By Alper Ahmed (YES 2017-2018, Bulgaria, hosted by AYA in Baldwin City, KS)
The newest team of volunteer YES City Representatives, Sabutay Yundzhyuler (YES 2017-2018, hosted by PAX in Shreveport, LA), Bogomil Lyubikov (YES 2017-2018, hosted by YFU in Pine, CO) and I had our training on November 17-18, 2018, at the American Councils office in Sofia. It most definitely was an amazing training that taught us a lot about how to successfully coordinate projects and be the representatives of YES in our regions. We got to better understand the importance of our positions. The program was led by Alumni Coordinator Vyara Nikolova (YES 2017-2018, hosted by YFU in Farmington Hills, MI) and our American Councils mentors, Kristiyan Naydenov and Rebecca Strattan.
The whole experience was really fun. In addition to more formal training sessions, we also had very fun activities, for example to create games with random objects that were given to us. Vyara and Bogomil created a travel-themed board game while Sabutay and I created a game where we had to pull papers with challenges on them from a cup and then choose a number which could randomly be anybody else from the group to complete the challenge. This activity helped us to practice using our creativity and available resources the same way we will need to use them as City Representatives. We also enjoyed having lunches and dinners together, where we discussed our ideas for future projects and told funny stories about our exchanges.
After the first day of training was over, we went to a cafe that had a lot of board games to choose from and play. We played Monopoly, which I lost, and Settlers of Catan, which I also lost. We got to try many other card and board games as well. This was a wonderful game night spent with friends that reminded us of our exchange year and helped us to bond as a team.
During the last day of the training we had the chance to volunteer, which was probably the highlight of this training for me. We went to a home for people with visual impairments and got to walk them through the streets and park. Each of us alumni was paired with someone. The woman that I was walking with, Nadya, was Russian, but she spoke Bulgarian and Turkish, too. She was very enthusiastic and her stories filled me with joy. After our walk, we sat with our partners at a cafe, where we had a fun conversation filled with jokes and reading short motivational quotes that were given to us along with our coffee. In the end, the farewells were hard, but we left with good memories and stories to remember and tell.
The whole experience was unforgettable and I am thankful for having had the chance to be a part of it. Bogomil, Sabutay, and I are all excited to go back to our communities and start organizing our own projects, and to help build the YES alumni community, too!