Being a member of Pravets, Bulgaria Student Chapter

Being a member of PTPI is a great honour for me. I was president of Pravets, Bulgaria Student Chapter for 2 years and this school year I’ve been elected as an Honourable President in charge of a think-tank group for youths’ initiatives.

My memories go back to 2011 when after achieving B2 level in English fluency our teacher encouraged us to further develop our knowledge about other cultures and traditions and take part in non-formal training for young leaders. Then she introduced us the mission and the opportunities offered to people from all over the world by the international organization People to People International with headquarters in Kansas City.

And then, there was a whole chain of challenges that have to be overcome:
* Workshops on interactive communication and the setting up of a youth club
* Election of officers
* Fund-raising campaigns
* Presenting our planned activities to town councilors
* Applying for the International camp in Berlin “Interacting diversity”
* Sleeping in one room with foreign students and falling in love with them all to such an extent that I forgot my mobile while saying goodbye
*Participating in the international conference in Varna, Bulgaria

I cherish the memories that bring back old friends and unforgettable moments:
* Introducing Bulgarian dances and songs and learning and appreciating other people’s cultural acquisitions
* Initiating Youth in Action projects and taking part in exchanges in Czech Republic and Ireland. We were involved in workshops for retelling our stories about youths’ activities in our communities and shared our experiences with students from UK, Romania, Malta, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, and Ireland.
* Regular visits to the houses for disabled children and the shelter for children deprived of parental care. We planted trees with them, bought musical instruments, take part in their rehearsals for a concert and invited them to the specially equipped classroom for our meetings.
* Christmas and Halloween bake sales and St.Valetines postcards sale.
* Hosting a delegation from PTPI’s Roman, Romania Chapter.
* Implementating the project “Generations’ meeting via ICT” that started at the Global Youth Service Day 2012. We provided laptops for the Day centre of Adult people and taught our grandparents to work with computers.
* I also take pride in organizing a delegation of 35 people from our community to participate in a town twinning projects in Slovak Republic. During the preparation stage we formed a folk dancing group and took part in an International performance in Nitra.

And last but not least in importance, my membership with a PTPI Chapter marked the choice of my future profession. I am a second year student at Sofia University – Specialty – non-formal education. For me, the path to successful careers starts from PTPI. Understanding and valuing others makes for our personal self-consciousness and happiness.

Anita | Bulgaria

Growing together – delivery of what we said is important to our chapters

Over the past five years, the European members have captured projects, actions and support systems they would like to see implemented to help this region grow faster.

The most recent workshops this past September in Romania, once again highlighted the same themes that are crucial to us. By far the biggest opportunity ahead, is not in understanding what needs to be done, but in securing the manpower to make delivery possible.

Link for Romania

The EEC are a small team and Andrei and his wife are soon to be busy when the baby arrives! We need to reach out to you, our community, to seek out volunteers able to provide some much needed effort. Without this effort, very few of our dreams will come to life – this is important.

There are some elements of the chapter feedback that will need some very creative thinking to find solutions. Such as: youth development, inclusion and lower participation costs, are complex to actually make happen. PTPI is not a foundation with a pot of money to support all manner of activities. The usual suspects that have provided funding in the past, such as the Council of Europe, have cut back on budgets and made selection criteria more complex. Business partners are also managing shrinking budgets and being more selective in the type of social engagement they support.

All of this points to PTPI having to be more clear about funding opportunities, and the reasons why people would be motivated to support us and not another charity or NGO. What is true, is that we have a mission that matters. Peace through Understanding, given the current state of the world, is very relevant. We must however, demonstrate how we make this mission relevant globally, regionally and locally. It is not what we say that makes a difference, but what we actually do.

Going forward in Q1, 2017:
• Much of the feedback is about improving channels of communication. People of course generally feel that communication must improve, without actually being specific about what is a problem, and what is a lack of looking at our web portal. Every effort will be made to close as many of your communication gaps as possible. Yet, please do make a personal effort to use the communications tools already available to you.
• Funding for youth will not get any easier in the coming 12 to 18 months. It would be appreciated if the chapters could fund develop locally, and make donations to the EEC central account. When there is funding, we do of course support activities, such as the Youth Leadership Academy.
• Youth should take advantage of other channels open to them as individuals. The Erasmus+ has opportunities for people of all ages, helping them develop and share knowledge and experience at institutions and organisations in different countries. European volunteering overseas portal also provides funding for youth to get engaged in community projects.
• It is clear that we need to make more visible our chapter network, with links to their active online pages, our trustees and your stories.
• We are excited to be moving forward with a tool to better manage the whole HomeStay process. This item has been on our members list of important advances for some time. The tool will look similar to those being used for and Air BnB. Thus, the whole process from seeing availability, making a reservation and paying the required fee, shall be automated.
• It has been noted in the past, that our members would like to volunteer their skills or periods of time.

In order for us to move any projects forward and stand a chance of making things happen, we do need your support. If you can volunteer to manage a work package, please do contact the EEC. Are you good at: collating data, designing flyers, PowerPoint, writing stories, editing content, researching key subjects, cultural analysis, fund development, event management, travel and hospitality management, data capture and analysis?

There is so much to be done in the months and years ahead, to prove that we belong to something good.

There are few words that can express the appreciation we have for your continued support.
Let us start with Thank you!

Yours in peace

EU Conference in Roman – September, 2016

As Mary and I settle in on the plane from JFK we can’t wait to meet up with our PTPI friends and make new ones. We are headed to our sixth European Conference, this one in Roman, Romania, a major highlight of the year. With the help of Verena from the Berlin office, and Andrei, the mentor of the Roman Student Chapter and organizer of the post-conference trip, we have made all the arrangements, including a 2-day pre-conference visit to Bucharest. Gina, who lives in Bucharest, was also helpful in our deciding what we would see and where to eat while there.

We enjoyed these two days in the Capital city checking out museums, city highlights, the ‘old city’, and savoring the local cuisine. As we were in an outdoor museum searching for a place to quench our thirst we heard our names being called. Amazingly, our dear friend Janusz from Poland was enjoying lunch with four students from the Katowice Student Chapter. We joined them and the PTPI bonding was underway. Even before the conference began we had caught up with an old friend and made four new ones.

We made our way the following day back to the airport to catch the bus to Roman. Although the bus ride was about five hours we shared the ride with PTPI members from Switzerland, Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, Togo, and the USA – a typical PTPI international group.

Upon arrival in Roman we were welcomed by many students, with Daria and Malina tying woven ribbons with the Romanian flag colors on our wrists, and Ana Maria, Miruna and Andrei checking us in. Being quite hungry we then went to an informal dinner with good PTPI friends we have made over the years, like Ernst, Rolf, Hans-Dieter, Hannelore, Anita, Karin, Ilona, Janusz, Angel, Chalks, and Erin.

The conference itself was wonderful, as we have come to expect. It began with an Intercultural experience of Romanian art traditions and dance at Miclauseni Garden. This is the first time that all the conference attendees got together and there was a lot of mingling, greeting, and meeting PTPI members. It could be seen from this first event that there was a very good mix of students and adults, which Mary and I really enjoy, because you can get different perspectives on many topics and cultures both international and generational. We learned how to paint eggs, create objects out of red and white threads, and try some traditional Romanian dance. We also decorated shopping bags to hold gifts that were given to children in an afternoon event.

At each conference there is a humanitarian activity planned. In Roman this involved a visit to the “Love and Hope” Day Care Centre for disadvantaged children. We played with the children in the park – games, balloons, dancing, face painting, and handing out gift bags. Katerina, one of the students from the Provadia Student Chapter, even performed some incredible acrobatics. The Roman Chapter students do a wonderful job helping out with the children several times a week.

The first day ended with a nice dinner at a local restaurant, Casa Veche, where you could sneak out between courses and ease into the dancing that would occur on upcoming evenings.

We woke up the next day to begin our Roman City Treasure Hunt. We were divided into teams and each team was assigned a couple of students to assist and document the results of the hunt. It was a fun event as each team looked for things or acted out a list of items for bonus points – like finding angels on the ceiling of the Library, posing like the picture on the cover of Abbey Road, proposing marriage to a local resident, reciting a poem in the park, and making people you don’t know laugh. Points were given to each team based on their hunting and acting skills. We then met at the Roman Voda National College to tally scores for prizes for the top 3 groups.

The afternoon was taken up with the World Café.́ This was orchestrated by Verena, with volunteers assigned to each table, and attendees at each table discussing an issue or opportunity relevant to PTPI. Attendees rotated through several tables during the allotted time providing their ideas on each topic while enjoying coffee, snacks, and making new friends. The volunteers documented results from their tables, and then Verena consolidated them into a Conference summary.

The day wrapped up with a tasty buffet dinner and dancing to the sounds provided by the DJ. Dancing is always a part of these conferences, and what better way to celebrate with friends both old and new than on the dance floor. Of course students from the Roman Chapter and the visiting Student Chapters have the energy to keep up with the music, but many of the adults try valiantly to keep up with them. Ralitsa even taught us how to swing our hair to the beat of the music (at least Mary has enough hair to swing). It was also great fun to teach Billy from the People’s Republic of China some dance moves. No trouble sleeping that night!

Day three was the day that business was discussed. The European Council Meeting was held in the morning, led by Chalks and the European Board of Directors. Angel spoke about his activities for PTPI and the youth chapters. All the good work being done by the chapters in the past year were discussed, with in-person presentations by the Provadia, Varna, Katowice, and Skopje Chapters. (We witnessed some of the good work being done by the Roman Chapter on the first day.) Toni also presented the humanitarian work she has been doing in Nepal.

Two workshops, one on youth engagement and the other on member engagement, took up most of the afternoon. These workshops expanded on ideas and options from the prior day with a search for solutions.

Following the business of the day, all were invited to go to the park to follow pre-defined scripts on their cell phones. It was a lot of fun, as this large group of PTPI people were doing some crazy and funny things in a synchronized fashion. Imagine what the local Romans were thinking of this activity as they were trying to enjoy a fine afternoon in the park.

The final event of the conference was the Gala Dinner at Hanu Ancutei, a traditional inn outside Roman. What a wonderful evening that was. We had a superb Romanian dinner at our table with a great friend Christiane from Hamburg, met Daniela and Liliana from the Vaslui Chapter, and many others. While dining, all tables were serenaded by local musicians to add to the festivities. Of course there was dancing, both contemporary and traditional enjoyed by all. One of the evening’s highlights was a ‘picture stage’ where groups of PTPI’ers posed with various props. We took home more than a dozen pictures of old and new friends from the conference. And finally there was the singing of favorite songs and national anthems from such a diverse set of people. (Mike felt sorry for Laura and her ears having to sit next to him while singing on the bus back from the gala.)

On Sunday, as some packed up to return home, there was an optional excursion to Neamt County to visit the Agapia Monastery, Neamt Fortress, and the city of Piatra Neamt. We chose not to take this trip since we were leaving the next day on the post-conference trip through Romania with about 15 others that was led by Andrei, Daria, and Teodor – another terrific trip that we’ll write-up another time.

Since we remained in Roman on Sunday we met up with two students, Maria and Vladimir, and spent the afternoon snacking, and talking about life in Romania and the USA. This part of our PTPI travels is the most rewarding when we get to talk individually with PTPI members like Maria and Vlad; or we have a discussion with some Polish and Romanian students (Julia, Gosia, Agnieszka, Ania, Madalina and Teodor) and Ernst from Switzerland about their aspirations and world views; or we have members from the Host Chapter proudly show us their city (or country) and its traditions; or we do treasure hunts with Mariya and Angel; or we form an impromptu Blue Man Crew like at the gala (with Kennedy and Stefan ); or we “dance off both our shoes” with people from all over the world. We have met hundreds of people at these conferences, made many friends, and have maintained a connection via email, or social media, or at home stays, or at follow-on conferences, with many of them and cherish these relationships.

We have learned over these years that people are people regardless of their home countries, backgrounds, dress, traditions, languages, and age and truly want to live in peace with dignity and love!

Mulţumesc – Roman Student Chapter, for showing us this true spirit!

Mary and Mike Hermida
Greater Trenton, New Jersey PTPI Chapter


Amsterdam has developed a free Airbnb for city-owned offices!

Amsterdam has developed an Airbnb for city-owned offices, so residents can use them for free, and may do the same with municipal cars and tools.

The project is due to be launched by the city government with access to some 15 underused meeting rooms around the turn of the year, and will be extended to more rooms along with vehicles and tools if it is a success.

‘You walk through these buildings and all these meeting rooms are empty,’ Nanette Schippers, an official in the city’s Chief Technology Office and one of the creators of the project, told Apolitical. ‘It’s just a waste, especially when you know people need those spaces. We spoke to our Facilities people and they were really enthusiastic and eager to help, so we thought: let’s just start.’

“We ask: how will it contribute to the city?”

To avoid damaging the market for companies that provide office space, the project is available only to organisations that are working for a social purpose. Said Schippers, ‘We ask them things like: is your group giving any kind of social impact? What’s the meeting for? What’s your organisation doing? How will it contribute to the city of Amsterdam?’

The creators think it is realistic to eventually run the scheme with around 100 meeting rooms, but as one of the founders, Urban Innovation Officer Femke Haccou, told Apolitical, ‘We hardly know ourselves how much space we have. This could be a great moment to get an insight into that as well. We have so many buildings and so many spaces, so you can maybe understand that not every building is in a database yet.’

The rationale for access being free is that the city would be paying the associated costs – security, utilities, wear and tear – anyway. It may start to charge a minimal fee if it makes the spaces available outside office hours.

Some of the groundwork for sharing the city’s car fleet has also already been done. So that people don’t need to pick up keys and vehicles from some particular garage, the city has converted its cars so they can be opened with a smartphone. The technology came from a local start-up called We Go, which also means the cars are tracked and can be parked anywhere. The scheme has been running for a year for municipal employees.

The city government has been greatly aided in exploring the sharing economy by its close ties to local companies working in that sector. For example, it took advice on how to set up and run the project from Peerby, an app that lets neighbours request or offer things to borrow, such as hammers, tents, badminton rackets or indeed anything. It has also learned from Kirklees, a town in England, which has set up a platform on which the community can share sports equipment, allotments for growing vegetables and municipal vans, if it’s for social good.

The sharing economy, also known as the peer economy or collaborative consumption, is popular in Amsterdam, with numerous local businesses springing up and some 84% of residents open to using them. The basic principle, the best known exponents of which are Airbnb and Uber, is that people are not using the things they own, such as houses or cars, all the time; while there are other people who would like to use those things but don’t want the expense and hassle of buying one for themselves.

It’s part of a wider shift from selling goods to selling services. For example, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport no longer buys light fittings; it pays Philips Lighting to provide light over a specified number of years. That shifts the responsibility for maintenance to the manufacturers and incentivises them to build lights that last longer instead of designing in obsolescence.

The sharing economy has created controversy around the world: Uber is presently appearing before the European Court of Justice, which is examining whether it is really merely a connection service between car owners and riders, or in fact a transport company that has to pay employee benefits. At the same time, companies like Airbnb are under increasing pressure over their tax affairs.

Countries and cities are split on how to regulate this new type of business, and the city of Amsterdam is one that has decided to embrace it. The city believes that it could promote more sustainable use of goods, reducing car ownership, improving air quality and reducing the number of new things bought overall.

The municipality has created several other pilot projects to examine how the sharing economy can be directed towards social good, either making them itself or simply bringing together the organisations it’s familiar with. These include connecting an expat organisation to Peerby, so that new arrivals in the city can put up shelves and do home furnishing without having to buy tools they only need once. Another connects sharing platforms to low-income and elderly people via the Stadspas, which gives entry to concerts and exhibitions. A third aims to promote car-sharing by offering free underground parking spaces for those who are doing so.

“The ultimate goal is far wider”

‘The potential of the collaborative economy is in every aspect of our lives really,’ said Haccou. ‘We need to be open to it and reinvent our role as a city government, because there are a lot of commercial parties that can contribute to the city in a better way than we can. It’s an exciting time. We can formulate a really smart project on this but the ultimate goal is far wider, not so tangible, a bold idea that we have to be better for our residents.’

Added Schippers, ‘I hope that our meeting room program works both ways, so that we can open up colleagues’ minds and say: there’s a lot going on out there that the city can use and benefit from. And at the same time I hope citizens will see that we are really working on the sharing economy ourselves, and will experience that we are a transparent, open government. If we want to stimulate the collaborative economy, we have to practice what we preach.’

Source article>

Technology is making us feel more alone. Is a return to volunteerism the answer?

Today, on International Volunteer Day, we face a paradox. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has made us more connected and globalized than ever before, yet it is also shaping an age of civic disengagement.

In his bestseller Bowling Alone, political scientist Robert Putnam identified a sharp rise in Americans’ civic disengagement over the last generation, with empty town hall meetings reflecting “a giant swing toward the individualist pole in our culture, society, and politics.” Although it is twenty years old, it is still starkly relevant today: a new study by two psychologists in a Public Library of Science journal has proposed that “the more someone uses a smartphone for information, the less likely they are to trust neighbours, strangers, and people from other religions or nationalities.”

Our use of technology is just one factor driving changes in the world of work, but this correlation is bad news for advanced democracies, because strong civic life is a good predictor of the quality of, and trust in, public institutions. Against increasing solitude and disengagement from public life, what are some antidotes to this modern malaise?

One possible cure is a return to the original social networks supplanted by smartphones – volunteer organizations. These can help members stay ahead of the developments that are already happening with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as the trends explained in this year’s World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report. The report asked the Chief Human Resources Officers of today’s largest employers to identify the core drivers of change in their industries up to 2020.


Travels with PTPI Denmark to New Zealand 2015

January 24, 2015 I (Rolf Dahlberg) was glad to join a group from People to People International (PTPI) in Denmark and travel with their team to New Zealand. We travelled also between Christchurch on the South Island to Whangarei on the North Island during our twenty-four day trip…..

Our first stop was in Bangkok before heading onto Christchurch. Our Bangkok stopover provided a welcome break, before completing the final stretch of our journey to New Zealand. In Bangkok we were guided around the city and enjoyed the magical aromas, colours and sounds that paint Bangkok’s streets.

Once in New Zealand there were a host of families whom we had the pleasure of meeting, and staying with for several days. We travelled across the South Island by mini-bus for five days, followed by a few days in hotels on the North Island. We bid our hotels farewell and welcomed another visit with a new and wonderful host family while we continued our travels around Whangarei.

The views through the Southern Alps took my breath away. We visited the famous Fox Glacier and experienced how the weather can change from rain to sun to snow and then back to sun – all in one day – typical of New Zealand! It was incredible to enjoy the New Zealand summer time considering they had just finished celebrating Christmas!

We started as a group of globally minded travellers ready to share an adventure together. As the days rolled by we were no longer a group but a circle of friends. We were truly amazed by the beauty of the country that inspired our kindred spirits.

Gibb Lee of PTPI Christchurch and his amazing wife Val were our wonderful guides and leaders throughout our stay in New Zealand. They took care of all of our transportation, accommodation and supplied us with amazing food and drink. Other local friends included Jim Palmer and Raewyn Jecentho, who helped by driving and sharing stories along the way.

Both of my host families were proud to share the cultural traditions and splendour of their native country. By the final day I was watching the Cricket World Cup, eager to try and learn the rules!

The whole trip was well organized and a great deal of fun. We saw waterfalls – a member of the group even bungee jumped off the Kawarau Bridge! We spotted Kiwis and Kia’s (local birds), saw how sheep are sheared, visited an old mining town, observed a fish farm and climbed up to the observatory on Mount John where it was only 3°C (37°F)! We learned about local trees and plants and some of us even took a dip in the Pacific Ocean. We learned about the history of the native Mauris, viewed the pancake-rocks at Punakaiki, and rode in a steam engine built in 1912 in Queenstown.

It has been an amazing trip that blew me away on so many levels. The nature, people and sights touched me and will always remain with me. It will take days to go through the 1400+ pictures I took. One thing is certain – I will be back again soon! New Zealand now has a piece of my heart.

I would like to express my thanks to our tour guide: Anna-Marie Bohsen for an incredible job. The chapter organises a lot of trips around the world, to places like Mongolia, Japan, New Zealand, Albania and Bulgaria. See what they are planning next on their website

Short facts on New Zealand: Capital: Wellington with 325.000 inhabitants; the largest city is Auckland with 1,200,000 inhabitants; highest mountain is Mount Cook at 3724 meters; total population: 4,400,000. New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. 1 New Zealand dollar = 0,66 EUR


5 Minutes with Angel Dimitrievski – Macedonia

Angel Dimitrievski is 22 years-old and is the current President of the PTPI Skopje-Macedonia Community Chapter and Youth Coordinator in the European Region. First becoming a member five years ago, his topics of interest in activism include youth activism, gender, disability, education, and media.

Tell us how you became involved with PTPI?

My first encounter with PTPI was during my high school days at the age of 17. At the time I was studying medicine, and my observations for the youth activism in my country differed very much from how I think now. I signed up for my membership in the Skopje- Student Chapter in September 2011. The activities in the chapter helped me grow, develop a critical attitude towards certain societal concerns and, most importantly, it showed me the importance of the individual and the change that can make in the community. In 2013, I’ve made one very big step with opening a PTPI Community Chapter in my hometown. This is the most enthusiastic group of people I have met in my life. I often say that PTPI Skopje is not an office, a building, a place or even one person. It is a state of mind and way of living. I am extremely thankful for the wonderful moments this chapter brought in my life and in the life of many people who benefited from our work.

What inspired you to take such a leadership in your Chapter AND the European Region?

PTPI is an organisation that empowers leadership to their whole membership, even if they don’t have a specific role in their chapter or Region. I was lucky enough to have a 1 year-term as president in the Student Chapter and a 3 year-term as president in the Community Chapter. I accepted these roles with great responsibility, and I was aware of what I was stepping into. There is an enormous challenge of how to keep a group of 70 volunteers motivated to work on spreading Peace through Understanding. The inspiration to accept these leadership positions was my desire to interact with the most ambitious and talented youth minds in Skopje and help our community with joined strengths. Regarding my role in PTPI’s European Executive Committee as Youth Coordinator, I can say that it is a fulfilling one with dynamic and very inspirational moments. My motivation to join this body was primarily because of my opinion that the youth in PTPI are not present enough in the decision-making structures in the organisation. I will always try to be the voice of the young people in Europe and address their needs. Working together with Chalks, Andrei and Charlotte is one great journey, and we are a wonderful team.

How would you like to make a positive change in the world through People to People?

PTPI for me has always been a reaction to what makes you feel worried in your community. Everyone is doing the best they can, given the local context they work in, whether it is an intervention for helping the children from the local hospital, providing clean water, environmental actions, ending gender based violence or volunteering in animal shelters. It all makes the change we want to see in the world. Besides these actions we implement in our communities, my personal aim in PTPI was to work on the importance of spreading the culture of helping on an individual level between our membership. If we have proactive, more compassionate citizens with solidarity, we can achieve even more.

With the team in Macedonia
With the team in Macedonia

A USA to European connection fostered by PTPI

Mary and Mike Hermida
Greater Trenton, New Jersey PTPI Chapter

For the last six years, Mary and I have attended and thoroughly enjoyed all of the European conferences. We have met and partied with well over a hundred warm, intelligent and lively Europeans during these conferences and have stayed in touch with many of them through personal visits, email, and subsequent conferences.

We have enjoyed the beauty of their countries; learned to appreciate their culture through tours of their cities and historical venues, experiencing their dancing, singing, and music; and gained great insight into their individual perspectives and chapter challenges through discussions and work sessions at the World Cafes, council meetings, and group dinners.

Without a doubt, we have broadened our minds by sharing experiences and working to advance the PTPI mission of Peace through Understanding. We have also enjoyed interacting with students from many countries, impressed by their insights, energy, and friendliness. The dedication of PTPI students in countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and Macedonia to their humanitarian efforts, despite the many challenges they face doing things that we as Americans take for granted, is inspirational. We are proud to support these efforts and to help facilitate student attendance and interaction at these PTPI conferences.