2019 - Kosovo

Our team represents a vast majority of the world within the 9 of us. We have Hazem from Jordan, Ronak from India, Debora from Croatia, Mark and Jerome both from Wales, Verity from England, Kirsty from Scotland, and of course us, Abby from US and Mai from Japan. I have learned so much about cultures, politics, and personalities around the world. Everyone shares a strong passion for the work we are about to do while possessing a special uniqueness in the way we think. 

The first week of our trip was a training week in Wales. This was a great opportunity to learn from experts and develop our skills in running sport and play sessions while also learning more about World at Play and how to incorporate their values into the work we will do throughout the trip. 

After our training week, we set out for our first placement. We had a wonderful time working with the GAIA Kosovo Imaginatorium in Gracanica. The Imaginatorium is located in Roma Mahala, the most underserved area of Kosovo. This week was eye-opening for myself and the team in many different ways.

We had a wonderful time working with the GAIA Kosovo Imaginatorium in Gracanica. Every single day, the gorgeous Turkish coffee started our day. And we had the role of cooking and cleaning together with the GAIA team in addition to the roles for the sessions. Outside of our daily sessions, we have experienced life in Roma Mahala; getting the bread called Burek and ice cream, swimming in the lake, and going out to the capital of Kosovo, Pristina, for dinner. 

But not only that, from the minute we woke up to the minute we went to bed, the children were a big part of our life in Gracanica. They constantly hanging out on the fence of Imaginatorium chanting our names and waiting for the sessions to start. It was such a unique experience to be living in the center of the community we were working with, and it certainly made us realize how meaningful our work is to the children. It also allowed us to be on the same page with the children and not delivering the top-down sessions, which was very important. 

Our sessions ran for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. We sometimes spent the morning sessions assisting the GAIA team with inside academic activities. This was a unique learning opportunity for some of us who have seen our involvement with children lay more heavily within sports.

The sessions were interesting because the Roma Community is so closely knit. We saw a great range in age but it was remarkable to observe the way that the older children looked out for the younger children within the group.

We were able to introduce many new games and sports for the staff at GAIA as well as the children we are working with. Jerome had the opportunity to spend some time giving basketball lessons to the young adults in the community as well. Throughout our aside from playing loads of fun games, we were able to instill the values of World at Play by teaching everyone basic skills and rules of football, rugby, cricket, handball and a couple of other sports.

My favorite session we held with the children was on the hottest day of our two weeks in Kosovo. We had a brilliant idea to go to the store and purchase water balloons. Who would have thought every store in Gracanica was sold out. We ended up getting a bunch of mini water guns and threw together a 2-hour afternoon session filled with water games. The smiles on the children’s faces during these games were so raw and genuine they had a wonderful time.

The children also loved a new game that we invented during our training week in Wales. The rules of the game are that instead of using your hands, you hold cones. The object of the game is to toss the bean bag into the center bucket. You can only touch the bean bag with the cone and you cannot move while holding the bean bag. We created this game by combining rules from handball, lacrosse, basketball, and creating a few new rules as well. It was exciting to see how much the children loved this new game that we invented ourselves.

We had the opportunity to spend a night learning from a few community members after dinner. We got some instruments out, sang some songs and played some music and ended the night in deep conversations being educated about the hardships that the Roma people face throughout the world. 

By Abby and Mai