April 6, 2003 - Romford YMCA: Peace Corps Volunteer Paul McConnell at Gabrovo YMCA, Bulgaria for a year placement (September 2000 - October 2001) from Romford YMCA

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bulgaria: Peace Corps Bulgaria: The Peace Corps in Bulgaria: April 6, 2003 - Romford YMCA: Peace Corps Volunteer Paul McConnell at Gabrovo YMCA, Bulgaria for a year placement (September 2000 - October 2001) from Romford YMCA

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, April 06, 2003 - 1:09 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Paul McConnell at Gabrovo YMCA, Bulgaria for a year placement (September 2000 - October 2001) from Romford YMCA

Peace Corps Volunteer Paul McConnell at Gabrovo YMCA, Bulgaria for a year placement (September 2000 - October 2001) from Romford YMCA

Paul McConnell at Gabrovo YMCA, Bulgaria for a year placement (September 2000 - October 2001) from Romford YMCA, England Paul's Sixth Report

From 15th May to 15th August, we will have another Peace Corps volunteer from America. Her name is Lorrie Travis and she will help us to gain more funding for various projects. Lorrie Travis speaks fluent Bulgarian having been a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria in 1998-99, as an English teacher.

The training weekend led by the other two Co-ordinators and myself was exhausting work, but very rewarding. I believe that it was the best training session by YMCA Gabrovo since I’ve been in Bulgaria. Every part of the training was relevant preparation for the camp volunteers. The group included many new people, who quickly formed together as a team.

I was very pleased to meet the Municipality of Gabrovo when a Professor in Psychology and Sociology from Scotland visited to give suggestions and advice to the municipality in order for them to become more effective and efficient in serving and meeting the needs of the community. The gentleman spoke about engaging the people with the Government, using his experiences from Scotland’s recent Devolution, and about communication in the organization. What he said was interesting, but he knew that his lack of knowledge of Bulgaria showed.

It was the first time I had travelled by train in Bulgaria. People had told me about how bad they were beforehand, so I wasn’t expecting a comfortable ride, but was rather excited about the travelling as it was a new experience for me in Bulgaria. The trains are so slow! By the time I arrived in Plovdiv after travelling 51Ú2 hours, having changed trains twice, I was frustrated and annoyed. Gabrovo is only 150 kilometres from Plovdiv.

I had come to Plovdiv with Sveti and Silvia, two volunteers who help me with visiting the orphanage. I was excited about the weekend because I would meet Wendy from Y Care and people from Redditch YMCA, who I had been in contact with after reading their report on Bulgaria after their October visit. The training was to be led by YMCA Redditch residents about “Working with difficult children”, which would help me in working with the children in the orphanage, and “Working with young people who use drugs”, which would help prepare Bulgaria for when drug use becomes popular and more widespread.

I enjoyed meeting volunteers from YMCA Plovdiv too. They are a great bunch of people. Wendy led some good games sessions and for the whole weekend, everything was translated into Bulgarian, which made a nice change for me, as I’m used to listening to Bulgarian translated into English. The training in Plovdiv was a great success where friendships and partnerships were built and people learnt from each other. Also the group quickly formed a close ‘bond’ which is ever so important when working together. Everyone participated and shared their own experiences as well as sharing and giving others the opportunity to learn from them too.

During the last month, I felt ‘homesick’, which is something I have felt before, but this time it lasted a little longer. Certain things happened which lowered my self-confidence. I don’t feel well supported with the work in the orphanage. My Bulgarian language has improved this month, which I’m very pleased about, knowing that I have achieved something worthwhile. I know that the ‘ups and downs’ I have experienced were meant to happen in order for me to develop as a YMCA Secretary and for my walk with God to deepen, but it’s hard at times!

I will be working for Plovdiv YMCA during May, assisting in the work in the “hospital for sick children”. This is something I am very much looking forward to. I know Plovdiv YMCA have Bible Studies too, as well as Romford YMCA, which is something I miss greatly about Gabrovo YMCA. I want to get away from Gabrovo.

The camp took place in Uzana in a hotel in the mountains, but different to that of the hotel from the winter camp. Unfortunately we weren’t able to have 60 children on the camp as planned but 40. On the Monday I led a ‘mini Olympics’, similar to that of Romford YMCA, which went well. The children enjoyed the camp.

I strongly believe that YMCA Gabrovo offer the best children’s holiday camp for children in the Gabrovo, Tryavna, Drjanovo, Sevlievo region. I do struggle a LOT with the differences in childcare practices between England and Bulgaria. I expected them to be different, but hadn’t anticipated the differences to be so extreme.

Only two weeks before Easter, and shops began to promote Easter gifts for people to buy.

I was on a bus to another town, when a cart being pulled by a donkey nearly collided with the bus. The face of the lady on the cart was horrified, as the donkey didn’t stop walking and nearly walked into the bus. I have also seen one man pull a cart, which would normally be pulled by a horse, but not everyone has enough money for an animal to do his or her work.

Paul McConnell
11th April 2001

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Story Source: Romford YMCA

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bulgaria; YMCA



By Michelle Alexander (client-216-220-105-178.bway.net - on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 3:40 pm: Edit Post

Paul Mconnell is an amazing guy, however he was not a Peace Corps Volunteer as he is a citizen of the UK! He was a volunteer from the Romford YMCA. I worked with Paul at the YMCA in Gabrovo, and he made wonderful contributions to both the YMCA in Gabrovo as well as the Orphanage in Gabrovo.
Michelle Alexander
RPCV Gabrovo, Bulgaria

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