ROUTE WB6 Volunteer Caravan journey successfully concluded in Tirana
WESTERN BALKANS – After a week of travelling throughout the region, conducting volunteering actions and meet-ups with RYCO Local Branch Offices, young activists and local volunteering organisations, the ROUTE WB6 Caravan on four wheels ended its journey in Tirana, Albania on Monday, 14 March. During these seven days, 45 young people from the whole region had the opportunity to visit Podgorica, Mostar, Sarajevo, Kopaonik, Pristina, Bitola and Tirana, spending 1540 kilometres on the road.
The ROUTE WB6 Alumni Volunteers, young HAJDE journalists and Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) joined their forces in tackling joint regional issues while socialising, supporting local communities, and breaking the prejudices and stereotypes that still hinder the Western Balkans. Moreover, during the Volunteer Caravan, which was implemented in cooperation with the Young European Ambassadors network, ROUTE WB6 Alumni clubs were established in the whole region.
The journey started in Podgorica where the young people got the chance to meet each other, discuss their understanding of identities, and present their expectations from the Caravan. The next stop was Mostar where they had a chance to visit the Youth Cultural Centre Abrašević and hear about the Mostar Street Arts Festival. In Sarajevo, the young people had the opportunity to visit institutions and organisations that offer the possibility for volunteers participation, including the SUMERO Centre for people with disabilities, Home for Children without Parental Care Bjelave, War Childhood Museum, Institute for Special Education and Care for Children with Special Needs Mjedenica and youth hubs.
After the long journey, the third stop of the Caravan was Kopaonik where a panel discussion tackling social media and youth was organised. In Pristina, the Caravan was engaged in volunteering actions at the social centre Termokiss. After arriving in North Macedonia, the young people participated in a workshop which addressed the issues that young people identified in the region by writing letters to the relevant institutions, outlining the importance of regional advocacy. The last stop of the Caravan was in Tirana where the young volunteers enjoyed Maluma’s concert and were presented with the opportunities that Tirana European Youth Capital offers in 2022.
The ROUTE WB6 Volunteer from Pristina, Blend Halili, shared his impressions by saying that the Volunteer Caravan was truly an amazing experience for him. “I had the chance to meet great people from all around WB6. We had a lot of fun, and we shared experiences, thoughts and problems that we are all facing. There are a lot of existing stereotypes among our communities because they didn’t have the chance to meet each other. But now, we are icebreakers who will share how amazing our friends from the region are, and that we need to get to know each other better and cooperate in order to make our region a better place to live together,” Blend pointed out.
On the other hand, the Young European Ambassador from Banjaluka, Anastasija Đorđa Bosančić, underlined that the caravan was a truly life-changing experience for her. “Certain things cannot be understood or processed until you set your foot in all the WB6 societies, spend some time with peers coming from different perspectives and backgrounds, and of course, until you are brave enough to open your heart and dare to say yes to this unusual and amazing adventure. My sincere wish is that the vibe we had during this Caravan can be achieved in our whole region in the near future,” Anastasija told us.
Finally, Mihail Miloshevski, a young HAJDE journalist from Skopje was clear that the journey was an excellent experience for him. “Getting to know more about different cultures, spending quality time with lovely people from all different parts of the Western Balkans, creating wonderful memories that will last forever, and learning new things is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why I loved being part of the Caravan. While on the journey, I made friends for life and I cherished every moment spent in the wonderful company of both the volunteers and the coordinators. It’s a unique experience and I strongly recommend young people to participate in these projects and build bridges of friendship in the entire region,” Mihail concluded.
The ROUTE WB6 project aims to promote regional volunteering as a tool that will contribute to reducing social and ethnic distance among young people in the region, as well as strengthening their prosocial and European values, leading to reconciliation, stability and prosperity in the region. The project is being implemented across the Western Balkans by a consortium led by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) in cooperation with Beyond Barriers, the Southeast European Youth Network, Lens, Youth Cultural Centre Bitola, Association for Democracy and Prosperity – Zid, Young Researchers of Serbia and Institute for Youth Development KULT. The project is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Already known among youth all over the region as ‘YEAs’, the young leaders also joined the Caravan to tell their peers more about the opportunities that the EU offers – for education, skills development, travel, advocacy and much more.
Most importantly, YEAs are open to sharing ideas and developing their talents – towards inspiring change within their communities, the Western Balkans, across Europe and beyond.
The YEA network is a component of the EU Regional Communication Programme for the Western Balkans which was launched in January 2020. The programme is funded by the European Union and will run for four years. The objective is to inform diverse target audiences about the cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans.