From a Volunteer to a Project Manager by Zana

Hi I am Zana, not such an ordinary 23 year-old from Peja, at least I’ve been told so! The thing about me is that I am an extrovert with a bit of extra energy and creativity that needs to be channelled, and I started noticing that after I was out of university. Day dreaming of social equality and looking for opportunities to make a change, and as most of the youth I was eager to find somewhere I belong a space I can be me. Now here is how my YMCA journey starts.

So my friend invited me to this new training called I Am Whole in the YMCA in Peja, so it thought I would give it a try. Being a psychology student at the time I was amazed at the work I saw in those mental health sessions. Young people were learning about subjects we as a society never talked about; anxiety, phobias, mindfulness, body image all of these topics were and are considered taboo. I remember thinking at the time... now this is a platform where people should join. After we shared a lot of memories, fears, and happiness the training ended and every word that was said was safe it was there to stay with us only.

Zana during I Am Whole traing at Peja Y

My journey at the Y just began, a participant, then a volunteer by the beginning of spring I was an intern. During this internship I got to lead my very first group, and I was trusted to do work I didn’t think I could (just kidding I am a fast learner) days went by and each day I was feeling as I was belonging there more and more.

In less than 3 months I finished my internship, I was hired as a Youth Worker and was chosen to be a part of a training confernece in Finland.

It’s Dreamy right … Well it was my first time out of the Balkans of course I was overwhelmed.  The aim of the training was to learn about camp work, and so we did but we learned so much more the importance of camp workers being present was very important for the kids there. My brain was filled with new outdoor games and camp rules but I loved it, we got to roast marshmallows with the kids and be there when they got homesick and they needed a laugh.

Camp workers were the batteries that kept everything working. The nature, that unbelievable view I was waking up to every morning, fun fact Finland has 187,888 lakes you have to visit to understand how extraordinary it looks every time you turn your head you see a lake. We got to meet the most welcoming people ever, one of which was Jenni, she was so happy we were there that she made sure we had our share of fun and exposure to culture. We got to feed reindeers, we went in to a Sami hut (tent) where we were treated with coffee, this amazing bread in a stick that we got to grill by ourselves you will understand  the beauty of all from pictures. During this time I learned I am good at photography, I was just missing such a view haha… :)

Back home, summer 2019 was one of my favorite periods of working at the Y, I was just overwhelmed at the amount of new skills I gained. I got involved in so many things; camps, gender trainings and lots of cool stuff. I learned how to make a campfire and got as excited as the young participants, we were sleeping in tents and putting our best efforts on making the camp an unforgettable memory for them.

Another typical training from what everyone is used to was the Y woman gender equality training, and this time I got to lead the sessions. After 3 days of this particular training I was feeling proud of myself and even prouder of being a part of such a movement that gives the youth an opportunity to learn and expend their knowledge about these topics.

Guess what? It gets better, belonging to a minority group I have been all over the place talking about how I want to be a part of something involving communities. And of course it happened it’s the Y.  My boss Adi (Let me just add this for the people that don’t know him the best mentor anyone could ask for) met with me and here it was the project of my dreams Building Bridges a project about community integration and I get to manage it. And now we have created a platform to talk about subjects as democracy, peace and tolerance, hate speech all while creating an environment for inter-ethnic cooperation. Step by step we are working on getting there using training sessions and art as a tool for achieving these goals.  The most important thing for me was to create a space for youth to feel themselves, just like the space that was created for me at the time.

Every day I go to work knowing I will be seeing two awesome girls that happen to be my colleges,  plus I don’t think you guys would comprehend if I told you about these fantastic young people I get to meet weekly  but that is another story.

Until next time, bye.


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