We could not wait for this one. After months of preparations and coordination with our partner/donor, UNMIK, we finally lifted the lid on one of our most exciting projects so far, titled simply “Way to Go!”. The main protagonists in this expedition were youngsters (15-19 year olds) from mostly rural upbringing, that belong to one of the many local ethnic communities (Roma, Ashkali, Serb, Egyptian, Turk, Bosniak, Albanian, and Gorani), who would come together through various outdoor activities such as biking, running, camping, and many more.
What we wanted to achieve with “Way to Go!” was to show 50-80 bright and cheerful teenagers of equal genders (50/50 representation) that it does not take much to have healthier lives for them and their communities, and that their ethnic background should not stop them from being engaged in a healthier form of activities. In addition, by bringing youngsters from different ethnic backgrounds together, we fostered healthier relationships between them, helping in the social trust-building / interethnic tolerance advocacy process. That’s why we organized 5 activities in 5 cities: North Mitrovica, Kamenica, Brezovica, Prishtina and Peja.
Honestly, we just wanted to show them a good time – play games and have laughs with each other, and show them exciting things. Here’s what we were up to during these 6 months:
Biked in the rain in Germia Park in Prishtina. To mark World Children’s Day, we rode our bikes in the wet trails of Germia Park, Prishtina, led by the alpinist Uta Ibrahimi. She guided the group of youngsters from mostly minority communities around Germia in bikes. Yes, it was raining, but that just made their smiles brighter and made it more fun. It was fun seeing youngsters talk and help each other navigate through a tough trail, and laugh as some of them fell (easily) on the mud. “It was just so much fun, I forgot all about the rain. Yes, I also met new friends and now will try to use my bike more, as this will not only have a positive impact on my health, but also help protect the environment” – a youngster was quoted as saying. After a tasty lunch, the group had a discussion on the importance that bicycles play in building a healthy lifestyle and
Ran on the “Health trail” surrounded by mountains, in Peja. The next meeting spot was the “Anibar” cinema, where the youngsters met and talked, as they prepared for a short run led by the alpinist Uta Ibrahimi. Once they were all warmed up and ready, they headed out on the “Health trail” – a short trail around the Anibar Cinema. It was incredible to see such a diverse group run and laugh together. After the short relaxing run, the group returned to the cinema to relax and hang out together, and then they were ready for a short presentation and screening of the short movie “Her story”. We had a Q&A session regarding the film when participants asked various questions about the process of climbing the mountain, the pleasures that hiking brings and the blue sky that we encounter.
Hiked in Rogane, Kamenica and stared at the night-sky from our basecamp. The “Sejdi Kryeziu” school in Rogane opened its doors to students from four schools: “Deshmoret e Kombit”, “Abdullah Krashnica”, “Serb Kamenic Gymnasium” as well as from the “Rexhep Mala” schools, where 14 to 18 years were ready to work together. This is when we started hiking in the improvised “Rogane Trail”, joined by teachers of these students. It’s always amazing how a simple walk in nature could make these youngsters chat with each other. After this good hike, we had the people from AstroClub Prishtina set us up with telescopes and helped watch the sun! To end the day, we had a fun competition of who could set up the tent the fastest! Surprisingly, the youngsters were really good at it and many managed to set them up quite quickly.
Showed some love for the environment through games. In February 2023, we met in North Mitrovica, in the premises of the “Europe House” – which we thank for their cooperation. This time, we had youngsters from North Mitrovica and other regions, and as a special guest, the ecologist Egzon Tahirukaj. The guest gave a lecture and presentation about ecology, with an emphasis on answering questions from the audience. The activity continued with the documentary “Run For Sharr”, and at the end, Uta Ibrahimi shared various tips with the young people on how we can have a great impact on the protection of the environment. We also thank NGOs such as Me Dore Ne Zemer and Community Building Mitrovica for their cooperation by making young people part of the activity.
After all of this, we can safely say “Way to go, youngsters!” as they achieved a lot more than we could have ever imagined. We can still hear the laughs and see the smiles from them, and it is something that will push us to make more and more activities for them.
The “Way to Go” project is implemented by the UTALAYA Foundation and supported by UNMIK – the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.