Connecting the Dots through Volunteerism
When a coworker once asked for my opinion on how youth can make a positive change within Kosovo’s society, my first inclination was to reply with: “Volunteerism”. I truly believe that volunteers have the power to start ripples in the water, and those ripples can transform into powerful waves in Kosovo’s path towards a more sustainable future.
Why does volunteerism have that sort of power? I will answer this question by relating it to my personal experience as a volunteer. From the moment I received the news that I had been successful in my application to become a UN Youth Volunteer for Human Rights, I realized that I was given an opportunity and a platform to positively impact the lives of others. I am a strong believer of social equality, and I also believe that everyone, as a member of our society, has an important role to play and prompt a positive change. Positive change can be attempted by anyone who wants to make a substantial difference in our community. In my humble opinion, the first step for anyone who wants to make a difference in our community, is to find a cause that one holds close to their heart. For myself, such a cause is promoting social equality by providing equal opportunities for all children – focusing on children who come from less advantaged communities.
The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has many pillars which serve as a base for the protection of children, some of which include the right to life, survival and development, the right to be heard, the right to be treated equally, and among other pillars, the right to express oneself without discrimination. The socioeconomic status of the children who are supported by the Day Care Centre for Children in Street Situation, a model of specialized services for children in street situation, implemented by Terre des Hommes Kosovo, and supported by the Municipality of Pristina, shows that much needs to be done by the state to ensure that all children enjoy the rights set forth by the pillars of the UNCRC. One area which should be brought to the attention of the state, is the creation of methods for combating the barriers of pursuing formal education for children. Being a passionate advocate for the protection of children’s rights in Kosovo, I was able to fully contribute to this cause, by supporting inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong – learning opportunities for all children. I am a committed advocate of promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly including its provisions related to the social and economic inclusion of children, as stated in Article 28 of the UNCRC: “Every child or young person has the right to education, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, disability; whether they are in detention or refugees”. However, we need to ask ourselves: How do we ensure that every child in Kosovo has the appropriate means to exercise these fundamental rights?
Being part of a journey which would try to answer the aforementioned question, was only possible due to the Mentorship Programme of “Empowering the Youth through a Peaceful, Prosperous and Sustainable Future in Kosovo”, a project implemented by UNDP-UNV, UNICEF and UN Women. This programme has paired six prominent women from the public and private sphere with seven young talented women (mentees) to exchange knowledge and to enhance their leadership and professional skills through first-hand experience.
Arbnore Nokaj, Đurđica Kazić, Flaka Vitaku and I from the Mentorship Programme designed and initiated creative language courses, as a first small step towards promoting inclusive education, by engaging children who face a reality of inequity and marginalization in an interactive learning environment. Our team’s main goal is to create a fun learning environment, through theater-based techniques, drawing, singing, dancing and word puzzles, in order to make learning an attractive activity for children while enriching their learning skills and building their confidence in the process. These creativity-inducing language classes offer youngsters from diverse communities a chance to come together and strengthen inclusion, freedom of expression, while simultaneously giving them the space to socialize with their peers through learning.
The given substantial Mentorship Programme supported my will to become a devoted change-maker, who can set in motion a series of new waves in the area of child empowerment. Therefore, I am eternally grateful to Ms. Florina Duli Sefaj – for her continuous support during this substantial milestone, my fellow coworkers; Arbnore Nokaj, Aurora Pula, Đurđica Kazić, Erza Nila, Flaka Vitaku and Vlera Reçica – for their ongoing dedication and hard work, the UNDP Kosovo team and the Terre des Hommes Kosovo team for their assistance throughout this journey.
Amongst others, I was able to further broaden my knowledge and experience which I hope to implement in my near future career and create memories which make my heart flood with joy each time I think about them. I want to forever imprint in my memory Anita’s broad smile (17) when she connected the dots on the paper creating a heart-shaped form, and Leonora (15) wreathed in smiles, shouting “I did it” while naming out loud all the colors in English. I will also never forget Elmedin (10), whom after attending each of our classes, often expressed how much he looks forward to coming to the center, because he thoroughly believes these lessons will help him become an inspirational teacher like us, when he grows up.
The smiles, laughter and joyful faces that I have been fortunate to witness at the centre are the reasons why I profoundly enjoy serving as a UN Volunteer. I hope that I have been able to demonstrate through my personal experience, also shared as part of this blog post, that the youth have the power to trigger strong waves within societies which someday will result in a big snowball effect. Thus, I want to challenge all of you reading this piece, to be part of the effort that will demonstrate the power of the youth in our society by making at least one small step towards the establishment of a durable self-sustaining peace in Kosovo.
National UN Youth Volunteer in Human Rights
Hana Rizvanolli serves as a National UN Youth Volunteer in Human Rights with the UNDP, as part of a project which supports active changemakers of Kosovo who have a passion to take part in peacebuilding efforts. After earning a bachelor’s degree with High Honors from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), she has continued her lifelong passion to promote human rights and social justice, by working with international organizations contributing to the achievement of a prosperous and fair society. She is currently using her skills and commitment to champion for children’s rights and freedoms, as part of the Terre des hommes Kosovo organization.