Photo: Zdravo da ste, Banja Luka

Workshops in youth centres and volunteering organisations provide opportunities such as informal education and acquiring the first working experience.

An eighteen-year-old David Pajić learned last summer how to design, plan and hold a creative workshop for the youth and nowadays he shares his love and interest in photography with a group of active enthusiasts in a photography group of the Zdravo da ste youth centre in Banja Luka.

This pupil of the final year at the School of Electrical Engineering finds photography as a very interesting hobby and, nowadays, he shares his knowledge and creativity in using a photo camera and making photos with a group of six attendees, teaching them composition and techniques and giving them feedback on pieces of their work.

David has been active in the Youth Centre for three years now; he is creative and volunteers in many activities. During the Creative August event, he attended a training for workshops facilitators, assistants, peer training, and youth work standards as well as assertiveness and other communication skills training.  

“I found it very important to learn that aspect of communication skills so that I can communicate with larger groups of people. Whenever I speak with a larger group, I feel pressure of having to meet someone's expectations and it is much harder when a group is large. That is why the workshop was very useful,” he says and adds that now when he leads a photography group he is much more relaxed with attendees. He also says that these new skills are also useful in other aspects of life.  

Young people and activism

During the Creative August event in Mladen Stojanović Park in Banja Luka, hundreds of children and young people had an opportunity to have some fun and learn about the youth activism and civic awareness, writing CV, non-violent conflict solution, public appearances and first aid, along with music, dance, all sorts of creative workshops and games.

The Project EMBRACE (Enable and Embrace Beneficial Civil Society Environment), which was implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, and funded by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway promoted the youth activism and initiatives of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as civic participation and volunteerism in community. Similar workshops are also organised in Visoko aimed at promoting positive values and creative expression of children and young people and at stimulating the competitiveness of young unemployed persons and preparing them for civic activism and employment.

A twenty-eight-year old Lejla Ahić from Visoko graduated from the Faculty of Traffic and Communication and as she could not find a job opportunity in her field, she decided to look for other opportunities. Nowadays she works in a bookstore. She attended three-month-long intensive workshops on life skills such as writing CV and conducting herself at a job interview, while also improving her English and German speaking skills. She also attended IT workshop where she learned how to use certain types of software.

“It meant a lot to me, as I succeeded and got employment more easily. Before that, I was unclear as to how to behave at a job interview. I also wanted to upgrade my English and German speaking skills, and it turned out that I got into an advanced level workshop. These workshops were a complete excitement for me,” she says referring to the project organised by the Mladi volonteri Association from Visoko.

The Manager of the Mladi volonteri Association from Visoko, Belmin Debelac, says that training sessions were held over the course of three months and that they were attended by 75 young persons.

“We attended to their interests and needs. They found it most interesting to attend the job interview skills. People are often times in the situation when they do not know whether they can ask employers certain questions, what they can or cannot do; what is the ideal answer to certain questions asked by employers. We insisted on education sessions and we used personal experiences,” says Debelac.

Mladi volonteri is the organisation that engages and supports young people into different volunteering and internship programmes, which help them in getting a job or upgrading certain skills.  

“Visoko is a small town; people do not have frequent opportunities to attend such informal education sessions. Those are mainly young unemployed persons who cannot afford paying for courses, and this is exactly what they need,” he says and adds that the training sessions targeted young persons between 18 and 35 years of age.

Bearing in mind that many young people do not manage to find employment in the field for which they were educated, Debelac believes that informal education is very important.

“You never know where life may take you. After all, volunteering is something that can give you a good foundation to find yourself.”  

Creative people under open sky  

Snježana Blagojević, a coordinator of activities in the Zdravo da ste Association says that with the support of the EMBRACE Project they conducted the Creative August and Creative July events. The event held in July was held in a settlement of Dragočaj at Banja Luka outskirts, where young people from that community conducted the activities, which was at the same time their first experience in conducting workshops. She explains that workshops in Dragočaj were held on a daily basis such as creative gardening, painting and decoupage, along with movie nights.  

“There were over 110 children and young people who attended workshops in Dragočaj. Kids found everything very interesting and they were there literally every single day waiting for the beginning. It was something that happened for the first time in their community,” Blagojević recalls.

Theses creative and educational workshops continued until the end of November, same as the ones held in Banja Luka youth centre where most participants continued coming to the centre as volunteers and kept participating in regular activities. Blagojević says that there were around 445 participants in all activities, with support of this Project.

“The whole summer while we were here, this place was full of people, and this year especially,” says Blagojević stressing that the activities during the Creative August and Creative July events were held under the open sky.

“It is now more necessary than ever, everything was open and relaxed, people could drop by and hang around but most of them would come back. They usually kept coming from day one until the end,” she recalls and adds “Over the course of the last year, during the pandemic, we reiterated the importance of public space and importance of organising different events for children and young people under the open sky.”

David Pajić also says that the activities during the Creative August event were a refreshment for young people, and this experience was very special to him as he started as a participant and a volunteer, and grew to the activity bearer at the Youth Centre. Photography helped him find a way to better communicate and learn together with members of the photography group which he will be leading until late March. He will complete a secondary school this spring, and he is thinking about entering the studies of film directing where he would be able to use his hobby skills in a much broader sense. 

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