By Merima Muhic (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ACES in Apex, North Carolina)
YES alumni are constantly finding ways to have a positive impact on their communities. I am going to give you a glimpse of what one month’s worth of activities looks like in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is what we did in December 2018!
On December 15, Anamaria Pestic (YES 2016-2017, hosted by PAX in St George, UT) and Asja Alispahic (YES 2017-2018, hosted by AFS in Warren, NJ) visited the orphanage in Tuzla, where they led an English workshop for ten children. Through drawing and discussion, participants learned how to introduce themselves, greet others, and discuss simple topics such as food and dining. The alumnae hope to continue organizing activities with the orphanage at least once a month.
Also on December 15, Adna Maksumic (YES 2016-2017, hosted by ACIE in Ontario, OR) organized a sports tournament in Konjic called Don’t Drug Yourself Down. The aim of this project was to encourage teenagers to turn to healthy activities like sports in their free time, rather than drugs. The event began with a presentation about the negative effects of drugs. Then, the 85 teenagers participating competed in three sports: basketball, soccer, and volleyball.
On December 17, physical therapist Pavle Lakic (YES 2011-12, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by YFU, Roseville, MN) organized a workshop on how poor posture caused by improper sitting or lack of physical activity can lead to problems with the locomotor system. Ten professional athletes from the Jedinstvo women’s handball team participated directly in the program, performing various exercises as Pavle explained their importance and relation to locomotor health. Twenty other community members participated as spectators. This was the second of two workshops Pavle organized as part of Don’t Wait, Sit Straight, which educated more than 75 community members in total.
From December 20 to December 28, Denina Siljegovic (YES 2017-2018, hosted by AYUSA in Mesa, AZ) organized a donation drive to engage members of her community in ensuring that children from disadvantaged backgrounds received gifts for the holidays. The American Corner in Tuzla served as a drop-off point for toys, while the local foreign language center Big Ben Center served as a drop-off point for sweets. At the end of the collection period, donations were combined to create 40 gift packages for children at a local education center for children with disabilities and 11 packages for children from families living in poverty.
On December 21, I organized a Secret Santa Party at the American Councils office in Sarajevo with the help of my American Councils colleagues. Six alumni and five YES Abroad students attended. The event included a Secret Santa gift exchange, connecting, and sharing experiences. Attendees also donated candies, which were combined into eight gift packages and donated to the Safe House in Sarajevo on December 28.
Finally, on December 23, Jelena Pilipovic (YES 2015-2016, hosted by AFS in Roseburg, OR) organized a discussion in Banja Luka that brought together pastors from the local Seventh Day Adventist and Protestant churches and three missionaries representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Participants engaged in a round-table discussion, talking about their beliefs and views on faith and examining the differences. Jelena explained that she organized this event because she is passionate about bringing people with different views, backgrounds, or experiences together and helping them to discover or learn to focus on the things that connect them, rather than the things that separate them.