YOUTH WORKERS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

123569123 405016683837947 5449046196050859402 nWe start this year’s series on youth workers in BiH at the Youth Council of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’re here to talk to an amazing youth worker who works hard every day to contribute to the development of the youth sector.

Nedim Alibegović is in the final year of his undergraduate program in European Integration at the Faculty of Economy of the University of Sarajevo. He was born and raised in Sarajevo. While growing up, he had ample opportunities to learn how various organizations work, which helped shape him.  While in high school, Nedim acted as a peer educator and member of the Steering Committee of the Association of Secondary School Students in BiH. This is how his involvement in the youth work sector began.

His decision to be a youth worker was driven by his desire to give back and make sure other young people benefit from youth work as he did.

It would have been selfish of me to keep all the benefits of youth work for myself. While I’m helping others, I feel myself growing as a person too. If you surround yourself with people who want to learn and grow, you won’t have much choice but to join them. - says Nedim about his motivation for youth work.

He became a certified youth worker in 2018, after completing the certification training for youth workers conducted by the Institute for Youth Development KULT in cooperation with the Olof Palme International Center.  The training, says Nedim, was his first foray into considering youth work as a systematic activity.

A lot of the tools and techniques I was already familiar with, but I didn’t look at them as parts of a bigger picture. Before this training, I didn’t think of youth work as a systematic approach to the growth and development of a young persons, which is what youth work is in its essence. This training helped me appreciate the importance of youth work as a system, which I think was crucial for my growth, particularly for my efforts to provide a framework conducive to better development of youth work in the future.  The most important thing I learned during the training is that I have to make sure to help myself before I try to help other people, with people in general and in the civil society. Only a person who is happy and fulfilled can help other young people live up to their potential faster (although this fact is often ignored). I also picked up a lot of tools that helped me grow and learn about myself, and later I used the same methods in my youth work in the field.

This successful young man believes that investing in human capacity development is the only way forward. He celebrates every problem solved and every challenge overcome, especially if it’s all done by young people who say ‘yes, we do care, and yes, it is our business’.

As I grew more mature, I started realizing that youth work is a process that requires a systematic approach. This is why I still make myself available to groups of young people and I’m trying to come up with ways to channel the support I provide through Youth Council projects into encouraging individual development of young people. With time, I realized that the growth of local organizations depends on active young people, although some places are having a hard time keeping young people from leaving their communities. I continue to work directly with young people, supporting their personal development, helping them write project proposals, while at the same time trying to draw attention to the essential value of youth work for strong youth associations and youth councils.

Nedim is currently the General Secretary of the Youth Council of FBiH and says that youth work has somewhat slipped from his daily life because he lacks the time necessary to give himself fully to provide quality work that yields results.

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Although I never stopped being a youth worker, I’m currently more concerned with the strategic perception of youth work and providing the conditions necessary for implementing strategic activities. Professionally, that’s a bigger challenge for me right now, since it’s one of the biggest problems facing youth work in BiH.

He says he tries to be optimistic about the youth work sector in BiH.

A lot of groups can serve as examples of how progress is possible, but when it comes to systematic work we have to end the current practice of investing far too little in developing the potential of youth and ignoring their contributions to society. The numbers of young people in local communities are dwindling as increasingly more youth decide to emigrate. This also means fewer organized youth groups, which are essential for creating a strong base for the youth work sector to exist on. We are now living through the consequences of bad youth policies, and we have to make use of what we have to shape a better reality. It’s certainly possible to a provide youth-friendly environment, but not without the cooperation between the two most important stakeholders - government institutions and young people.

As a youth worker, Nedim tells young people that change starts with them.

My activism started from a maybe selfish intention to change myself, but in the process, I learned that a better me can contribute more to society.  Like I always say, whatever we’re doing will be easier and faster if we do it together.  The same goes for growth and development - we can go it alone, but it will be more fun if we do it together. In the end, we usually realize that we share the same goals and are just traveling different paths to reach them. That’s why we have to respect each other and make use of the knowledge that we can reach the same goals by taking different paths. Don’t let young people be their own worst enemy, because that attitude makes it so much harder to solve problems, however small.

He intends to continue contributing to a youth-friendly environment and believes that studying economy from the point of view of development policies can contribute to strengthening this field in BiH.

It’s lamentable how rarely we see youth as investment opportunities that can result in economic benefits too.  I’m not giving up on youth work, and I’ll do my best to change this for the better. When it comes to my geographic location, it doesn’t really matter that much to me; I think the challenges I mentioned can be addressed both from BiH and abroad - says Nedim.

YOUTH WORKERS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Edina DINA Vosanovic 02Our June story about youth workers of Bosnia and Herzegovina took us to Brčko District. We’re here to meet Edina Vošanović. Edina graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of German Language and Literature, and has been working at the Youth Organization Svitac for years.

YOUTH WORKERS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Katica omladinska radnicaThis time, our series on youth workers in BiH takes us to Kostajnica, to meet Katica Smiljanić. Katica rarely refers to herself as a youth worker, because, as she says, she’s always reminded of her role models who weren’t called that. She didn’t grow up with the intention of being a youth worker, because the term didn’t exist then.

I got into youth work relatively late, after I graduated from university. I’ve always wanted to work with children and youth, so I chose an appropriate profession. I graduated from the Faculty of Filology, Department of Italian Language and Culture. I taught briefly after that, and then I got a chance to work at the Youth Center in Kostajnica, which was part of a project of Zdravo da ste citizens’ association from Banja Luka and the Center for Stress and Trauma in Zagreb. I think it’s safe to say that my work at the youth center was a turning point in my personal and professional development.

Those two jobs gave Katica insight into differences between formal and non-formal education, and chance to consider the drawbacks and advantages of each. She says her university studies provided her with the theoretical knowledge she needed, but not the tools for successfully working with children and youth.

I wasn’t happy with myself as a teacher and with what I was able to provide for my students, because I wasn’t trained well enough to work with them. I knew I wanted to work differently but I didn’t know how. Then, during my work at the youth center, I got a chance to take part in trainings in Italy on the topic of “Non-formal education in the formal context. That’s when I realized that it’s possible to teach the way I wanted to and I learned to use non-formal education methodology in formal education. In time, I grew into an educators who is able to share examples of good practice with teachers from other European countries.”

When talking about formal vs. non-formal education, Katica doesn’t claim one is better that the other - she believes that they can work in unison and that a combination of formal, non-formal and informal learning are the perfect recipe for properly preparing young people for life.

I remain in the formal education field because I believe we can improve it. People who work at youth centers or organizations can often do more for young people than those who work with them in formal settings. That’s because they have more room to adopt an individual approach to young people, get to know each of them so they can provide tailored guidance and advice. Working in the non-formal sector is demanding and complex and calls for a lot of preparation, planning, organization and special methodologies. In non-formal education, young people are much more relaxed and learn more easily because they’re learning about things they’re interested in. They choose which workshops and trainings they go to. They learn how to take initiative, think critically, be engaged and fill their free time with meaningful activities.

Katica says that youth work is a very demanding profession that calls for great dedication and continuous learning. She successfully completed the Institute for Youth Development KULT’s certification training for youth workers. She always happy to share her impressions from the training.

The youth officer training happened at a perfect time for me to fill in some gaps and learn about some topics that I wanted to know more about. This training is memorable because of the trainers who did such a good job and showed what a high-quality training looks like. I’ll definitely remember all the people I met there, some of them already amazing youth workers and some eager young people wanting to learn, selflessly investing their time and energy to improve their local communities. Young people give me hope that the society will become better.

When asked about the society in BiH, Katica calls it a “society of burning issues”.

It’s an undeniable fact that there are so many burning issues that young people are never very high on the list of priorities at state or even local level. Young people never seem to get prioritized, and neither do youth centers or organizations where young people are supported while becoming responsible citizens. The biggest problem faced by youth organizations is maintaining continuity and many of them dissolve because of a lack of funding. However, the strongest link in youth organizations are youth workers making superhuman efforts to find solutions and ensure their organizations stay afloat.

Katica omladinska radnica 2Katica still works with young people and uses innovative methods in formal education, and youth work remains her passion. She is currently focused on environmental and music projects, because she thinks they’re particularly good at allowing young people to connect and understand each other.  She notes that sustainable development and environmental protection are topics that need to be discussed more with young people, to increase their awareness of these issues.

Katica intends to continue building her future in BiH.

My future is in BiH. I never wanted to leave, but I did when I had to, and always came back whenever I had an opportunity to earn a livelihood here. I think hard work and dedication pays of in this country. It may take a while for someone to notice your hard work, but it does happen. Her message to young people is to fight and never give up, to seize the opportunities given to them, and use everything they take part in as a source of valuable experience they will benefit from later in life. She encourages them to take advantage of opportunities provided by youth organizations in the form of trainings and trips. They can start by contacting a youth organization in their local community, if there are active organization there. If not, then they can team up with other young people as an informal group and apply for funding so they can implement projects they believe will improve their quality of life in the community. These are small but meaningful changes. By changing your local communities, you’re changing the entire society.

Katica Smiljanić is another example of what persistent, decisive individuals are capable of. Katica is one of many youth workers building up the BiH society with their persistent efforts and small, local changes that slowly accumulate into major improvements we all benefit from.

YOUTH WORKERS IN BiH

Amar 03

The May issue of the youth worker series from Bosnia and Herzegovina takes us to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to talk to Amar Toplić, a youth worker who started his formal education at the University of Banja Luka, studying social work. While at university, Amar went on student exchanges to Montenegro, Slovenia and in Sarajevo. He fondly remembers his road from Čelinac and Banja Luka to Ljubljana, and his first foray into youth work.

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