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Softball in Azerbaijan

RMU alum Julie Nelson ’10 is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the town of Yevlakh, located in central Azerbaijan. Her primary assignment is English Education, but she also serves as a community development volunteer, working on diverse secondary projects.

Both of Julie’s parents recently came to visit her in Azerbaijan, and the three of them traveled together to Istanbul, Turkey. Over the past year and 9 months or so, Julie has kept in touch with Dr. Ersem Karadag, hospitality and tourism management professor, via e-mail. Dr. Karadag is originally from Istanbul, and he usually returns every year to visit his family.

“I informed him that my parents and I would be coming to Istanbul,” says Julie, “and he ended up meeting up with us and showing us around for two days!  It was really awesome to meet up with an RMU professor in Istanbul, to be able to practice my language with him (Azerbaijani is very similar to Turkish), and to tour his city with him!”

Also this spring Julie and two fellow PCVs established a new softball team in Yevlakh. Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in Azerbaijan first created the nationwide softball league six years ago. In each year following, the league has undergone expansion and improvement with the support of PCVs, students, and community members throughout the country. “It was a groundbreaking idea for the community because the students involved had never played softball and did not know any of the rules or strategies,” says Julie.

Over a period of two and a half months, the coaches and students practiced regularly.  The Yevlakh Yahoos, as the team is called, participated in three tournaments and competed against many different teams.  By the end of the season, the coaches, students, and spectators were all impressed and proud of how far the team had come in such a short time.

One thing that really helped the team to come together was the donation and shipment of RMU Change A Life t-shirts.  Julie says that she distributed the t-shirts the day before the first tournament, and she could see the students finally feeling like a real softball team. “They wore their new t-shirts proudly,” she says. “Even when they didn’t play as well as they would like, at least Yevlakh was the best looking team!”

Not only did the establishment of a softball league in Yevlakh contribute to leadership development and team-building, but it was also a chance for Julie to support two important Peace Corps goals: to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of peoples served, and to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. “Azerbaijani youth in Yevlakh can now take part in the all-American sport,” says Julie.

“On behalf of the softball team in Yevlakh…Çox sağ olun (thank you very much) to Robert Morris University!”

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