MEMBERS of the Young Rescuers USA delegation pose during the opening ceremony activities of the Young Rescuers International Rally in in Belarus in September. From left are Zachary Wiskow of Matthews, N.C.; Jordan McAdam of Hudson, N.H.; Jared Schoneberger of Derry, N.H.; Delanie Kneeland of Windham, N.H.; Arielle Leeman of Bath; Connor Martin of Merrimack, N.H.; Silvia Morau of Boston, a Young Rescuers USA deputy program director; Kyle Morin, of Mt. Vernon, N.H.; David Tille, one of the co-founders of Young Rescuers USA program; and Roman Bastek of the Concord (N.H.) Fire Department. In the photo at right, Arielle Leeman, 13, a Bath Middle School student, wears a firesuit during a break in the competition.

MEMBERS of the Young Rescuers USA delegation pose during the opening ceremony activities of the Young Rescuers International Rally in in Belarus in September. From left are Zachary Wiskow of Matthews, N.C.; Jordan McAdam of Hudson, N.H.; Jared Schoneberger of Derry, N.H.; Delanie Kneeland of Windham, N.H.; Arielle Leeman of Bath; Connor Martin of Merrimack, N.H.; Silvia Morau of Boston, a Young Rescuers USA deputy program director; Kyle Morin, of Mt. Vernon, N.H.; David Tille, one of the co-founders of Young Rescuers USA program; and Roman Bastek of the Concord (N.H.) Fire Department. In the photo at right, Arielle Leeman, 13, a Bath Middle School student, wears a firesuit during a break in the competition.

I have returned unscratched and unharmed (to my parents’ delight), and at 13 years old, I have become a “world traveler.”

 

 

I would never have imagined a year ago, that I would be traveling to an Eastern bloc country and competing with my knowledge of first aid, fire safety and emergency preparedness. But that is exactly what I spent 10 September days doing. I was chosen as one of seven students — the only one from Maine — to represent the United States as part of a team called “Young Rescuers USA.”

ARIELLE LEEMAN is inter viewed by a Belarus government official. At right, Leeman and one of her international counterparts, enjoy a little down time between competition.

ARIELLE LEEMAN is inter viewed by a Belarus government official. At right, Leeman and one of her international counterparts, enjoy a little down time between competition.

We traveled to Belarus for the 2012 International Rally of Young Rescuers, where we met other students from Belarus, Russia, Maldova, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, South Korea, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Romania and Azerbaijan. We saw cultural, scenic and historic sites in Belarus, like the National Art Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and even the National Library which had the coolest robotic arms to collect the books from the shelves for people (who waited at the check-out desk).

 

 

We stepped onto “American soil” while we were there, as the U.S. Embassy hosted us. The majority of our time though was spent at camp Zubrionok on Lake Naroch.

We were like rock stars. No joke. We stepped off the bus, and the other students surrounded us, just waiting to hear us speak English. They were interested in EVERYTHING we did. We represented America! That alone was amazing. By the end of the 10 days, we made friendships with these students who we initially couldn’t even have a conversation with.

The week-long competition was exciting. An example of one of the things we did was: We crossed a bridge of thin wood while attached to a wire with a harness over the river. Then we ran through the muddy woods, cut a log, and carried a man out on a stretcher. There were other challenges too, to test our ability to think quickly.

The week was filled with so many activities. We saw fireworks, sang songs, danced, and even created a newspaper. At one of our evening activities, each country gave a prepared presentation.

We presented a slide show with pictures from all over the United States, gave details about our country’s industries, animals, climates, and more, and did some dances to represent the different areas of the USA, such as country line dancing, and a dance to a Beach Boys song. I even had the biggest solo of my life. I sang the national anthem in front of the whole camp (about 600 people) including the minister, while everyone stood for me. During our final gathering as a group, our team was presented with a trophy for Patriotism for our informative presentation.

Before the trip

All of this didn’t happen without some work. We spent time preparing over the summer. We met with Silvia Moraru of Boston, a Young Rescuers USA deputy program director, who helped to teach us some Russian.

Leo Roy, a lieutenant with the Manchester Fire Department and Roman Bastek with the Concord (N.H.) Fire Department both worked with us on all our fire safety and first aid training. With them we did drills like climbing rock walls, bandaging each other, and getting in and out of a fire suit as quickly as possible.

David Tille and Wendy Schoneberger, both from New Hampshire, did so many things behind the scenes, like arranging our flights and schedules, worried about our VISAs and dealt with all the legal and international stuff (more than I even know). We raised money with car washes, and each looked for private donations. I had a few local groups that were incredibly generous in helping me with funding.

I want to thank the Bath Rotary Club, the West Bath Fire Department, Bath Savings Bank and the Midcoast Federal Credit Union for helping me. There were many people at Bath Iron Works who individually helped to make this trip possible for me, too. Thank you to everyone!

Most especially, thanks to former U.S. Ambassador to Belize George Bruno, also from New Hampshire, who along with David Tille co-founded Young Rescuers USA. Ambassador Bruno along with an amazing board of smart and kind people worked for a year to make this program fantastic for the seven of us “Young Rescuers.”

If you want to learn more about my trip, you can visit my blog at www.arielleyoungrescuers2012.blog spot.com/

ARIELLE LEEMAN is a student at Bath Middle School.


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