25 Aug Interview with Jennifer, our volunteer from Germany
Jennifer Neu has been a volunteer at Centre for Social Initiatives Nadez on behalf of the organizations Pax Christi Germany and forumZFD. This Wednesday (24/8/2016) Jen completed a full year in Macedonia, as part of her gap year experience and she is now heading back to Germany where she is going to College to study about the environment. We talked to Jennifer to share her impressions about Macedonia and her work in Nadez.
Hello Jen. Why did you decide to volunteer abroad?
After high school I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to study so I decided to participate in something that is important and that benefits people in need. I have been a volunteer at a summer camp for two summers, so working with children was my first choice. I it gives me a personal satisfaction when I see children make progress.
How did you hear about Nadez?
I connected with an organization in Germany that sends volunteers to the Balkans. I wanted to explore this part of Europe that I knew very little about. I knew about Nadez from some previous discussions and it felt like it is a place where I want to get involved.
Did you have expectations from Macedonia?
I had zero knowledge about the country. I looked it up online and I felt inspired to discover more. I kept an open mind before coming and I was not disappointed.
What was your initial impression?
I felt disoriented the first day I arrived. Everything came all too suddenly. This pushed me to get ahead and learn the language. The day when I learned to read the Cyrillic alphabet I felt that I can navigate the city. After the first few months I could interact with people, I can communicate and understand what they say and they can understand me.
What about the cultural differences?
People living in Macedonia are open and more relaxed when it comes to time. They don’t stress if something is not done in half hour if it could be done in 2 hours. I felt that Macedonian and Roma people are very hospitable. When a guest goes to someone’s house he or she gets lots of attention.
How do you like our organization?
I like it very much. The people are very nice, they tried to make me feel welcome when I arrived. The children made progress in communicating with someone who doesn’t speak Macedonian. This interaction is a great learning experience for me.
What do you do in Nadez? What are your day to day activities?
I help with the creative activities that happen often, I help children with their English and German homework. I pick a area of the vocabulary and teach them new words in an interactive way. They love to draw so I use drawing for my teaching exercises.
How have children progressed?
Some children get it right away. They need little guidance to understand the exercise. Other children need more time and more attention. I think that when there is something that they haven’t understood before, they are motivated to understand it while I am explaining it. They are happy when they manage to solve a problem on their own.
What do you think about the role of C.S.I. Nadez in the community?
Nadez plays a very important role. Some children who were not in the program were asking me if they come in and study and play with the rest of the children. They were asking why do we take those kids. They point that these children are educated, why not take us? It is unfortunate that there is not enough space for everybody to be part of the center, but at the same time I am delighted that our students receive the extra education that makes them do better in school. Children come with enthusiasm for learning. Whenever they learn something new they want to do that over and over again. The center is filling a generational and educational gap between the children and their parents. It helps bring the children on a good road.
What did you think about Shutka (Shuto Orizari)?
I knew that Shutka will be different. Coming to Skopje and then to Shutka, you might feel out of place. But when I walk on the streets in Shutka I feel safe. Being part of the center gives us as non Macedonians and non Roma an entrance into the society. We get recognized on the street and when we see someone from the centre all of a sudden there are fifteen people saying hello. It is a very close community, people know each other and about each other.
What would you tell your friends in Germany about Macedonia, Shutka and Nadez?
I recommend volunteers should come here. Nadez is a great institution and volunteers can have a great experience. Macedonia is a friendly country – different but still familiar.