by Jay Benfante, Southeast Europe Network Coordinator and Serve the City Kosovo City Leader
In the life of a Serve the City volunteer community, things can feel, and in many ways should feel very localized and centralized within the city where you live. You have probably heard of other active communities in other cities and perhaps you have even had the opportunity to visit one. It could be that that is how you were inspired to share kindness in your city, to begin with. Because we value autonomy and local ownership for all the communities in our movement, without a strong network, this can be isolating. What is happening in this global movement you tell others about? Is it active? Is it growing? Who else is sharing kindness in personal ways? Let’s see!
New expressions of kindness are coming alive in southeastern Europe. From Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina, to Timisoara, Romania, to Pristina, Kosovo and this is just the start.
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
This July ten Volunteers from six different countries arrived in Mostar joined by twenty local volunteers excited to spend the week showing kindness by supporting local NGOs on both sides of the bridge. Mostar is known as a city of great division between ethnic and religious groups, with a tragically violent past. Mostar is a generally peaceful city these days, with beautiful sites and vibrant tourism, however, these divisions continue between people. Living in separate areas with little connection to one another and little resolution from the recent past. The newly formed STC Mostar team met those divides head-on through kindness. They showed no partiality through the people they served and invited those from every background in Mostar to join them. Georgi from Timisoara, Romania drove fifteen hours by herself to serve the people of Mostar and to acquire skills and knowledge to run a similar event of her own. Coline from France (residing in Kosovo), who has committed her time to multiple volunteering projects around Europe told us that this was the highlight of her Summer and out of all the other volunteering actions she has participated in, this one had a unique familial quality.
STC Pristina has taken a different approach in forming a community of kindness, through a weekly project that organizes locals to show kindness to their neighbors by cleaning the city once a week, this may seem trivial, but ethnic Kosovar experience very little visa freedom and often feel trapped in their own country with the current political struggles they are subject to. This small country in many ways is all they have. Natives and internationals alike gather once a week to pick up trash and share smiles and friendly conversations with neighbors all over the city, showing that their home is worth taking care of.
This October Georgi, our new City leader for Timisoara (the same Georgi from Mostar) organized a hugely successful volunteer week for her city. Through five different projects that linked 40 native Romanians to those most in need in Timisoara. Georgi expected fifteen volunteers so she enthusiastically ordered twenty-five t-shirts, hoping that others would join along the way. By the end of the week, these bright green t-shirts were in high demand, and she promised many eager volunteers that they would receive their own upon returning to volunteer the next time. Georgi plans to organize monthly Big Volunteer Days to continue to build momentum with another Big Volunteer Week to follow this Summer.
Like a drop into a pool of water, the effects of kindness can feel small, but the ripple it makes may go farther than we can imagine. That’s why this matters. This is what makes us a movement. Would you travel to a new city to experience the power of many people doing small things together? Join us to make a difference and experience a new culture. Do you want to see this kind of kindness in your city? Let’s talk!