By Tara Djelic, A-SMYLE Alumni Coordinator for Serbia 2012-2013
Just like every other summer in the world of YES and A-SMYLE alumni, the summer of 2012 was marked by the change of generations. We received the newest generation of alumni and sent the newest generation of exchange students across the ocean. The change, however, did not end there. We also said our goodbyes to Jelena Kaplanovic ’09, the former Alumni Coordinator, and wished her all the best in her educational pursuits in at Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA.
When it comes to activities, A-SMYLE alumni keep reminding me how proud we should be of our activism. First of all, NGO Think Big Team (TBT), the members and founders of which are A-SMYLE alumni, launched a completely fresh idea—the “Zdravo Zivo” Project. The goal of this project was to promote healthy lifestyles and encourage people to take care of their personal well-being. “Zdravo Zivo” was realized throughout the months of July, August and September in 9 Serbian cities, including Loznica, Raska, Leskovac, Novi Sad, and Vranje. What made these actions so special was the fact TBT provided fitness instructors, dance teachers, dance students and nutritionists to take part in this action and pass their knowledge on to the volunteers and visitors.
Secondly, Zoran Stojanovic ’11 and Aleksandar Cakic ’10 organized an original project in Leskovac called “Culture and Me”, which ran June 29th through July 8th. Zoran and Aleksandar received 680 photograph submissions, 101 of which were chosen to be a part of an exhibition at the Cultural Center in Leskovac. Some of the topics covered were nature, travel, music and general culture. Zoran and Aleksandar say that the idea was born when they realized the extent of the lack of interest in cultural events in Leskovac. Knowing how little is invested into the city’s cultural domain, they felt something high-quality and memorable had to be organized and took on the challenge themselves to inspire the youth from Leskovac.
Last, but not least, Daniella Kurfis ’09 was the proud initiator of the “Outcasts: Save the Animals!” Project in Backa Topola. After an unfortunate accident at the local, privately-run animal shelter, a great number of cats and dogs were left homeless without a caregiver. By organizing a 7-day volunteer action, Daniella managed to raise awareness about the importance of adopting animals and being an affectionate caregiver. She and her team of volunteers taught visitors how to adopt an animal, since many are not certain what responsibilities that involves. Throughout the month of August, the animal shelter from Backa Topola received a great deal of attention, with the hope that more and more people will start visiting it and adopting animals. Such actions will hopefully motivate Daniella’s peers to apply at the shelter and volunteer, just as she does.