By Filip Trajkovski (YES 2018-2019, North Macedonia, placed by AYA in Angelica, NY)
I’m Filip, one of the many YES alumni striving to make a change in their community since their return home. My development over the years following my completion of the YES program has shaped me into an established leader and reliable person in my community. The precious time I spent in the U.S. taught me new lessons each day and helped me understand the good and bad in both cultures.
In my community, Kumanovo, people tend to get disappointed easily, look for the easy way out of hardship, and stick to methods that no longer work. I have realized that innovation, new ideas, and critical thinking are the key components to bringing the shine back to my community, and I have worked to do this since returning from the U.S. After completing several successful alumni projects, I applied for two grants to give me the financial resources to make an even bigger impact.
The first grant was for a three-month environmental project at Mt. Vodno and Canyon Matka. The second, a 2020 YES Alumni Grant, took over a year to complete, thanks to COVID-19. The project, Play with Passion: With Love for Poraka Nasha, was a football (soccer) tournament that took place from July 20-24. Eight teams, including youth and senior teams, competed in a tournament with one common goal: to play with all their love for the Daily Center Poraka Nasha, a well-known community organization that works to promote inclusivity and raise awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities.
I found a perfect venue for the event and, using my organizational and networking skills, I turned the tournament from an idea into reality. Gaining public interest was surprisingly — yet not too surprisingly — easy. The level of interest was surprising because the venue has been inactive for years but finally got renovated recently. On the other hand, the level of interest was not surprising because the local community was hungry for competitive tournaments and events that would bring a somewhat jaded community together. During the tournament, the sports complex was packed with supporters and locals stopping by to remember the good old days and memories they had there.
Developing a plan for the tournament was not easy, as something was always changing, and we had to be flexible. But we tried to stick to our plan as much as possible, and the days were filled with a flurry of tasks — booking referees, setting up benches and chairs, buying and distributing refreshments, and countless other tasks that I had to do with the help of some dear friends. As the teams progressed through the group stages and playoffs, the final game was closely approaching. With each day that passed, the tournament gained more and more supporters — so many that I had to scramble on the final day to find a microphone and big speakers! After an afternoon of exciting games, I gave the tournament’s closing speech, awarded the participating teams, announced the tournament as a success, and closed it in style, with happy faces and a community united. Over 1,000 people attended at least one day of the tournament.
I have been approached by over 15 football teams, ready to participate in a new tournament, and by basketball teams suggesting and requesting a basketball tournament. Many locals have praised the project idea and its organization. This project was a massive success for both my town of Kumanovo and my personal development, but this is not where I plan to stop. It is hopefully just the beginning of my quest to make our town, country, and the planet a better place for everyone.
I want to personally express my gratitude to every person and organization who supported me in this project: the grant’s sponsor, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; YES Alumni North Macedonia, with special thanks to David Mladenovski for helping out at all times; Poraka Nasha and its wonderful members for always bringing joy to our faces; the Municipality of Kumanovo, with special thanks to Mr. Aleksandar Krstevski-Krsto; FK Kumanovo 2012 for helping schedule youth and senior games and providing equipment; Referees Beti and Bace for their righteousness and professionalism; the sponsors of the participating teams; the kind people who donated to Poraka Nasha; and my dear friends for always being available to help.