Peace Corps Volunteers have what are called primary projects and secondary projects. PCVs in Macedonia have one of two primary projects, working as a TEFL volunteer in the schools or as a Community Development volunteer in local opstinas (local government) or with local NGOs.
Outside of the primary project, PCVs often have quite a few secondary projects. Some of these projects are Peace Corps based, others are local projects done in the PCVs community. I have already started on several secondary projects and I know there will be lots more to come, especially since I don’t have as much work going on at my school right now. The five projects I have been working on so far are briefly detailed below and of course I included several photos from my biggest project, the National Spelling Bee.
National Essay Contest: Every year Peace Corps puts on a English language essay contest for students in 7th-12th grade. This year’s topic was “My Life, My Passion”. I read and judged essays in January and next year I am one of the coordinators for the project.
Camp GLOW: GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and it is an English language leadership camp for girls. This year I will be working as a counselor for the 10-day camp in July. GLOW is a worldwide camp put on by PCVs and Macedonia has the best camp in the world. From this, I am hoping to start a Club GLOW in my town to get the girls here to be more involved in leadership activities in their own community.
Young Men’s Leadership Project (YMLP): This is the boys’ version of Camp GLOW focusing on developing the leadership skills of the young men here in Macedonia. I will be teaching environmental education at this camp in June/July. Perhaps the largest goal of this camp is to work on bringing ethnically diverse young men together to show them that they share far more similarities than differences. In order to make this camp happen, however, the group is still looking for funding. Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, they are asking for donations from friends, family, and anyone who wants to help support this initiative. I told the guys organizing the camp I would put a plug for donations on my blog, so if you would like to help support YMLP camp, click here to donate.
Gradinka: In addition to working at the primary school in my town, I help out at the Gradinka or daycare/kindergarten one day a week. Some of the children there are working on getting a basis in English before they enter school. While there have been some challenges as the methods of teaching are quite different than the USA, it has been interesting work.
National Spelling Bee: This has been my largest project so far, which is why I put it last since there is a lot to write. This year PCVs with the help of some local partners organized the 3rd annual National English language Spelling Bee. I served as a committee member this year and next year will be one of the co-coordinators for the event. We just held the National Bee this past weekend and it was quite successful. Over 800 students in grades 5-12 from around Macedonia came to Skopje to compete for a chance to be the best speller in their grade level. Prior to the National Bee, PCVs and a few Host Country Nationals (HCNs) held approximately 60 qualifying bees in cities, towns, and villages across the country. In order to receive an invitation to compete at the Bee in Skopje, students had to spell 10 words correctly at a qualifier.
I held two different qualifiers for my students in 5th-8th grade and had 95 students show up, which blew my mind. The English teachers had told me they had a few kids, but I never would have guessed that many. Of the 95 students who tried out, 21 of them spelled their words correctly and were able to compete in Skopje. My kids were so excited, nervous, and determined. They studied hard too. After the qualifier we had what I jokingly referred to as Spelling Bee Boot Camp every day after school for a week. At the Boot Camp sessions I would give them words and they would write them for me. We practiced for at least two hours every day, with one or two days being four hour practice sessions.
Then this past weekend, on April 7th, we held the National Bee in Skopje. 92% of the kids who qualified attended the event, which is phenomenal since many had to travel several hours to get to Skopje only to incorrectly spell their first word. This year we were fortunate enough to have not only our Country Director come to the Bee, but also the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia. It was really cool that they both were able to attend because the committee had put a lot of time into the event and it was great to have their support and hear their feedback on the event. I am pretty sure National Spelling Bee is the largest Peace Corps event in the country as well, as we had over 4000 students participate at some point or another and probably 300+ teachers. I can tell that this project will be where I focus a good deal of my energy.
|Practicing words with a student|
|5th graders at the qualifier|
|Some of the 7th graders who qualified to go to Skopje|
|One of my 6th graders who is phenomenal at English|
|Two more 7th graders who qualified|
|Students trying to qualify to go to Skopje|
|My first 5th grader to qualify|
|The National Bee, April 7, 2012- University American College, Skopje|
|Registration was crazy!|
|One of my students thinking hard about his word|
|A 5th grader from Kamenica|
|Gotta love the tongue- necessary for thinking|
|The US Ambassador to Macedonia graced us with his presence|