Cadets who embarked on the Cultural Understanding and Language Program (CULP) mission to Macedonia are wrapping up their time here. But while we were here we’ve done our best to help the people of Macedonia and to learn as much about the country and its people as possible.
The team has worked on a Habitat for Humanity Build Site; helped throw a picnic for schoolchildren; donated clothes collected from back home before they left to give to the those in need, and served as camp counselors for students interested in going to the United States for a university education. Informally, cadets and cadre have tried to show great love and goodwill to the many Roma (Gypsies) of the country, and we provided a lot of food and affection (bought with personal funds) to the many stray dogs that roam the streets and countryside.
In Veles, sixty km from Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje, cadets accomplished what Habitat for Humanity coordinator Mr. Kostov described as, “two to three volunteer groups worth of work.” Cadets unloaded two flatbed trucks worth of bricks, cleared the building’s conduits for wiring. Then we used picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows to remove several feet worth of mostly rock and a slight amount of earth from a hill that originally stood almost flush to the building. After that we laid the entire lower half of bricks on the outer wall of the third story, and assisted in general tasks that required large amounts of manpower.
All this is in pursuit of providing affordable housing for the numerous families in a city of 55,000 that often live ten to fifteen people deep in what would be considered small apartments by American standards.
After participating in a week long joint exercise hosted by the Macedonian Military Academy, the team worked with the Office for Defense Cooperation (ODC) to organize a picnic for schoolchildren in the scenic mountain village of Lesnovo. The primary students were from Probiship, in eastern Macedonia, where last year funds from the Department of Defense were used to renovate their school as part of an initiative promoting inter-ethnic relations in education. Cadets played volleyball with the students, enjoyed a display of traditional Macedonian song and dance (and joined in), and supped on traditional Macedonian barbecue while exchanging stories of near and far.
The group of ROTC Cadets also visited an SOS counseling center fifteen minutes outside the capital in Chesto. The SOS center serves mainly Roma children and provides an alternative to a life on the streets. The team spent time visiting and playing with the children and also donated to the center a great amount of clothes collected through individual ROTC programs back home.
To round out their humanitarian presence in Macedonia, the team served as camp counselors for a special program by American Corners Macedonia. The students that attended the camp ranged in age from 14 to 18 and attended because of their interests in American universities. The students are part of a larger program in Macedonia that seeks to broaden the horizons of students in their pursuit of knowledge at home and abroad. Cadets ran PT in the morning with options of either traditional PT or soccer, with matches often reaching World Cup intensity. Daily, cadets engaged in Macedonian language learning sessions hosted by the campers. Perhaps the biggest help cadets provided was in their ability to answer questions regarding college life in America and how to obtain scholarships. Cadets also taught a class on altruism and volunteering, which are not big parts of the national culture of Macedonia. As always, the CULP team sought to leave the environment in which they were working or visiting in better condition than when they arrived.