My volunteering at Svitac (Firefly Bosnia) – Mehmet Furkan Kocaaslan, Turkey

Hello everyone! (What a unique beginning!)

My name is Mehmet and I am 28 years old.

Where should I start… From the day I was born?
…How is the weather? Is it cold or rainy?

No, no, I am joking. I will keep it short, this is not an extraordinary story and I am not an Avenger or Tony Stark.

So, welcome to my really, really ordinary story.

How did I apply to this project? How did I come to Bosnia?

Everything started last year: I graduated from Ege University last June and there was still Covid and lockdowns — ESC was just a dream for me.
I was unemployed and sitting at home and watching movies all the time; God knows I’ve seen every IMDb list. After watching so many movies I was dreaming about Godfather, or Robert De Niro, bla bla – haha, you think it was fun, but no – you’re wrong! It was getting boring after a point…

And one day, I was still unemployed (of course) and I said, “I want to go to ESC, this could be my last chance.” I had knowledge about ESC from high school but needed an update; so, I started to search something about ESC. I created a profile on the European Portal website and I filled out a CV (What a bad CV it was!).

Then I started to apply to projects which I was interested in. It was like a really long journey to Mordor: There were hard paths on my way and I needed to be patient. Suddenly I saw GAP Youth Association’s project (in August).

“Bosnia and Herzegovina — Why not? Brčko… Where is this city?” And I applied for this project.

And I waited, I waited, I waited….
September, October, November, December, January…

By the way, I was still unemployed (of course) and I didn’t have any hope about my applications.

One day (it was January 12), I had a meeting with my friend and when I was leaving the house I got a phone call. I looked at the phone screen and I didn’t have any idea who it was.

So I answered the call: It was Halil İbrahim Kılıç, from GAP Association, and honestly when I was listening on the phone, I didn’t have any idea what was he talking about because I forgot my application already! He said, “Congratulations! You are chosen.”

After the phone call, I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it and I called my friend: “Cancel the meeting — I have important news, come to me!”

Anyway, after three weeks, the time came; it was time for Bosnia. I took my passport, ticket, luggage and like Bilbo Baggins, I said, “I’m going on a new adventure.”

So I met with Kevser (she was my project partner from Denizli), at the İstanbul Airport. Our flight was at 19.50 — let’s countdown for Sarajevo!
When we arrived in Sarajevo it was 8 pm local time and we were so tired. We needed to sleep because the next morning we had to catch the 7.30 bus to Brčko.

The next morning at 7.30 we took the bus and went to Brčko. I love bus travels and I took in the view during the journey. Despite my tiredness, it was an enjoyable trip and at about 12.30 we arrived at the Brčko Bus Terminal and the adventure started: Welcome to Brcko! Let’s begin.

The first day was orientation day. We met Milos at the bus terminal and then we saw our lovely home: it was cute and also we had English neighbours, Angela and Malcolm; they are lovely people. Also, we met with Dina on the first day; she is the coordinator in Svitac.

So, what is Svitac? How does it work?

I learned a lot of things about Svitac:

  • it was founded by Ellie Maxwell in 1998;
  • they have worked in the Youth Arts and Education field for 23 years;
  • they host many volunteers from European and worldwide countries;
  • they organise many activities for 4-8 age children and older;

I met with each of the staff: Dina, Adin, Leila, Sanjin, Gordana… and from the first week I got used to it very quickly.

I’m really happy and feeling lucky to be part of this organisation.

In our volunteering project, we worked 5 days a week and every day we started at 10. Between 11-13.00 we worked with children, preparing activities and assisting staff. Children have great energy and working with them, putting a smile on their face, is amazing.

In the afternoons, we learned some Bosnian language (at least I can say ‘dobro jutro’ in the mornings!). Every Tuesday, we met with local youngsters, and Angela and Malcolm did a great English workshop: It improved my English skills. Outside of the activities, of course, I also discovered the town. Lovely coffee places, beautiful parks… Before sunset, walking in the town and listening to music made me feel great.

I want to say something to the next volunteers and to those who have not yet applied to the project: Life is precious and every moment is important for us. I couldn’t imagine that how Brčko was going to look, the weather, or people, or culture in Brčko, before this project; I wouldn’t even be able to find Brčko on a map before.

But now I’m here, I’m in Bosnia and I’m writing this article for you. I remind myself every day: I’m lucky, I applied for this project and I gained a lot of experience — it’s a really precious and emotional thing.

I met with really nice and kind people, I talked to them, I listened to their stories and shared my story. It’s like a movie I directed… My movie.

And you know, life is a beautiful song and unfortunately, it’s too short. Please don’t miss opportunities.

Now close your eyes and think for one second: Think you’re here, in Brcko. Imagine that you met with these wonderful staff members.
So, why are you looking at a laptop screen? Stop it and stand up, create your CV and apply to this project.

Good luck!

Mehmet Furkan Kocaaslan, Turkey
Svitac’s (Firefly Bosnia’s) volunteer, February/March 2021


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