By Lisa Ramizi (YES 2017-2018, Kosovo, placed with Aspect in Port Orchard, WA)
As a newly returned alumna, I was beyond thrilled to be a part of the YES alumni group in Kosovo, especially knowing how engaged they are in my community. In the two years since my return, I have been helping the YES alumni in creating a lasting impact in Kosovo.
This year, I had the chance to participate in the IDEAL workshop to improve my skills and further help my community. Although it was not what we expected it to be, I don’t think anyone was disappointed with the way it turned out. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic presented many new challenges, we still did our best to learn as much as we could from our fellow Balkan alumni.
Kosovo was one of the lucky countries that had the opportunity to hold some of its sessions in person, which made them more engaging and effective. I am glad I got to spend some time with other alumni, some of whom I had never met before, including Mjellma Vula (YES 2012-2013, Kosovo, placed with PAX in Valley Center, KS), Visar Zeka (YES 2014-2015, Kosovo, placed with AYUSA in Prosper, TX), Edina Osmankaj (YES 2014-2015, Kosovo, placed with PAX in Berryville, VA), Valentina Ukaj (YES, 2017-2018, Kosovo, placed with AFS in Puxico, MO), Aleksandar Laban (YES 2016-2017, Kosovo, placed with AUYSA in Colombus, OH), and Rijad Cerkini YES 2018-2019, Kosovo, placed with PAX in Manistique, MI). The group participated in the sessions and had a great time together, while social distancing and wearing masks.
Attending these sessions with other alumni from all over the Balkans made us feel like we were together, whether we were in the same room or not. All that mattered to us was that we were learning various new skills that we would be able to implement to help our communities and each other in the future.
My favorite topic we learned about was mental health since I have always been interested in human psychology and have wanted to know how to keep my mental state healthy. I also really enjoyed two other sessions that I attended: 7 Habits of Highly Successful People and Working with What You Have. I am certain that those who attended these sessions gained new skills, which will come in handy when working on upcoming projects and in everyday life. This workshop brought the YES Balkan alumni closer together and working through these challenges and obstacles helped us form an even stronger bond, which will help us in future projects. IDEAL 2020 showed us that we have to keep moving forward through the hardships of life and that overcoming challenges will yield great results.