By Klea Troka (YES 2011-2012, Albania, hosted by YFU in Delaware, OH)
While we were exchange students in the U.S., we learned that volunteering matters. We saw everyday how everyone was encouraged and supported to volunteer and give back to their community. In Albania we can say that youth are really eager and willing to volunteer. There is shift in mentality taking place in Albania, and volunteering is becoming a more approachable theme among young people. However, it is not always easy to find opportunities to volunteer.
When YES alumni in Albania created the YES Volunteers program, we had in mind exactly this point. We wanted to make it easy to volunteer. The program began in 2015 as an opportunity for young people ages 15 to 24, selected through a competitive application process, to work closely with alumni to design and implement community projects and activities. We think of the program as a bridge between the community and young people in Albania.
On December 19, Katerina Hatija (YES 2013-2014, hosted by CIEE in Everett, WA), Dafina Meco (YES 2014-2015, hosted by CIEE in Oscoda, MI), Dea Shehu (YES 2016-2017, hosted by ACES in Elkhart, IN), and I organized a training for 19 new YES Volunteers. These volunteers first learned about past alumni activities, then participated in an event planning simulation to learn the process and potential challenges of organizing community projects.
With this newest cohort, the YES Volunteers program has achieved an important milestone: 100 volunteers trained since the program began! These volunteers represent 11 communities across the country. We are really happy to have a community of amazing volunteers who continue to support and never fail to amaze us with their willingness and creative ideas.