Youth Discuss Volunteering Experiences and Opportunities Among RYCO Friends

WESTERN BALKANS – RYCO Local Branch Office in Serbia and the OSCE Mission to Serbia organized the second online meet-up “Disco, Disco, Volunteering” within the series of online events called “Among RYCO Friends”. The event took place on Friday, 18 June 2021, and gathered over 50 young people from the Western Balkans interested in volunteering experiences and opportunities across the region.

The opening session “Second try or bye-bye” was presented by Ms Milja Zdravković, an experienced volunteer, and Ms Silvia Dervishi organizer of volunteering programs from the Beyond Barriers organization, who shared their experiences on negative volunteering practices and challenging situations. Ms Zdravković pointed out that besides some challenges she faced as a volunteer, friendships are the most important outcomes of these experiences. On the other hand, Ms Dervishi explained that volunteers are an equal part of the team and that good preparation and information on the programs they attend is key for successful volunteering experiences. It was underlined during both their presentations that well-organized volunteering experiences strengthen the team spirit and connect young people who are dedicating their time, energy and will to certain activities or programs.

These interesting testimonials were followed by a quiz on which participants of the event could test their knowledge on topics related to volunteering. The focus was mainly on volunteering principles such as the free will, the non-paid experience, investment of time, knowledge and skills, and the engagement for the good of the community or third party.

In continuation, the session “WB6 Volunteering addicts, tell us the secret” took place and panelists shared their personal experiences and stories on how volunteering looked like many years ago. Ms Joana Ramalho from Portugal, who began her activism by volunteering in the Western Balkan region in a period when there was a lack of facilities and awareness on the importance of volunteering, shared funny stories on unpredictable situations that can occur. Other experienced volunteers from the region, Mr Darko Savović, Mr Vladimir Budalić-Buđa, and Ms Ivona Krstevska shared their stories and emphasized the importance of regional volunteering as well as the opportunities that RYCO is offering for young people who can step up to make a difference in their communities and region. They underlined that volunteering empowers and enables youth to become active citizens and change-makers.

The last part of the online event was dedicated to the new Regional Cross-Border Volunteer Program Route WB6 program where participants explored the volunteering schemes developed within this program and its upcoming plans. The session was presented by ROUTE WB6 Project Coordinator Ms Ines Bulajić who invited the participants to apply for the program and become part of a unique regional story. ROUTE WB6 aims to promote cross-border 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. It 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 project is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All participants of the event and interested young people of the region are invited to apply for the ROUTE WB6 program and experience new adventures through volunteering and traveling abroad or outside of their communities.

“Volunteering doesn’t have a cost because it is priceless,” was emphasized during the conclusion of the online meet-up among RYCO friends.

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