friends for a lifetime."
Diana Crisan - scholarship winner
"The Bridges for Education camps are a great thing! You meet new people and of many countries. We have the opportunity to learn their cultures. It's like you are in 5 countries at the same time! It is perfect!!!"
"This experience helped me to trust myself more and to be more friendly and to speak without no fear."
"The weekends were very interesting because I saw many beautiful places in the mountains for the first time. I will never forget this camp!" "Everything at the camp is very good. I want to come to another camp next year"
"The variety of activities was what I really enjoyed. During them we had the chance to speak to the teachers and to the other pupils. We learnt to do some things that we would never have the chance to learn if there wasn't the Bridges for Education camp. For example play baseball, make bracelets, earings, etc. We learnt to work with cameras, to play bingo, to act and write poems."
"I liked the camp very, very much. That was the greatest and most interesting English course I've ever attended. I learnt so much here. Thank you for everything. The teachers were absolutely great. I liked all of them very much. They are the best English teachers I've ever had."