Better Region Starts with Volunteering

TIRANA – The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) organized the conference “A Better Region Starts with Volunteering” in Tirana on 7-8 December 2021. The event was opened by RYCO Secretary General Mr Albert Hani, followed by Mayor of Tirana Mr Erion Veliaj and Ms Jenny Stenberg Sørvold, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pristina.

Under the theme of The European capitals program in the WB6- Building collaborative communities through volunteering, the success stories of Novi Sad as the European Youth Capital 2019 and Tirana as the European Youth Capital 2022 were presented. The goal of the session was to inspire the stakeholders from the WB6 to support the concept of regional volunteering and improve its status. Ms Dafina Peci and Ms Aspasjana Kongo presented Tirana Youth Capital 2022, announcing more than a thousand events to be organized during the next year. Mr Vojislav Prkosovački from OPENS Novi Sad shared the experiences from the EYC experience from 2019, while Mr Ognjen Cvjetićanin from Novi Sad City Council in charge of the sports and youth emphasized the fact that Novi Sad is also the European Capital of Culture 2022. The next session was discussing who needs regional policy-making where ROUTE WB6 project partners presented the advocacy documents developed in the framework of the project, and discussed the policies regulating volunteering in the region. 

Ms Giada Trucco and Ms Selena Tasic presented the concept of the Young European Ambassadors, supported by the European Commission. Moderated by Ms. Ira Topalli, the session of do’s and don’ts of volunteering gathered the organizers of volunteering from prominent festivals and sports manifestations from the WB6, such as BELDOCS, Anibar, Ocean Lava Montenegro, Bitola Open City Festival and Tirana Marathon shared their personal stories and experiences. 

The second day was opened by Ms Gabriela Civico, Director of Centre for European Volunteering (CEV), presenting the opportunities of the title of the European Volunteering Capital and discussing strengthening the capacities of the municipalities from the region to apply for the title. It was a perfect opportunity to hear more about the winning journey of Trondheim, Norway, EVC 2023 from the municipality representatives Mr Trygve Fatten and Mr Knut Meinert Kiplesund. Mr Zlatko Talevski from MKC Bitola presented the perspective of a WB6 municipality on the EVC application process. 

The conference concluded with the unique Living Library, offering stories of the young volunteers for the policymakers of the region, but for the general public as well. During the event, attendees engaged in one-on-one or small group conversations with the ROUTE WB6 volunteers from across the region. The volunteers represented a wide range of diverse backgrounds and volunteering experiences, sharing their stories on a range of topics. The event created a positive space for dialogue on volunteering and celebrated diversity within the ROUTE WB6 community. The event was visited by  Minister of State for Youth and Children of Albania, Ms Bora Muzhaqi who enjoyed the story about Nomad, presented by young volunteer Adi from Bosnia and Herzegovina. More than 80 people used the opportunity to read the books. 

The aim of the event is aligned with the unique joint volunteer actions in Novi Sad and Tirana, led by OPENS and the National Youth Congress of Albania, encouraging collaborative regional initiatives in 2022. Therefore, two artists from Tirana painted a mural at the Novi Sad Youth Center, while the artists from Novi Sad will paint a mural in Tirana. Currently, 37 volunteers are in Novi Sad and Tirana, engaged in supporting these activities. 

The event is organized in the framework of the ROUTE WB6 project, which aims to promote regional volunteering as a tool that will contribute to reducing social and ethnic distance among young people in the region, strengthening their prosocial and European values, leading to reconciliation, stability and prosperity in the WB6.

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 Center Bitola, Association for Democracy and Prosperity – Zid, Young Researchers of Serbia and Institute for Youth Development KULT.

The ROUTE WB6 project is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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