YES Alumni Bring Global Youth Service Day to Southeast Europe

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“Global Youth Service Day is an annual campaign that celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youth who improve their communities each day of the year through service and service-learning.”

This year, Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) alumni from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia joined more than 475,700 volunteers from 100 countries around the world in celebrating Global Youth Service Day (April 15-17) by implementing projects to improve their communities.

Ema Drnda is joined by her mother, aunt and grandmother in making 400 ribbons

400 handmade ribbons sold for more than $2,277

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ema Drnda, YES ’10, recruited family and friends to help make 400 white ribbons, which they sold on the square in Bugojno on April 16, 2011 to raise money for a 26-year-old woman in need of a kidney transplant.  Their efforts raised more than 3,000 BAM (2,277 USD).  Drnda is now in the process of organizing a second fundraiser, where she plans to use food and entertainment to attract a large crowd and, Drnda hopes, sell 3,000 more ribbons.  In the meantime, Drnda plans to continue selling ribbons on the street and in at least two local malls that have already granted her permission to use their facilities.  Drnda is also in the process of starting a non-governemntal organizaiton, which she expects to have officially registered by June 2011.

Alumnae Irina Conevska, Maja Hristovska and Stefani Boshkovska plant flowers at the Mechanical Faculty in Skopje

In Macedonia, YES ’10 alumni Stefani Boshkovska, Haris Buce, Armir Celiku, Irina Conevska, Maja Hristovska, Fisnik Jakupi, Andrea Mitevska, and Simona Ristovska were joined by American Councils Skopje Office Director Velika Angelkova and her son, Viktor, on April 16, 2011 for a project they called “Plant Our Future.”  Sponsored by the Mechanical Faculty in Skopje and American Councils, the project involved planting over 100 plants—six varieties of flowers and two varieties of trees—in the bare gardens around the Mechanical Faculty. “The goal of the project was to motivate and raise awareness among the youth about the cutting of trees and recycling,” explains Ristovska, the Alumni Coordinator for Macedonia.  After the hard work of digging and planting was over, participants enjoyed cookies and cakes the alumni had prepared.  The alumni hope to make “Plant Our Future” an annual and nation-wide event in the future.

Teenage students in Tirana share their love of books

In Albania, YES ’10 alumnae Ina Gjika and Anisa Hoxha were inspired by Global Youth Service Day to organize a project called “A Day Dedicated to Books.”  Concerned that books are losing popularity among teenagers, Gjika and Hoxha decided to organize an activity in which teenagers would talk about books and discuss their importance. “A Chinese proverb says, ‘A book is like a garden carried in the pocket,’” Gjika, the Alumni Coordinator for Albania, explains. “In fact, books are so valuable to us because they broaden our mind and help in building our personality.”

As the first step in their project, Gjika and Hoxha distributed surveys to more than 30 local teenagers in which they asked about their relationship with books, which are their favorite authors, how much free time they dedicate to reading, etc. “We wanted to know at what scale teenagers today are letting technology and Internet influence their free time, taking it away from reading books,” Gjika explains. “From the results, we noticed that unfortunately today’s teenagers spend less time reading than in the previous generations. They mostly read a few hours a week, which is so little if we compare it to the time they spend on Facebook.”

On April 23, 2011—International Book Day—Gjika and Hoxha held a workshop for 10 teenagers.  The teens discussed famous Albanian and foreign authors such as Victor Canosinaj, Ismail Kadare, Nicolas Sparks, Danielle Steel and Dan Brown.  “All the participants seemed to be very active and interested in the conversation,” Gjika reflects.  “They talked about their reading experiences, recommending different interesting books to each other. New friendships were created and we were already making plans for similar future activities, such as organizing meetings with Albanian writers.” At the end of the activity, the students all enjoyed reading passages from books Gjika and Hoxha had purchased based on the interests they had seen in the student surveys.

Alumni (left to right) Fjolla Kondirolli, Perparim Kryeziu and Dite Gashi plant trees in Peja, with the help of volunteers like YES ’12 finalist Adea Guri (standing)

In Kosovo, YES ’10 alumni Dite Gashi, Bereqet Gjakova, Fjolla Kondirolli and Perparim Kryeziu were joined by three high school students—including YES ’12 finalist Adea Guri—and five local municipality employees in planting more than 40 seedlings in the main square of Peja.  The seedlings and working tools were donated by the Municipality of Peja. “We all felt proud of our contribution to environment,” Kryeziu, the Alumni Coordinator for Kosovo, attests.  This activity, originally planned for Global Youth Service Day, was postponed due to bad weather and was instead realized on Earth Day, April 23, 2011.

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