Right now, I am sitting in a train from Stuttgart to Halle in Germany. I am traveling to the returnee seminar of the ”Friedenskreis Halle“, where we are going to discuss our possibilities of engagement in the future. I spent the last year volunteering at GAIA Kosovo and as a „final“ task, I was asked to write a report about my last year. A report about one year of my life. Probably that‘s more than one percent. So it‘s a lot of time I guess. How am I supposed to write a report about that in the way that it will not make you bored too much or prevent you from reading it, because it might be too long. Anyway, I can‘t put the last year into words, that anybody could understand. You need to experience volunteering to feel the spirit. But still, I will try to describe it for you.

The question I hear most of the time is: „Why did you choose Kosovo?“ and well yes, it‘s a legitimate question and most of the people didn‘t even understand after I explained it to them.

I was active for about 4 years before in a youth exchange and a city in Kosovo called Peja/Pec. I got the possibility to travel there the first time in 2011 and a second time in 2013. During that time, the country caught my interest regarding its history and language. I was curious to learn more about it and decided to go there for one entire year. So I informed myself and found the organization GAIA Kosovo, where I applied for.

After a language course in Tetovo, I arrived in Gracanica in the begin of September.

The first period of my service was loaded with a lot of time at the GAIA House. I learned about the life in Gracanica and joined activities of GAIA in Kosovo and a training in Serbia.

GAIA‘s projects in the last year focused mainly on  youth exchanges, workcamps and trainings. My tasks were very diverse, but a big part was about preparing the events and promoting them, as well as promoting volunteering in general. That‘s also why I had the possibility to participate at most of the projects and I am really thankful for that, because every single one was a great experience and I got to know great people, with those I am still friends with. All the different tough work, the challenges we faced, the experiences we made together, the evenings we spent together at camp fires or just sitting together and making music are just words which can‘t transmit any of the spirit everybody is feeling there. The times in the projects created a strong bound between us.

You can‘t buy the experiences and friendships you make during that kind of activities.

Of course I haven‘t had just good experiences, also there have been hard times during the last year. Either it‘s the fire stove, which isn‘t working properly and you are freezing for one hour until it get‘s warm, or it‘s a discussion with someone who doesn‘t understand your basic points of a certain topic and as well I had to deal with behaviors, which didn‘t fit at all to the way how I was raised. But the challenging parts are the ones which will change you. They are the parts, where you get to know yourself. I don‘t want to miss them.

Challenges are one side, you can‘t change them. The much bigger question is, how you will deal with them.

But it‘s not all about challenges. I really enjoyed the work at GAIA. Despite the really good projects, I was lucky to work in a great team with great people and I am missing them all very much.

If I would be in the same situation like 2 years ago and need to decide about going to volunteer to GAIA for one year, I would definitely do the same. But don‘t worry, I‘ll come again as soon as possible – and maybe I‘ll bring some german beer ;).

-Jansoch Zmelty, Germany

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