Sunday, January 16, 2022

Young people sharing the same dream

Rope races, football and many other games, modern choreographies and traditional dances, learning each-others’ languages, painting and artwork – doing all this together and getting to know each other, instead of going to separate shifts or separate schools – is undoubtedly a better approach in addressing divisions among youngsters, and is definitely more fun.

Fifty young people coming from Zvan, Sopotnitsa, Dolensi, Virivo, Mrenaga, gathered on a four-day summer camp organized by Peace Corps and supported by USAID Project for Interethnic Integration in Education, in early July in Zvan’s primary school BRAKJA MILADINOVCI. This school is one of the ten selected schools within USAID Project, pledging keenness to implement activities that promote and embed the interethnic integration in education through school incentives. And the summer camp activity is a real proof on their responsiveness and eagerness for such activities.

For almost all of them, this multi-ethnic gathering is probably one of the most unique positive experiences they have ever had. The environment and conditions to do everything right are more than welcoming – the village of Zvan and its friendly inhabitants make this a perfect place to organize such a youth gathering. Scattered alongside the rarely used road between Kicevo and Bitola, in a picturesque part of Macedonia’s southwest, this place is away from major cities, international traffic corridors or industries, giving nature in its utmost purity and beauty.

On the morning of 4th of July, greeted by the mayor of Demir Hisar municipality and the school director, the campers start with the main public event of the camp, the manifestation organized to celebrate the US Independence Day. Julie Tumasz from the Peace Corps is the driving engine, energetic and motivating throughout the manifestation. This young lady is all over the place, she’s everybody’s friend, being able to get everyone involved in the show.

Everyone around is cheerful. Peace Corps activists and volunteers from several countries, youngsters and children, villagers, officials, journalists – as games and funny scenes change, the enthusiasm, laughter and joy overwhelm everybody. Young and old, it seems as the time has stopped and that all, for a moment at least, live in the world of dreams. Inviting us to join in the games, Julie talks to us in a Macedonian language with a sympathetic American accent.


“It is really so nice here. Every day, every month we try to do something new. What we did now and you can see here is something that resembles a traditional American summer camp for children and youngsters. So, every day we do some of traditional camping activities. While today we are organizing the celebration of the American Independence Day, so we do different dances, games, parade, sports activities”, says Julie, and immediately rushes off called by her friends to start another game.

The director of the school, Menka Najdovska, has many of words of praise and gratitude for Julie’s activism. She says that Julie, who lives and volunteers for 8 months now in the village of Zvan, is together with the children almost all day and night. Julie and the children are constantly doing something, and this manifestation, in which the school hosts guests, pupils and volunteers of different nationalities from the country and abroad, is a fruit of joint work and efforts, all aimed at overcoming divisions among young people.

“We have many guests, including over 30 volunteers from the US and other countries. Yesterday, the pupils together with artists from Norway and Hungary attended an art workshop, where lecturers were our famous painter Sergej Andreevski and a professor from the US, and children were able to draw paintings on the topic of tolerance and peace. Yesterday we had a workshop with children, where they discussed about peace and eliminating divisions. They also learned languages – Spanish, Albanian, Turkish, English”, says Najdovska.

We go upstairs in the school hall to see the exhibition. We enter the room and we see some of the youngsters finishing off their artwork. Most of the pictures carry the message of peace and brotherhood among people. You could view them as simple child artwork, naïve in its expression, or as an undisputable and sincere manifesto of souls untouched by the evils of modern living and the dehumanizing struggle for survival, that clearly points out (even the children know it) what is good for the world and humanity.

We leave the camp with an undisputable feeling that this is precisely what Macedonian education system and society need more, instead of having separate ethnic shifts or ethnically divided schools. To see positive developments and overcoming of divisions particularly in the education system, this kind of events, having pupils of different schools and ethnic backgrounds doing useful and entertaining things together, it is central to the determinations of the USAID’s Project for Interethnic Integration in Education, to advance the multicultural and multiethnic values, entrenching them into the education system of Macedonia for all generation to come.

It proved once again that these divisions are artificial, as they all crumble down in front of sincerity, laughter and fun, beauties of art, and willingness to enjoy the simple joys of life and learn more about each other and about different cultures, without any prejudices or constraints.