By Lejla Coko (YES 2017-2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by AFS in Blue Springs, MO)
Mother's Day is a special day in the U.S. On this day, you remember to appreciate the person who was there to pick you up when you first fell, who was there to teach you how to ride a bike, and who was there to help you go through life. Your mother figure.
I remember my first Mother's Day since it was actually while I was in the U.S. We don't really celebrate Mother's Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and before my exchange year I had only seen it celebrated in movies. For Mother's Day, my host siblings and I woke up very early, so we could make my host mom Mother's Day cards and breakfast in bed. I still remember the smile on her face that morning, which made my whole day. Even though she isn't my biological mother, I connected with my host mom on a whole new level, and every time I looked at her, I saw a mother figure. Host families are crucial in having an amazing exchange year, and my host mom definitely helped me have the best time. Mother’s Day taught me that you don't need a lot to show someone that you love them and appreciate them. All you need is a pen, paper, and your heart.
When I came back to Bosnia and Herzegovina I knew I wanted to share this wonderful day with other people, and thus decided to organize a workshop for children in which we would talk about Mother's Day and make cards to show appreciation for their mother figures. It was my first independent project with younger participants, so I was a little afraid that no one would show up or that they wouldn't be very interested. Luckily, nine boys showed up to the workshop, which I held at the American Corner in Sarajevo on May 10, 2019.
The part that made me especially happy was the fact that this many boys showed up. The local society treats boys as though they aren’t expected to be tender and affectionate; these qualities are usually expected of girls. I felt a great amount of pride in being able to positively impact these boys at such an early age. This workshop turned out to be about more than just making cards; it was a chance to share an important life lesson about being open and sharing your love with those who deserve and need it. We had so much fun together, laughing and making cards, that at the end of the workshop I had the same smile on my face as on my first Mother's Day: a smile full of love.