Igniting our Mission in the West Balkans Initiative

From the 13th-16th of October, our representatives have been present at the West Balkan Initiative meeting, hosted by YMCA Kosovo. The program sessions were designed around the integration of the mission, and vision of the participating YMCAs from N.Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Serbia – and the establishment of a bright and flourishing future together within our movement.

Besides the representatives of the West Balkan Initiative, the meeting had several YMCA guests who gave their contributions to the program such as Claudia Kuhn from CVJM (YMCA Germany) with inputs on the Program Development, Paul Smillie from the YMCA Europe Movement Strengthening Initiative with inputs on Governance Improvement, Marius Pop from YMCA Europe Strategic Partnerships with inputs of the collaborations with the corporate sector, Tom Valentine from YMCA of the USA with inputs of the perspectives and support for the region in future and Andy from YMCA Europe Communications Team.

The program offered an incredible opportunity to exchange good practices, meet the local youth leaders, and visit YMCA centers across the country including the new Camp Pjetershan. Our stay was in the city of Peja with sessions and lunches held at the local YMCA – an impressive multi-functional facility that accommodates a variety of training programs and youth-oriented sessions.

It has been a great opportunity to provide an update on each movement on their development during the initiative and plans in light of the promising partnerships and potential future activities. It has been a great time to remember all the values, memories, and experiences that brought together the leadership of the West Balkans Initiative – continuing to focus their work on regional plans, future steps, challenges, and opportunities for the upcoming year.  In terms of achievements, it is worth mentioning that new municipality spaces and agreements have been acquired by some YMCAs, each YMCAs revenue has increased throughout the initiative, new partnership projects (within the region and Internationally have begun), extra focus on not just the leaders but staff and board members has been given. With over 20 digital meetings (team and 1 to 1) plus study visits to all participating YMCAs this year the region is slowly growing and heading in the right direction- with still much work to be done. 

And the crown jewel of our trip – Camp Pjetershan – an impressive YMCA camp accommodating 70 young people and offering wonderful facilities like sports and training facilities, camp halls and offices, camp dorms, campfire site- a space that can be used for multiple outdoor-oriented activities and a fine example of local, national and international support for a project. We have been inspired by this meeting, awed by the resilience and determination of the team, and the individual work of every participating YMCA that is creating change in their communities – and we are grateful to be part of it.