Inspired by fellow volunteers' posts and a TED talk discussion by Sir Ken Robinson that challenges the way we're educating our children, I felt the need to once more write a post about the wonderful Peace Corps project that is the Writing Olympics.
The Writing Olympics is a creative English writing competition where students are given one hour to answer a question. They have the choice of 3 questions, and often these questions are imaginative and open-ended. They are not judged on grammar; mistakes are okay! Instead, winners are chosen based on their ideas, the originality of their essay. This year, Azerbaijan also hosted a “professionals” category, which gave individuals who may not fit into the school categories a chance to compete as well (this includes mothers, teachers, and student-aged individuals who dropped out of school or chose not to go to university). The goal of the event is to help cultivate creative writing and, even more importantly, creative thinking. Here is an example of one of the most extraordinary essays I have ever read. Try to read this and not be moved!
What does a caged bird think about all day?
In my opinion if you want to understand something in the nature, you should put yourself in that thing‟s shoes. So, I will do the same thing. Now I‟m taking off my shoes and put myself in a caged bird‟s shoes.
Well, let‟s pretend I am a bird. I can do anything I want. I can fly, and the whole world is mine. The Sky is mine. I love traveling by air, of course. Also I have a “Green Card” to all of the countries. Have I ever been to Egypt or Italy? Sure! I know a lot of people who is dreaming about these countries, who want to see the Pyramids and the ancient Rome. But unfortunatelly they can‟t do that. Because of money or something else. But I don‟t have any problems like those. I am a bird and yes, I am very HAPPY!
It‟s a pity that happiness can go away as fast as it came. The same thing happened to me. One day when I was flying over a big city somewhere in Italy, I decided to have a little rest. I sat on a big and beautiful window and began to sing my favorite song. But soon I figured out that I was hungry. Suddenly I saw some wheat in the house. It was inside a small iron thing. Hunger had won my fear and I flied inside. The food was so tasty that I didn‟t notice a man came in and shut the door of this small iron thing. I thought he wanted to give me more wheat, but I was wrong. That was my last day in Freedom.
Since that tragic day I live here in this small iron thing. The man calls this thing „cage‟, but I don‟t understand why this jail is called „cage”. Everyday the man feeds me. He also has a dog in his apartment. We made friends with that dog. He looks so happy, that every time I see him I remember my cageless days.
Every morning I wake up with the first rays of the Sun and watch the Nature waking up with me. The trees, the insects on the trees, the sky and the clouds are smiling to me saying „Good morning!” I try to smile to them, too, but I can‟t. I remember that each morning I began with my charming songs. I gave my smile to everyone. Now maybe they don‟t even see that I am away. How does their morning begin without me? Maybe my friends in Moldova miss me, or my relatives in Azerbaijan are looking for me somewhere in the world. In this big World. In this big, beautiful and unrepeatable World.
You know, I want back home. I don‟t need any Pyramidas or Fountains of Love. I WANT MY HOME! Hey, can anyone hear me? Please, take me back to my mother. Give me my Sky back... Can‟t you understand that I can‟t live without flying, without that sky and trees?! I can‟t live without my motherland!
Hey, someone there in the Freedom! Every day I pray for you to come and set me free. I pray for you to come and set me free. I believe that God will hear my voice and you will come. Or this strange man will open the door someday.
I watch the free birds out there in the other side of the window and think that even if I shan‟t be free tomorrow, I will be free the day after tomorrow. I want this day to come as fast as it is possible. I can wait, it‟s not a problem. But I‟m just afraid that this waiting can‟t go on for a long time. That‟s why my first dream is freedom. Please give it to me and make me HAPPY AGAIN!
Sabina, Age 16
I would never plug this unless we needed it, but honestly, we need your help to conclude this event and recognize the wonderful works of Azerbaijanis who had the courage, and creativity, to participate! The winning students will have their essays published in a book which they will receive, along with a certificate and translation dictionary, at an awards ceremony. Unfortunately, publication here is expensive. Your donation, which can be made at http://tinyurl.com/WODonate, will help us ensure that our students will remember this event, and their creative selves, forever. Your donation will help to pay for the publication of the book, as well as the printing of certificates, the purchase of dictionaries, and the hosting of the awards ceremony in Baku.
Our goal isn’t much; it’s a little under $2,000 USD. Any financial help you can provide would be so greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much!