Friday, October 6, 2017

Tabanovce’s forgotten guests: a volunteer’s confession

Last summer I was volunteering three months, twice a week, in a refugee camp in Macedonia, as an EVS volunteer. There are two refugee camps in Macedonia: one called ”Vinojug” in Gevgelija, in the South of the country around 500 meters from the Greek border, and one in the North, ”Tabanovce”, also around 500 meters from the Serbian border. Both camps are situated next to the local railway stations. Tabanovce, next to a village carrying the same name, is where I volunteered. It was relatively close to Kumanovo, where I stayed for these three months volunteering in a project ”Volunteering for Acceptance and Tolerance”, coordinated by a Macedonian NGO called CID, Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

These are some of my memories and thoughts from the camp – I tried to be honest with them, and any possible mistakes in the facts are mistakes of my own.

First impressions

My first impression of Tabanovce refugee camp was not a shock over the quiet, almost empty camp, with white containers, dusty roads and some tents. I had already heard from my friend before arriving that there were more dogs than refugees at the camp. Not an entirely correct description, but gives you an idea of what I was to encounter; there were around 30 refugees (and the numbers rose up to 90 overnight) at the time and probably the same amount of helpers from different organizations. And yes, a lot of hungry stray dogs. There was nothing to be too shocked about the refugees eithers; I didn’t see many when I arrived but they all seemed more or less healthy and well.

 One of Tabanovce's many dogs.

The shock I experienced was more of a cultural type. Once I got into the camp, we were taken straight away to an air condicioned container, used as an office, and there we stayed with our laptops and phones, using the wifi and killing the time. A tour around the camp? Nothing more to see, I was answered. People did not seem very interested in working with the refugees, even if that was their job (this does not go for everyone working at the camp but it was a very strong first impression). Before arriving I had thought that working in a refugee camp had to be a calling for anyone working in there, that I would find there people who would feel compassion for these people and would feel happy to be able to be where they were needed. Instead I found out that to these workers it seemed to be like any other a job, and not even a very interesting one. I’m not saying they were disrespectful towards anyone, but it seemed more like an introduction to a local working morals. Whatever the reason, I was disapponted.

So in the container I had time to chat, to continue my works from CID and to watch series. Before leaving the camp, in the afternoon, we might pass by the outdoor kitchen to see if there were any refugees, and play cards with them for a while. Taking a photo with them was obligatory as well – to prove that the workers were actually doing something, and to not to loose followers on social media, as I was told.

I was also told there was nothing to do – but how does it matter if there are ten refugees instead of one hundred at the camp? They all value the same and deserve the same attention, even if it’s ”less exciting”. The refugees at Tabanovce had their humanitarian needs fulfilled – they had clothes, food and a place to sleep. What should’ve been our job was to take care of their mental health by the means we had to offer, which were interaction, discussion and play. To release stress and provoke a smile.

Although, it is also true that during July, when I arrived, it was constantly so hot in the camp that everyone preferred to stay indoors in airconditioned spaces. The camp was full of sand and dust, the sun was so bright it was impossible to look anywhere without sunglasses and the hotness was something I had never experienced before. The camp was quiet and sad.

Background on the Macedonian refugee situation

Why were there so few people at the camp then? The Macedonian borders have been closed since March 2016, so all the passing through the country (along the so-called ”Western Balkan route”) has from then on been illegal, or, how we prefer to say, irregular – because no human being can be illegal. Before the spring 2016 Macedonia was a transit country. People would take a train, a bike, or walk, from the Greek border in the South of the country and travel through Macedonia until the Serbian border in the North. That was the time when, this is what I was told, ”bikes were more expensive than cars”. The people passing by were taken advantage of in other ways too, like charging them more for a train ticket, for food and a couple of euros even for simply taking a shower (three euros is a lot for a shower in a country where people earn around 200 euros a month on an averige).

I was told that by the summer 2017 there had not been more than 1 to 3 asylum seekers in the country – I cannot remember the correct number anymore but in any case it was close to zero. People simply wanted to get to Serbia, and from there usually to Croatia, Slovenia and to the Western Europe; to Austria, Germany, or where ever.

Furthermore, the camps in Macedonia are technically not actual refugee camps but merely transit-centers, so the people are not even supposed to stay there for longer periods of time, but to be moved to other countries, like Serbia or be deported back to Greece. A lot of people just try to cross the Serbian border with their smugglers, time and time again. People arrive to the camp one day and the next morning they might be gone. Some people of course stay a bit longer, even some months, but still this somewhat explains the high rotation of people in the camp.

The daily life and routines

”You don’t want to stay there for too long, believe me”, I was laconically told by my coordinator while waiting for the taxi to take me and the other EVS volunteers to the camp on my first day there. This made me angry since the camp was the reason I was in Macedonia in the first place. But it is true it could be very boring in the camp if you took it that way, you could be as useless as you wanted to. Only a few refugees approached us by their own terms and we couldn’t really go searching for them from their small containers where they sleeped and lived. We were also feeling unsure if they even wanted to talk with us, although it was clear that there wasn’t much else to do and that probably they’d be happy to break the routines of doing nothing – since there was pretty much nothing to do – and communicate with us.

The communication wasn’t necessarily that easy either. We didn’t know which ones of them spoke English – and we didn’t speak any Arabic and there was no interpret either – and their culture was different, so you didn’t really know what was the best way to act; most of the refugees in Tabanovce were young men, and most of the volunteers were young women, which made it somewhat hard and ackward to approach them. It would have been a lot easier to approach children or women, but even if there were some women sometimes, they didn’t really leave the containers.

As the time passed, we, however, got some more experience and courage, and when the ice was broken for the first time it all got that much smoother and more comfortable – people would start approaching us, greeting us, telling us about their lives and joining us for a game of cards, or, later when it wasn’t that hot anymore, volleyball or football (yes, even I joined sometimes, although I sucked). At some point we had a lot of Algerians at the camp and I got to practice my forgotten French skills with them and even translate some conversations with them and other volunteers. It was empowering for me. All these casual conversations about Erdogan, the terrorist attack in Finland last summer, youtube videos from someone’s home town. Little by little we spent less and less time in our containers and more time together.

Cultural days

Our routines started changing when another organization working at the camp wanted to cooperate with the EVS volunteers; as they put it, they had money but not really a target group, since it was an organization for children but there weren’t a lot of children in the camp. They wanted to do something for the people who were at the camp, which was really nice. So we had a meeting where we decided to start organizing cultural nights, with ”therapeutic cooking” in the spotlight. This meant that the volunteers would take turns in organizing a day of activities about our own countries, share some music and videos, and the main event would be cooking something from our own countries, involving refugees in the cooking and later sharing the meal together. So this organization would provide the materials and we would provide the volunteers.

The event turned out to be more or less of a success. During the first cultural night, a French one, we were really lucky to have there an Afghan family with two teenagers and two smaller children. They were really interested in talking with us (even the 6-year-old spoke very good English!), playing and cooking and I’m sure we all had such a fun day, even if all the French cakes didn’t succeed that well. Later there was also a Polish night (turned into an Algerian one), a Turkish night, a Slovakian night and, of course, a Finnish night, where I got to make apple pies and salmon breads with some helpful hands, and we watched videos of Lapland and weird Finnish sports on youtube. During some days it felt like the whole camp was, if not directly involved, at least trying to be where the cooking happened; sometimes we only had a couple of people cooking, but nevertheless, it always felt like it was a nice activity for those involved. I wish they will continue doing something similar at the camp even now when our project’s ended and there are no more EVS volunteers.

 French cakes in the making!

A Polish/Algerian meal coming up!

Dealing with the authorities

Tabanovce of course didin’t come without bureaucracy or authorities. You can’t just enter the camp (well sometimes you could, but in theory that’s not how it works), but you need propusnitsa, a permission to enter. This is why I was only able to enter to Tabanovce camp and not Vinojug, for example. There were polices by the camp entrance checking everyone coming and going.

In Macedonia the refugees can’t usually leave the camp either; once you enter, you stay until you’re told otherwise (or until you decide to take off without a permission). This is why we couldn’t plan any activities outside the camp, even though they undoubtedly would’ve done great things for everyone’s spirits and mental health.

There were other restictions as well, and you can’t always tell why. For example, the organizations couldn’t teach English at the camp – at least not officially – just because the police said so. No one knows why. And yes, apparently you do need a permission even for these kinds of activities.

Once there was a bigger incident as well, when the police arrived to the camp in the early hours of a Sunday morning, when everyone was sleeping and there were less eyes to witness what happened; they arrested around 20 people accused of drug use and some were deported back to Greece, some were beaten. Just like that.

Refugees or migrants?

True, I’m calling everyone ”refugees” in this text, but I assume a lot of readers will go and think: are they really refugees or are they migrants? I’m happy it’s not a decision I need to be making. I don’t know the backgrounds of all the people at the camp, and as a volunteer, it wasn’t my duty either. I do know some fragments of their stories, though. I do know how some of them had traveled through Macedonia hiding dangerously underneath a moving train. I do know that the Afghan children were caught by the Serbian police and handcuffed. I saw how afraid they became when, even from the other side of the fence, they could see a police officer searching the stopped, empty-looking trains. I do know that many of the young men I met had previously been detained by the Greek police and held in a prison for several months. I do know that many of them were traveling alone, like a smiling 17-year-old Pakistani boy, who had left his home and his family to get to Germany, and who had already five or six times tried to cross the Serbian border, always getting caught. And again he was waiting for his smuggler. I do know that a lot of these people had nice, comfortable lives before, like one older, educated man, a teacher, who tried to use his time at the camp well by teaching Arabic and painting for his own enjoyment. And I remember the tired sadness in the eyes of a 14 and 16-year-old brother and sister, who knew they would not be going back home anytime soon, and not knowing where they would end up and where would their futures start.

So are these people refugees or migrants? This experience has made me realize better than ever how superficial all these kinds of labels are. We try to make sense of people’s origins and situations by choosing one or another word that should determine if they are entitled to stay, or if everything they went through was for nothing.

But it’s not like they left their homes and loved ones for fun.

To conclude

During my time in Macedonia I felt like I learned so much new, even if nothing was what I expected it to be. The evolution we went through at the camp was huge, at least for me, and the acquaintances I made taught me a lot. And even though I wasn’t at the camp more than twice a week I could use that experience in my other activities at CID; organizing different refugee-related events and workshops and collecting books for the camp, for example.

 A workshop on refugees for the local youth.

Workshop going on and a poster on Syria in the making!

People at the workshop are concentrating in watching a video on the refugee situation.

I made a poster for the event where we collected books for Tabanovce camp.
Three months was a short time, and the time just flew away. By the end of my volunteering at the camp I felt like I had established some good and trusting relations both with the refugees and the workers at the camp, so it was sad to leave. In the end I did get so much from the experience and from the people I met.

It is hard trying to coclude the text, because even though I’m safely back in Finland and the project has ended, most of the refugees I met are probably still waiting to find their new homes.

Volunteers and workers at Tabanovce; I'm the blond one in the back row.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Slovakian afternoon in Tabanovce camp


             Daily stereotype, this is one of the main problems in refugee camp in Tabanovce for refugees, they have place to sleep, food to eat, but no too much activities to do in the camp. So as an EVS volunteers we decided to make some activities with refugees and getting know each other better through the cuisine looked as a good idea, s we started to have common cooking time in a camp. We had French, Polish, Turkish and Finnish afternoons and the last one (26.9.2017) was mine Slovakian afternoon.

          I decided to cook in Slovakia widespread and traditional dish called in slovak language „Zemiakové placky“ I am just guessing that english equivalent could be potatoes pancakes J, but I am not sure. At the morning me, one french volunteer and two Legis employees went to shop to buy all needed ingredients. Rainy weather welcomed us in a camp, but we started to cook in a small kitchen. Dish is not very dificult to prepare and also ingredients are usually very cheap. All you need is potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, salt, oil and flour. Despite bad weather a few refugees decided to help us, which was the main aim of the cooking, so in the rhytm of Slovakian folk music we were preparing one of the traditional Slovakian meal. The entire process took around 2 hours, we cooked a lot, so everybody could try it. I am very happy that all participants on common eating liked the meal, but the more important thing is that we spent some time together, we were talking with each other and were doing something which helped refugees to escape a little bit from their daily routine. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Let's talk about migration

A few weekends ago, volunteers from Cid decided to organise an event to rise awereness about refugee' s situation in Macedonia, as well as to improve their lives in the Tabanovce camp by donating books, which were collected during the event (you can read article about it below).

Being curious what local people really think about migration and refugees. I decided to do a small research and interview several people different age. Overall I gathered 27 people including 18 man, 9 woman, most of the people were around 20s, some teenagars (the youngest person was 16) and one older woman (61). A few interviews were conducted during the event and in Multikulti, but most of them took place in bars, which explains higher number of interviewed men.

Macedonian part

Let's consider how a situation between Macedonians and Albanians looks in Kumanovo. Most of the respondents answered that relation between those two nationalites is neither good nor bad. Although, according to them nowadays the situation looks better. However the city is still divided, which indicate that definitely the situation should be improved. Some of the people mentioned that, conflicts from the past have still impact on current circumstances along with a bad education and integration system, which sustain touchy relation between Macedonians and Albenians.

Talking of migration, almost all respondents agree that the main reason of migration in Macedonia are economical and political. The low income force people to go to other countries and cities to find better job. However, there is no offical datas how many people migrated since 2005 of international migration and 2013 of urban migration. It is quite surprising and almost all my interviewees didn't know the exact number. Even though, people in Macedonia migarate, the migration itself by 3 respondents were consider as a threat to culture or nationality. Others thought that it has only negative aspects (6 respondents), 8 people said that only positive.  Nevertheless the majority claimed that migration is not a clear-cut issue and have both positives and negatives. According to them, small groups of migrants will not cause problems but bigger might if the country's immigration policy is not good.

Although, what does it mean to be a migrant and what is the difference between migrant and refugee?

Refugee part

According to modern definition drafted by UN's 1951 Convention, refugee is a person who is unable to return to their country because of fear to be presecuted. The international law only recognizes the people who flee because of conflicts nad violence. A migrant is a person who leave their country not related to persecution but mostly connected to searching for better economical opportunities. Most of the respondets were able to distinguish those two terms. Only teenage respondets didn't know the differences, the woman 61 years old and two people around twenties (age 20,23). However, even though rest of the interviewees could answer the question, sometimes they had some difficulties.

What is a knowledge about refugees in Kumanovo?  First of all, nearly all respondets were aware that there are still refugee camps in Macedonia. However, most of them could just point out that refugees are from Syria or Aganistan or say generally that come from Middle East. Only women age 61 and 23 didn't know completly anything about refugees, 5 people new more than the avarage person.

The most confusing questions were about sources of stereotypes about refugees, and if media are based when they write about refugee crisis. First of all, most of the people didn't know how to answer the question about stereotypes. Only 10 people mentioned, that media, fear of the unknown and lack of education are the sources of common misperception. Obviously, education and contact with other cultures is a key to avoid stereotypes as interviewees claimed. Another difficult question was related to based media, again only 7 people answer the question simultanieously agreed that media are predujest while showing image of refugees.The last question was related to integration refugees in a society. Almost all respondets agreed that, we should put more effort into integration because they are the same human as we are. Some of them graduated from the university and have professional-skilled jobs, unfortunately persecution forced them to leave the country. Despite that, some of the interviewees said that, in "richest" countries integration would be easier and for sure not in Macedonia.

Off the record

Overall I think the interviews went very well, however sometimes I got the feeling that some respondets don't understand questions or give me the "right answer". In spite of that, I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to talk to those people and see different points of view.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

European union evening in Multikulti


          European union (EU) is european organisation, contained of 28 member states. More than 500 millions people of different ethnic, religious backgrounds live in EU and it is the biggest single market on the world. EU was established in 1993 by Treaty of Maastricht, which transformed the previous European economical community (created in 1957 by Treaty of Rome). EU is very important economical and political organisation with influence not only in Europe but worldwide. Despite huge power of EU, still many people don´t know much about EU, about its functions, history, geography, economy, politics and so on. That is why I decided to organise this evening, where through various activities, watching videos and discussion, me and participants tried to share informations about EU and educated ourselves. Macedonia is a country with candidate status for EU entry negotiations, so knowledge about EU is very usefull and important especially for young people who will be in the lead when Macedonia one day enter the EU.

          At the Monday 21th of August at 18:00 European union evening in Multikulti youth centre was organised. I started to prepare our playing room in Multikulti for the evening around 17:30 and luckily I made it until 18:00 when people started to come. I set the projector and screen, prepared board and some snacks to eat and drink. Not a lot of people came, just a few but they were active and was joining into activities I prepared. Whole evening was in the form of quiz to make it more interactive, not just lecture with me talking and people listening. We were finding countries on a blank map, painting the flags, trying to find out when all the member states entered the group, matching the countries with their contemporary currencies, or guessing the names of the cities according to pictures of them. I divided activities in a three blocks and between each block we watched the educating videos about EU. Participants were active and they knew a lot of stuff. 

          The event was organised at 21th of August, what is an important date for many Czechs and Slovaks, because at this day every year we commemorate the invasion of armies of Warsaw pact countries to Czechoslovakia to end the Prague spring, what was the period of liberalisation and democratisation of socialistic regime. This day is memento that democracy and freedom are not obligatory and we have to care about it, because it can easily be lost, or stole. Membership in EU is garant of our freedom and independence. So I explained to participants why in Czech republic and Slovakia we remember this day and we watched short video about this day. At the end of the evening I counted the points from the quiz and rewarded the winner with chocolate and EU handmade crown in the colours of EU flag. I would like to thank to all people who came and spent this evening in Multikulti with us and I hope that it was usefull and educative for them. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Refugees and books (event)

„A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us“ Franz Kafka

          On the Wednesday 9th of august we (volunteers from CID) organized event on the main square in Kumanovo, which purpose was to collect books for the refugees living in a transition refugee camp in Tabanovce, small village just a few kilometres from Kumanovo and Serbian border and also make people of Kumanovo aware that despite closed borders, there are still refugees living in macedonia, not only in Tabanovce camp, but also in Gevgelija camp on the Greece – Macedonian border.

 As a volunteers, we have opportunity to work in the Tabanovce camp two days during every week. Some of us are here for two months, some for one months. It is not very long period, but  we could find out how camp works and how is life there. Refugees have covered their basic human needs like place to sleep, food, water, medical help. But what we identified as the biggest problem is the lack of activities for them. They have a lot of free time in the camp, but not much to do and they can easily fall into passivity of thinking and acting. It is possible to do some sport activities, for example like playing volleyball, or table tenis, but during the hot days it is not only uncomfortable, but also dangerous, when temperature is keeping around 45 degrees during the day.
          One of the possible solutions how to defeat a boredom at one time and at the same time learn something (for example at least improve or learn english) is to read books. That is main reason for organise the event.

          At first we planned the basic things like what we want to do during the event? where? when? what material do we need? how many of us should participate? After the answering these questions we started to prepare our materials and of course we needed to inform police about our event. The date 9th of august was not picked like coincidence, because this day we celebrate the national book lovers day. But dont take me wrong, we love books every day for the whole year. We decided to build three corners with various activities for the event. The first was book donation corner, where people could come and donate books (prefered in english or arabic, but every book was welcome) and of course talk with us. The second corner of interviews, where we prepared wall of photos from Tabanovce, wall of facts about refugee crisis and question wall where people could stick the sticker with the first world they think when they hear word refugee or migrant. The third was frame corner where people could make a photo with our handmade frame and to show their solidarity with refugees this way. Very important task we had to make was make people aware that this kind of event will be in the town. So we made a invitation poster in both macedonian and albanian language and spread it around the town. The first places where we came and remained there poster where of course local bars, where people usually socialise, but also in bus station and town pool, during this activity we had great oportunity to practise our knowledge of macedonian language.

          A few days of planning, preparation and hard work passed we woke up at 9th of august, when we had to come to Multikulti youth centre a little bit earlier than usually, because we needed to finish last details and at 15:30 we started to collect all our stuff to car and we left the centre at 4 pm, although event started at 5pm, we needed some time to build the tent and corners. Some problems with building of the tent occured, but we built it on 12th attempt J. After a couple of minutes we removed our main tent into the shadow, cause stay at the square right on the sun was almost impossible.

          At 5pm there were no many people on the square, but like time ran, more and more people (of every age) started to come to the centre and they were interested in our event. Some people came to donate books, some took photo with our frame, some for the interview about refugees and some just to drink or eat something (yes we were prepared for it J). Very pleasant visit was also reporter from TV Nova, who made an report about our event and inteviewed our coordinator and two volunteers.

          The event didn´t last for a long time, official time was from 5pm to 8pm, still during that short time a lot people spent their time with us exchanging opinions. People seemed to be curious and interested about a refugee situation, their answers to our questions just proved it. At the end of the event we all were satisfied, we collected 11 books in english and macedonian language and more denars than we expected, so event was sucessfull. 

         At 8pm we packed our thing and returned them back to Multi kulti youth centre. We just hope that this event helped to make awareness about refugee situation (not only) in Macedonia. Amount of people who showed their solidarity with refugees at wednesday make us a little bit positive in that way. We were happy to see that some local people care, of course we know that they are not representant of all inhabitants of Kumanovo, or Macedonia, but we are very thankfull, that they participated for a while in our event.

          At the end I would like to thank to great employees of CID and to all volunteers who helped us with organisation and with running of the action. Thank you very much for promoting humanity. 

More photos from the event:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Refugee camp in Tabanovce

People have been migrating for the thousands of years, definitely it's not a new process. However, two years ago Europe had started struggling with the refugee crisis, which still trigger heated discussion in many countries.

    Most of the migrants are from Middle East and African countries. It's said that, those people escape from the civil war, abusive politics towards human rights and terrorism itself.

Unfortunately, many stereotypies arouse about refugees since those years. Probably lack of education and unknown culture play a vital role in sustaining controversial image about them. Moreover, the description of refugee crisis showing by biased media might arouse fears and aggression in society. Additionally, it is thought that increase of the right wings parties in Europe make situation even worst.

    We shouldn't forget that the journey from Middle East to Europe is highly dangerous. Those people risk their lives to have better one and save their families. According to The International Organisation for Migration in 2015 more than 3.770 refugees were reported dead while trying to cross Mediterranean sea.

    Majority of refugees want to migrate to Germany. According to one of the refugee's story, in Germany, the process of being integrated into society, go to university or find a job is faster than in other countries. In Macedonia refugees mostly migrate from Greece in order to travel further to Serbia, France and of course Germany.

    In Macedonia exists two refugee camps, one in Tabanovce and the second one in  Gevgelija. Both of them function as a transit centre, which means that people should stay there for a short period of time. Nevertheless, NGOs try to make refugees lives as easy and comfortable as possible.

Nowadays, in Tabanovce camp are 25 registered refugees and around 60 unregistered. The amount of people is changing almost every day, because of the high rotation.

In the camp mostly live men around their 20s, there are a few women and children. Mainly, they come from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Algieria and Maroko. The camp is quite small, there are dozen booths, in each live around three people or whole family.

    There are many rumors about conditions in refugee camps. Probably, because of the small amount of people in Tabanovce standard of living is quite good. As might be expected, in the camp works a few NGOs such as Legis, Red Cross, Sos Children Village and UNICEF. Each organisation has different aim and target group. The purpose of Sos Children Village is to provided entertaimnet for youngsters, along with helping in process of growing up. Legis intends to release the stress through the sport and cultural activities and provide mental support by a conversation.

     Nowadays, situation in the camp is pretty calm because of small amount of people. The main problem the refugees have to struggle with, is boredom. That's why volunteers try to organise some activities such as cultural nights or just talk to them. However, I must say, that even basic conversation might be problematic, because of language barrier and no translators present at the camp. Although, there are many things, which should be improve, seeing smile at one person's face makes that, you want to help those people even more.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Refugees and books

Did you know that there are still around 100 refugees at Tabanovce transit center? Many Macedonians don't seem to be aware of that there are any, now that the worst wave of refugees is over and the borders closed.

Tabanovce, where the EVS volunteers work twice a week, migth not be what you expect of a refugee camp. The biggest problem the refugees there face are not humanitarian, but simply boredom. There is pretty much nothing to do in the camp, except for to let the time pass.

This is why we decided to try to collect some books in Arabic and English to take to the camp, and organize a whole event about refugees around it. Tomorrow, on Wednesday 9 August, we'll take CID to the Kumanovo main square with an interviewing corner, a photographic exhibition with pictures from the camp, and much more, to raise awareness on the refugee situation in Macedonia and Tabanovce and collect some books for the camp.

It's great to be organizing an event like this, trying to make a small difference where we can. Hopefully we'll get a chance to talk to many local people tomorrow!

CID volunteers took event posters around the city.

The poster at the main square immediately got some attention.

Friday, August 4, 2017


          It was 2th of august, day when a lot of people on the world commemorate the holocaust of the Roma people during the World War Two, but in Macedonia is also Day of the Republic, so for many people free day. With other EVS volunteers from Multikulti centre in Kumanovo we decided to spend this hot day, when temperature was keeping around 40 degrees at Lipkovo, lake just a few kilometres away from Kumanovo.

          By car it was around 30 minutes, direction to Kosovo borders. In this area of Macedonia majority of people are Albanian ethnicity. During armed conflict in 2001 between Albanian National Libertation Army and Macedonian army Lipkovo was central strategic village.

          But back to the closer history. After Lipkovo village we saw very nice smaller lake, what was sign that this small trip will worth it, and it definitely was. From the old road we saw the beauty of the nature and clear water of Lipkovo lake in the middle of not high hills covered by green forrest. In a very hot weather some volunteers decided to hide under the trees a few meters from the water, while other volunteers including me decided to go kayaking (in my case just trying).

          Great thing about Lipkovo is that although it is very beautiful lake with a clean water, it is very hard to see there many tourists, so on the „beaches“ you have a lot of place for yourself. From the kayak on the surface of the water you can watch the nice surrounding and in the middle of lake is a small island for somebody who really love jumping to the clear water. After the hour of kayaking we realized that hunger is not a good friend so we packed our kayak, waited for another few minutes for the guys who borrowed our another kayak and didn´t have the need to return it and we went to the local restaurant.

    Lipkovo is great example that maybe Macedonia is not very famous as a touristic country with seacoast, but still dispose with a many beautiful places worth to visit J. Considering the fact that we are living in Kumanovo, we know that Lipkovo is still with us, cause it supplies the whole town with water. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My first month of EVS - Multi Kulti and Camp

I came to Kumanovo at the beginning of April to make my three months volunteering service both in the Multi Kulti as well as refugee camp. In the past I had little experience in volunteering and I was very curious how it works in Macedonia. My work started in Multi Kulti where me and other voulnteers work with kids. I was surprised how nice and communicative are the children and how many questions they ask :) I think that the overall idea of this center is very valuable. Albanian and Macedonian children can integrate here through learning and playing. Kids broaden my knowladge about Albanian and Macedonian culture a lot. I can see also the interest in learning Polish language, which encourages me to prepare lessons for youth.

Second part of my volunteering Program for Tolerance and Acceptance is volunteering in the refugee camp in Tabanovce. When it comes to the work with children I could, more or less expect what will happen there, which I cannot say about the camp. In Poland we don't have the refugees, so all of the information about them is from media. For me it was important to sense this topic with my own eyes and ears, but I was a bit afraid too. People in the camp went through very hard route and I didn't know how to talk with them about it. Also I was not really sure, if they really want to speak about it. When I eventually entered the camp I was very surprised in the positive way. People live, or at least try their normal lives. They laugh a lot, talk about their previous jobs, about their friends and relatives. What shocked me the most, was the smile on each face. Whenever we ask them the simplest question "How are you?"they always reply "Very good". Their behaviour made me think about my own attitude toward life. Even though my lesson is not finished yet, now I know that I will think twice before start complaining about something. Many of people around the Europe are fraid of the refugees, but perhaps we should learn from them...?

When it comes to the day to day-to-day activities these are games like:voleyball,basketball or beloved ping pong.

Also we play cards, draw, paint and simply talk. Refugees are also very curious about our lives and countries where we live. My first experience in the camp is very positive and I value it a lot.