A-SMYLE Alumni Bring Spirit of Volunteerism to Serbian Village Museum

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From April 12th to 14th, 2013, A-SMYLE alumni spent the weekend helping to prepare the historical Open-Air Museum in the village of Sirogojno, Serbia for its summer season.  The Open-Air Museum is a unique site comprised of authentic buildings from throughout the Zlatibor region of Serbia reconstructed in the village of Sirogojno in the style of a traditional 19th century homestead.

Alumni listen

Alumni listen to directions while taking in the natural beauty

For many participants, this event was a chance to return and give back to a place they enjoyed visiting as children on field trips or family vacations.  For others, it was an opportunity to experience the site’s unique history and natural beauty for the first time.

During the day, alumni volunteers cleared more than three acres on the museum grounds of pine needles and weeds, prepared a small garden for planting, and assembled and mounted informational signs at various locations throughout the museum. In the evenings, alumni brain stormed ideas for upcoming community service projects..  They also offered feedback and ideas to the museum’s curators on how to make the museum more inviting and interactive for visitors.

Aleksandar Nikolic '12 and Nina Lukic '12 have some fun while raking pine needles to make way for new grass

Aleksandar Nikolic ’12 and Nina Lukic ’12 have some fun while raking pine needles to make way for new grass

“My favorite part of this weekend was all the good things we did, like the cleaning up, but also meeting all these great people – that’s something you always do on A-SMYLE projects!” commented Gala Patenković ’11.  For Program Coordinator Milena Otašević, who works primarily with the Open World program, the weekend was inspiring. “Seeing all these young people work and volunteer and doing something for their community made me feel more energized and motivated to do more to organize events like this.”  This sentiment was echoed by the museum staff, who were so impressed by the work ethic, enthusiasm, and positive energy of this group of alumni that they are now working on plans to bring five of the alumni back for a month-long internship at the museum in August.

Inspired by a meeting between Open World program alumnus and curator of the Open-Air Museum Nikola Krstović and American Councils staff at an embassy reception, this event marks the first of five collaborative projects, which will continue through mid-May, that bring together A-SMYLE and Open World alumni in celebration of Global Youth Service Day and the power of youth involvement in community change.  ”

Alumni proudly display the signs they constructed for the museum's garden

Alumni proudly display the signs they constructed for the museum’s garden

The A-SMYLE Alumni weekend at the Open-Air Museum in Sirogojno was the best possible way for us to open the Global Youth Service Day season,” observed Tara Đelić ’08, who is the alumni coordinator for A-SMYLE alumni in Serbia. “Only in A-SMYLE can you combine community service, hard work, reaching out to the ones who need the help of the volunteers, friends, fun, smiles and joy!”

After the activity had ended, alumni were asked, “What did you enjoy most about this weekend?” This is what some of them had to say:

  • “Helping people and feeling great about it, and meeting new people!” – Jana Jačić ’08
  • “My favorite part of the whole weekend was that I got to hang out with some really great people and share a lot of stories.  It was really awesome!” – Miloš Acimović ’12
  • “The nature is so beautiful, and being part of cleaning it, it’s great!  Having the opportunity to do something for nature is amazing.” – Milica Marković ’08
  • “Everything was great!  I got to work; I never work!  It was really cool to try that.” – Sonja Mitić ’12