KOKOMO, Ind. — Sometimes, you have to sling a little mortar to spread world peace.
Kathy Parkison, Indiana University Kokomo professor of economics and Fulbright Scholar, spent nearly two weeks helping restore the historical wine cellars of Rogljevacke, a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site in Serbia, as part of a Fulbright Association Service Trip to eastern Europe.
“The goal is to promote peace through understanding,” she said. “The idea is to show these young people that Albanians, Bulgarians, Serbians, and Romanians are people just like them. We saw a lot of friendships forming among them, when their grandparents and maybe even their parents were fighting each other not so long ago.”
Serbian officials hope to improve the region’s economy by drawing tourists, and the application for be a world heritage site is part of that goal. Parkison and her fellow Fulbright alumni worked with student interns from Cultural Heritage without Borders, a Swedish non-governmental organization (NGO).
The NGO’s mission is two-fold — not only restoration of cultural sites, but building friendships between people from other countries. Interns from Balkan countries, which historically have clashed with one another, worked together to complete the restoration project.
Parkison noted that the Balkans have been the flash point for many European wars, and that World War I began there. There has been conflict among the countries in the region for generations, and having the students work together is meant to decrease tensions.
The interns were mostly students in fields such as architecture and art history, while the Fulbright alumni included specialists in special education, meteorology, foreign languages, women’s rights, history, and economics.
Parkison and her colleagues participated in the physical labor — mixing water, straw, and dirt to make mud, dampening the walls so the mud would stick to them, and slinging the mud into the wall joints by hand — along with diplomatic duties, such as meeting with the mayor of Serbia’s capital, Belgrade. They also visited faculty from area universities, embassy officials, and fellow Fulbright Scholars in the region.
“All of them emphasized that their country’s warmongering past is in the past,” she said “They have a true desire to be good citizens of the world, and wish for closer ties with the United States, and membership in the European Union. They love their country, and want to share it with us.”
Her experience enriches her teaching for IU Kokomo’s students.
“I think students enjoy hearing about the rest of the world,” she said. “Ideally, I would love for all of our students to have an opportunity to study overseas. Because many of our students can’t travel, at least we can bring a bit of the world back to them through one of these experiences.”
Parkison was a Fulbright Scholar to the Republic of Georgia in 2005, participating in a program meant to promote understanding between Americans and people from other countries.
“One of the things the Fulbright Association wants to do is continue to involve people who have been scholars in projects around the world that help people,” said Parkison. “If you signed up to be a Fulbright Scholar the first time, you probably have a love of travel, a helpful ethos, and the ability to get along with people of other cultures. The idea is not to rush in to save things, but to help the locals move ahead.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.