BELARUS - Cynthia Carpenter, Interpretive Specialist at the Cradle of Forestry in America on the Pisgah National Forest, and Carol Ryan, Interpretation/Conservation Education Program Manager in the Forest Service Region 4 office, recently returned from a ten-day technical assistance engagement in Belarus. The specialists were hosted by Country Escape: the Belarusian Association of Rural and Eco-tourism; also known as “Country Escape.” The trip was coordinated by the FS International Programs Office.
Carpenter and Ryan, both certified as Interpretive Trainers by the National Association for Interpretation, led two workshops for independent guides and representatives of national parks, reserves, and travel agencies from around Belarus. The first workshop was a four-day NAI Certified Interpretive Guide training; to earn their credential. The 18 participants each prepared and presented a ten-minute interpretive talk. The 16 participants in the second workshop developed plans for multi-day tours including interpretive themes or experiences for each stop. During both workshops, the FS facilitators engaged participants in discussions about development of a national professional network and community of practice for interpreters and guides across Belarus, similar to the role that NAI plays in the US.
The trainers were impressed with the passion participants conveyed for the natural and cultural heritage of their country. Some expressed concern about people moving from rural to urban areas and becoming increasingly detached from the land; others had ideas for integrating activities into their tours that would support small businesses and farmsteads.
“These issues and potential opportunities ring familiar within the US Forest Service, too,” said Carpenter. “We hope that through applying interpretive best practices and creativity, everyone we met can make the facts matter to their audiences, enhance the context of their fascinating stories, and inspire protection of their special places – just as we do in our roles in the US.”