In honor of the 4th of July holiday, we are glad to take a moment to reflect (again) on stories of Americans sharing their blessings and demonstrating the generosity and spirit of the American people. In the last year alone, 113 Winrock volunteers from 45 U.S. states have dedicated their time and energy to helping others in need around the world.
One of our volunteers, Bob Cooperrider, returned recently from his second volunteer trip in Bangladesh. –A trip that he and his wife paid for on their own, following a particularly inspirational encounter at the end of his Farmer-to-Farmer assignment with us. Below, Bob tells the story of how this began…
“Hearing that a US volunteer would be in town, the headmistress of a local international primary school had requested I come on Monday afternoon to talk with them for an hour about America. Whoa, that’s a pretty big topic. So that morning I prepared a slide presentation of pictures of mountains, lakes, etc. from our vacation pictures I have with me. Then I added pictures of our family and some of our activities. I figured I’d spend about 25 minutes with the slide show, take questions, then be done. Was I wrong. The students are learning English as part of their studies.
There were lots of questions during my slideshow. Then after each student and teacher greeted me individually I thought it would be over. But then one of the students asked me to sing a song. That broke us loose. I sang “The Bear Went Over The Mountain”, then it was “Old MacDonald’s Farm” by request with all the animal sounds. The music teacher brought out their harmonium which she added to the songs. The students sang “We Shall Over Come” with each verse first in English then in Bangla. The singing continued with national anthems (I even managed the high notes in the Star Spangled Banner), then they finished up with some of the oldest girls singing some Lalon Shah songs.
The headmistress has been searching awhile for a native English speaker to come be a guest English teacher. She really would like me to come be a guest teacher. She would also welcome Deni [my wife]. I told her we couldn’t come for a whole year or two as she’d like. But we might be able to come for a month or so. It would be so much fun. We would hopefully stay in some of the students’ home. Deni wants to come to Bangladesh now that I’ve had such great experiences. The Bangla people are so friendly and welcoming. And it’s a beautiful country. It would be a great winter break to return to Bangladesh. The two hours I spent at the SunUp International School was the highlight of my trip.”
These cultural interactions, the chance to share what it’s like to be American, the moments of reflection on all that we have to be thankful for in our great country, and the awareness-raising —and oftentimes life-changing-– exchanges with others in their home country… These are the building blocks of cross-cultural understanding, memorable demonstrations of patriotism and humility all at the same time. This is what international volunteering is all about.
Read all about Bob’s Farmer-to-Farmer assignment in Bangladesh and his subsequent volunteer trip with his wife on his personal blog.
Happy 4th of July!