Author: Ivana Kiprijanovska
The story began back in April, 2010 when I packed my suitcase with some extra clothes not to be cold, some books not to be bored and some hopes that the trip I am about to hit won’t be just a waste of time. It turned out that I didn’t need the extra clothing I took because it was a wonderful, warm and sunny week, I didn’t need the books because I didn’t have a single minute of boredom and I would eventually save my hopes for something else because it turned out that instead of waste of time, that one week became one of the best times of my life so far. My “Balkans, let’s get up” experience is one of the dearest and warmest memories I carry within me and I am glad to share the story with you.
It is a story about a good and human idea of some young smart people, all scholars from the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg of the Robert Bosch Foundation. They wanted to do something nice and good for other young people from the sleeping Balkan countries and to just give them the seed for planting their own better future based on welfare, progress and democracy. “Balkans, let’s get up!” is about finding ways of practicing active citizenship, civic engagement, youth activism as well as learning about project management! But it is even more – it is about developing personalities and personal skills, facing personal challenges, achieving huge goals through small steps and about awaking our own responsibility for making things better, growing higher and becoming happier.
The concept of “Balkans, let’s get up”, at that time still just an ambitious idea, was presented to us at our first ‘kick-off’ seminar, held in Sremski Karlovci back in April 2010. Then we – 20 participants from 8 Balkan counties – met for the first time and for the first time got on the “Balkans, let’s get up” – a train of ideas, projects, hugs and smiles that travelled for the following 8 months, before our trip eventually finished and we had to get off the train and make place for the next generation of new smart and creative participant that will join the warm family of “Balkans, let’s get up”.
At our first meeting (the “kick-off” seminar) we had 7 days to meet each other, talk about issues that bother us in our societies, share some creative energy and initiatives about possible fields we would like to contribute with our work to, divided into teams that best fit our personalities. We got some basic project management skills and then came back home full with impressions and memories to work on the realization of our own project ideas.
The first good news came out very soon after the seminar. Our trainers received the “Youth Democracy Award” of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education for their great and valuable project “Balkans, let’s get up!”. With the award grant they would be able to finance the realization of our projects.
We congratulated them but we had to stay focused on developing our project drafts because the deadline for applying with our different independent project ideas was close. Of course, all our projects were approved and got the finances to be implemented and we, even more excited, entered into the next phase of deeper studying of project management. This happened during the next so called “follow-up” seminar which took place in June 2010 in Belgrade when we – the participants – met again. We attended useful lectures and spent joyful time together. After this training course, we faced the greatest challenge: it was time for us to implement our project ideas and see what the outcomes of this process would be.
In this first year of “Balkans, let’s get up!” six different projects were funded and implemented. All of them, having their own beauty and value, were implemented and finished by the end of November 2010. Mila from Bulgaria, Kristina and Erseld from Albania chose to do the human and very heartwarming projects and help orphans to get better integrated in their societies or they just spent some time walking and talking to them so that they would feel better. A Romanian team of three funny girls – Mihaela, Anabella and Ecaterina – decided to “Click it and fix” the destructive attitude that young people from the Hungarian and Romanian majority often have towards each other. Milan from Bosnia decided to do a nature friendly project by organizing an eco-cleaning action. He called his project “Let’s keep our treasure”. A very Balkan team consisting of Milan from Serbia, Andrej from Montenegro, Tomislav from Croatia and me, Ivana, from Macedonia, implemented a project aimed at motivating young people to take more active participation in the issues important for society and get involved in different forms of activism in order to “Wake up (and) Make a Difference”. The project “Breaking the wall” was implemented by Radan from Serbia and Ida from Croatia, who brought young people from these countries together, breaking the wall which the unpleasant past of wars and conflicts had built up between them.
Our projects were (more or less) structured and (more or less) useful, but undoubtedly, to us they were all successful because the greatest success is the fact that we managed to create them and finish them, giving up neither when difficulties and obstacles came in our ways, nor when we were scared and feared to fail or became frustrated.
The last seminar for final evaluation and sharing our experiences took place in Skopje at the beginning of December 2010. We did a public presentation of our projects, talked about our involvement and shared how great and nourishing the whole “Balkans, let’s get up” experience was and how wonderful it was that we had had the chance to participate and meet each other. With tears and hugs we had to say “goodbye”. But you never truly say “goodbye” to ones you love and admire, right? I am grateful for the chance to learn and grow and even more – for such good memories and meeting such delightful and lovely friends.
The beauty of my awakening experience is that I realized how deeply asleep I was, putting all my efforts and abilities in a dark and safe place, being lazy and fearful to say out loud what I think and need, choosing to be quiet, obedient, suspicious, frustrated. It would have been such a pity if I had stayed on ‘the safe side’, (day-)dreaming and wishing things were different but not doing anything for that to happen! Now I know that it is me who makes the decision to live better, it is me who chooses to go further. It is me who deserves to be happier by making a positive change in my closest surrounding and thus influencing also other people’s lives. People who also want to be woken up should get up so that they can create the reality they have dreamed of!
Apply for the next round of seminars HERE