Q&A with IVS volunteer Sugen who took part in a long-term project with GAIA in the Sharr Mountains in Kosovo.
- What have you done for GAIA and the community in the last month?
For GAIA, I have created awareness for our causes and ideas amongst the local community by talking to different people and letting them see our work. I have contributed by helping clear up our local community park by removing rubbish from the park and clearing the paths that people walk on to make them neater. I have been showing people that different types of people come to Kosovo and spend their time here to help everyone become stronger and more connected.
- What have you learned in the last month?
In the last month, I have learnt about the different wildlife and plants that exist in these areas of the Sharr mountains. I have also learnt about traditional ways of life that include farming and building to get whatever they need to survive. I have been practising my building and wood crafting skills as well as learning how to climb in snow and hike up mountains. I have learnt a lot about the local culture and the way people interact with each other as well as their relationships. I have also learnt more about permaculture and basic ways of reusing all materials that would otherwise be wasted.
- How much did your local language skills improve?
My local language is becoming better slowly which is big for me since I have always struggled with learning a new language. My lessons coupled with talking to local people and surrounding myself with native speaking friends, I am understanding more and more as it goes on. Trying to speak to people is very had for me in a new language as I become stuck for words but I am trying to become more fluent in at least understanding what they are saying or trying to talk past basic pleasantries, ie. Hello, How are you?
- What have you got from GAIA and the community so far?
From GAIA I have learnt so many new things about building connections with people and practical skills. I am learning how to source local produce and use all of my natural resources first before resorting to a shop or a bigger chain. The community has shown me their way of life and culture by really accepting me and putting me in the middle. I have made friends in the local areas who are all so welcoming. They show me their crafts and what their families do for a living as well as how they can survive the harshest of weathers in such simple ways which are almost not used anymore where I come from.
- What challenges did you face during volunteering and/or in free time?
The biggest challenge for me is the language barrier since I have so much to say but I can’t really communicate this with the locals in a proper way. The next main challenge for me was being able to hike up mountains since we do not have them at home which I think I am getting the hang of pretty fast. The other main challenge for me is living with people as I have not done this before and having to cook for a whole group each time. But I am enjoying it.
- What would you change?
Honestly, the only thing I would change is the accommodation since it feels like a luxury however it is not an issue of course. I would really appreciate if GAIA could offer some workshops for us such as traditional crafts or trying to set up meetings with people so that we can learn about different traditional ways of life.