My Weltwärts volunteering in Germany as a Svitac (Firefly Bosnia) volunteer – Ismar Mustafić
My voluntary year in Germany.
It’s really hard to sum up a whole year of experiences in just a couple of pages but I’ll try my best.
Let’s go back to a year 2016.
I grew up in Brcko District, in a small, beautiful town nestled on the banks of the biggest river in Bosnia, the Sava, bordering with Croatia and Serbia. The town is also a cultural meeting point and creative hub of NGOs (just a little input for those who are not familiar with the city, and for those who only associate it with Turbo-Folk singer Lepa Brena). During my years in elementary school and high school I became an active member of a local NGO called “Svitac (Firefly)”, which is dealing with youth work through informal education. They became my second home and thanks to them I was able to develop my skills and learn new ones. I was also able to establish new connections with some of the amazing people that are a part of this wonderful project, and most importantly, I got to witness incremental changes happening in my society because of the work that we did (disclaimer: I was not paid for this promotion)
In 2016 I applied for a voluntary position in Lithuania to work as a curator in a museum and it was approved, but unfortunately at that time I was finishing my internship, so I decided to decline it. Later that year I applied for the developmental voluntary program “Weltwärts“, which is being conducted in Germany. They accepted my application, which led me to writing this article about my voluntary service in Germany.
My host organization was “Friedenskreis Halle”, based in the city of Halle (Saale) in Eastern Germany, located half an hour away from Leipzig and two hours away from Berlin (this was the description of my location which I was giving to people who probably never heard of Halle). My place of assignment was an orphanage called “Clara Zetkin”. I was working as a tutor with a group of nine children aged six to eighteen years old. “Clara Zetkin” is an organization with a huge complex, that takes care of children from socially deprived families.
Getting to know my new surroundings was a great adventure for me and I adapted pretty easily. On my place of assignment I was welcomed with joy and excitement. My German language skills were non-existent and on my working place I was not allowed to speak English, except when I would help children with their English homework. This was quite a challenge in my first three months of being there, but children are great educators and thanks to them I started to perfect my German, and soon I was able to speak more and more. Being exposed to the language now I can proudly say that my level of German language is advanced and I’m happy that I fulfilled my goal of (finally) learning German. My plan now is to perfect it even more. The work was exciting, and I was taking care of children, and helping them with their daily tasks which mostly revolved around school and after-school activities. I also helped in meeting and party organization such as annual parents’ meetings, birthday parties, the Halloween party, the New Year’s Eve party, sport competitions, and excursions. I had the opportunity to travel with my group and to spend some time with them out of Halle and the usual workday format, which was quite fun. Another part of my work sometimes would be picking up kids from school, where I was able to travel to new areas of the city and get to know the children’s teachers and school environment.
Exploration was a huge part of my experience. I got more into activism, I was travelling, and I was enjoying Germany’s nature and traditions. I created a space for myself that I can call home, and I got to know wonderful people with whom I’m still in contact, and we’re planning to see each other soon. They’re my friends and one of the many things I’m the proudest of. Ideas, inspiration, passion, knowledge, joy, motivation, love, I found all these things in the people I met, and I think that’s the biggest gift I received from my voluntary year in Germany. There was a lot of stuff to do and time management was also one of the crucial components I had to pay attention to. Speaking of time, I learned how to value mine and not to waste it on doing something that would not benefit me. With that taken into consideration, one year is a pretty short period (of time) and you will sometimes have a feeling that you’re missing out. And probably you are, but don’t worry too much about it and just be present where ever you are and enjoy whatever you do.
I recommend everyone who wants to do something useful and new, who wants to explore new places and themselves, and who wants to learn and change, to do voluntary service, because experience is a powerful thing from which you can only benefit.
Ismar Mustafić, Weltwärts volunteer, Svitac (Firefly)
September 2017 – September 2018