Poland: An Unlikely Volunteering Destination
By Beth Simmons
When people think of volunteering abroad, they generally think of less developed countries in Africa, Asia and South America. But volunteers can make a big difference in Europe, too.Poland is a highly developed nation with a stable government and economy.
So what can American volunteers do for the country and its citizens? The answer is teaching English, "the language of commerce and opportunity."
When Global Volunteers initially established their relationship with the country the Polish representatives told them there was a demand for English language instruction.
Make it a family affair!
Many volunteers like to share their experience with a family member or friend. Having a buddy along for the ride can make life away from home easier as you two adjust to a different culture while seizing a special opportunity to bond.
Pete Smith of Napa, California is a 73-year-old retired family business owner and frequent volunteer. His passion for "voluntourism" has brought him to the exotic lands of Peru, Greece, Italy, Ghana, the Cook Islands, and Costa Rica.
His work in Poland included teaching English to children aged 12-15 at a summer camp alongside his grandson, Zach."The kids were very well behaved and most could speak very good English," Smith says.
"We helped them understand language usage better." Pete also shares what he found to be distinctive of Polish culture, saying, "The Polish people are very proud and lean heavily on their traditions and folklore.
Volunteer Judith Strobel shares her recreational travels: "Our team took the train to Warsaw for our weekend free-time activities to see interesting and historic sites in the capital city that is just an hour or so west of the Siedlce District."
"Other volunteers have chosen to visit Krakow in the southern part of the country to view its gorgeous architecture and go to nearby Auschwitz."
Judith is a 55-year-old marketing director living in Minnesota. She volunteered with her 13-year-old son, Ryan, and together they became teachers of the English language.
The Next Step
If this sounds interesting to you, you can find many organizations offering programs in Poland listed in GoNOMAD’s volunteering directory. You’ll find several results with most having an English focus. One of the many is Global Volunteers, an organization about to celebrate an anniversary of their work in Poland.
Global Volunteer’s co-founder Michele Gran explains "Polish representatives said they had 'enough hands' to work but wished to communicate in English, the language of commerce and opportunity."
This is why you will find most volunteer opportunities among various Poland programs offer teaching English as their main effort.
Besides Global Volunteers’ conversational English instruction to elementary and middle school students, you can choose to befriend and tutor children in an after-school program, or provide personal care and assistance for mentally and/or physically challenged adults and youth.
More reasons to go:
Whether you’re volunteering or not, make sure to take advantage of your time there by attending cultural events such as music recitals, as well as, jazz and polish festivals. These happen frequently in the metropolitan cities such as Krakow and Warsaw.
Also, don’t forget to satisfy your inner tourist by visiting the historic attractions. A few highlights are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, the Wawel Castle in Krakow, and Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Oswiecim.
And the northern European country definitely matches up with other popular European destinations. Traveler Sarah August says she was captivated by the beauty of the country:
"Sitting on a terrace looking out at the square in Warsaw I felt I was in a painting."
"Poland is very picturesque," she says, "from the vast green countryside to the magnificent architecture in the cities of Krakow and Warsaw, it is truly a beautiful place to travel and explore."
If you’re feeling inspired to familiarize yourself with the unfamiliar, plan your next trip to Poland! For the cultural immersion experience consider volunteering!
Volunteer Opportunities in Poland
Siedlce, Zakopane - Poland
"This is service-learning at its best. Teach conversational English in rural elementary and high-school classrooms in the Siedlce region, east of Warsaw and at English language camps in the Tatra mountain village of Zakopane."
Teach English Abroad in Poland! Get TEFL / TESOL Certified in Europe or Online and Work Overseas!
22 cities throughout Poland
"Teach English overseas in Poland! Fulfill your travel dreams! Make the transition from tourist to resident! Live and work in Poland! Nestled in the center of Europe, Poland represents a bridge between East and West."
Summer Volunteer Teacher in Poland
Krakow - Poland
"The WorldTeach Poland program offers you the unique opportunity to have an unforgettable summer experience of educational exchange and cultural immersion in communities that uphold hospitality as a core value."
York School of English: Excellent English Teaching Opportunities!
Krakow - Poland
"We offer excellent teaching English opportunities and a package of Professional Guidance for both Polish teachers and native speakers of English as well as promotion opportunities to become senior teachers, ADOS and the Director of Studies and examiners."
York School of English
Beth Simmons is a former editorial assistant with GoNOMAD and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts. She now lives in New York City.