By Jelena Pilipovic, (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by AFS in Roseburg, OR)
In October, I joined other City Representatives for our first training of the 2018-2019 term, which took place in Sarajevo. This will be my second year serving in this position. It was very endearing to meet old friends from my generation of YES students, but also to meet some other alumni with whom I worked as a City Representative last year. I was very pleased with the energy we all had and I sensed a good spirit of teamwork.
After a year of being a City Representative, I still learned a lot of new things. For example, finances were explained to us in a new way, and I believe understanding how to handle finances is a crucial part of planning activities and being aware of our own responsibilities. We also discussed the advantages to being a City Representative, as well as our duties. We went through grant opportunities and discussed specific ideas for activities and projects. Some plans were already made and were developing as we spoke about them. At the end of the training, we worked on developing a calendar activities for the entire 2018-2019 academic year, planning activities for each month. It was very productive and I really enjoyed working with such innovative, hard-working, dedicated people.
The day after the training, we led a Halloween event at SOS Children’s Village. We carved pumpkins with children who regularly use their services and made cards for an alumna’s project. We also played card games and some alumni painted children’s faces. It was a very fun event and an opportunity for YES Abroad students to speak to alumni and exchange experiences as former and current exchange students.
Seeing the amount of happiness the Halloween activity brought to the children in Sarajevo, I decided to do my own version of this project in Banja Luka. I organized an activity called English is Fun for nine children at the daycare center of the citizen association Nova Generacija. Instead of spending their time watching TV and keeping to themselves, the children communicated with each other and learned English through stories, drawings, and short videos. I also talked about children's rights through examples and worksheets. In the end, the children listened to a short story and then made their own storybooks and retold the story orally. It was a truly fulfilling experience seeing them so excited to learn English.
Being a YES volunteer City Representative for the past year opened a lot of doors for me and awakened my creative spirit. I have had a chance to organize and explore different projects and ideas. I have made so many good friends while volunteering with the alumni. It is a great environment to be in and every alum is a unique individual with distinct traits and a very special personality. What we all have in common is our will and drive to work on our community and give back what we got from the program. What the alumni community really provides is a place to relive your past experiences from the United States, to have other people understand how you feel and what you’re going through, but also to exchange new ideas and work together as changemakers.