My volunteering at Svitac (Firefly) – Eleonore Pearson, UK
My name is Eleonore, I’m originally from the UK and have been volunteering at Svitac (Firefly), Brčko Bosnia and Herzegovina for the last year as the arts coordinator. My final task for Svitac (Firefly) has been to write this testimonial, so I hope I have managed to find the words to express just how wonderful my year there has been.
There were a variety of reasons why I decided to come and do an EVS for Svitac (Firefly). Having previously worked in arts education for galleries and museums, I believed that it was a great professional opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge in a new environment and to work for an organisation that promoted an ethos that I cared about. I had also always wanted to travel and, knowing very little about Bosnia previously, I felt it would be an exciting and challenging adventure that would allow me to experience a completely new culture and language. At my time of application and acceptance to work for Svitac (Firefly) I was fully expecting an interesting year that would fulfil those expectations, and I’m glad to say that it really has. However, my year in Bosnia has also turned out to give me so much more than I originally hoped for. I was completely unprepared for how much I would fall in love with the way of life, the people and their immeasurable generosity and kindness, and of course the fantastic, indispensable, and rewarding work ran by Svitac (Firefly) every day.
Svitac (Firefly) was a wonderful organisation to work for and from day one there was a clear routine and schedule that I could slip into. Assisting with and running the daily activities and workshops for children gave a real sense of structure and really helped in adjusting to the new role. There was a great feeling of teamwork and camaraderie amongst all the staff and volunteers as the themes of the workshops, the topics and how they were taught were down to us. We really needed to work together to ensure that we were always offering our best. But one of the greatest things about the role was that it was incredibly flexible and allowed you to be creative and input new ideas for projects and initiatives, or work in areas that you found interesting. For example, I regularly had the opportunity to assist the organisation with administration work, promotion, and writing project proposals for fundraising opportunities. I started my own series of evening art classes for teenagers and young adults, and had the opportunity to organise three group exhibitions with them. Also myself and Monica (another EVS long term volunteer) dedicated six months to designing and conducting a new sociological research project for the organisation, which assessed levels of tolerance in Svitac (Firefly) participants, and measured to what extent Svitac (Firefly) impacted these tolerance levels.
However, all of the amazing things that I achieved at Svitac (Firefly) would not have been possible without the help and support from the amazing staff there. All of the Svitac (Firefly) staff were so kind and supportive, with everything from work logistics and local language learning to personal issues and adjusting to life abroad. The volunteering staff at Svitac (Firefly) were also superb and it was a wonderful experience to meet and work with so many creative, intelligent and inspiring individuals from across the world. I really want to thank everyone I have met at Svitac (Firefly) for helping me, being my friend and contributing to making my EVS experience so brilliant!
On top of working for such a great organisation, Bosnia was a wonderful country to live in. Brčko is a really charming town, maybe not the central hub of entertainment, but busy enough with lots of great little cafés and bars and a really pretty river to take strolls and relax by. I personally fell in love with the town, with its ever changing scenery throughout the seasons, its easy pace of life, open and friendly community feel, and underlying creative scene. Bosnia as a whole is a totally underrated country, filled to bursting with immensely beautiful nature and landscape, some fascinating towns and cities, a rich culture and history and some of the warmest and most welcoming people I have had the pleasure to meet. The only negative I can think of my time there is that it had to come to an end!
So all in all, doing this EVS for Svitac (Firefly) has been one of the best experiences I have had in my life so far. I have always hated hackneyed phrases such as “a life changing experience”, a place where you “make friends for life” and “unforgettable memories”, but in the case of this last year I would have to say they all ring true. I would highly recommend doing a European voluntary service in general and in particular volunteering for Svitac (Firefly), to everyone. So thank you Svitac (Firefly) and Bosnia for a beautiful year that I will never forget, I cannot wait to come back again soon!
Eleonore Pearson, UK
Svitac (Firefly) EVS Arts Coordinator, 6th June 2016 – 6th June 2017