2017 - Serbia
It has been a month since we met each other at Atlantic College. We have experienced some ups and downs as you may expect from any international project, but Serbia has been our greatest challenge so far. How will we be able to summarize two of the most exciting and difficult weeks of our lives as young adults?
We, as a team, have worked with three different centres in Novi Sad, a relatively big city in northern Serbia. The beginning of this adventure was not easy to handle, we were about to enter into a complex field: mental and physical disabilities. The scenario got more difficult when faced with illness in our group. Not to mention, the unexpected appearance of a ninth team member, Pluto the mouse! Let’s just say the hockey sticks from our sessions were put to good use. So was Serbia demanding for all of us? Of course it was. Was it worth it? 100%. We were able to build amazing relationships and add to the growing collection of rewarding memories from this expedition.
Sessions at Dom Veternik required a lot of patience and energy but were fulfilling. The group got to experience the real value of play and its impact on an individual. In particular, one fifteen-year-old girl had been disengaged for the first few days of sessions. This completely changed with the introduction of something the group considers a lifesaver: the parachute! The colours, movement and sound of it made her entire face light up, much to the amazement of us and her caretakers. She was totally transfixed and spent the rest of the session attempting to dive into the sea of rainbow colours.
Similarly, the personal impact was felt at MNRO , the day centre for intellectually disabled individuals. We knew about the language barrier, but we hadn’t truly experienced its limitations until now. It is hard to see someone crying, and not being able to console them is even harder. One individual was talking about her personal life and we were there just to listen. Although we could not understand a single word, the feeling at the end of that conversation was more than rewarding. She was happy and we were as well. We gave something that not many people have unfortunately given them, genuine interest.
The difficulties we faced in Serbia made our experience all the more special. On the last night at Dom Veternik we threw a party! Blaring music from the van seemed like a great idea, until the battery died. Yet, even this event transformed itself. We now have a great memory of how all the residents of Dom Veternik helped jump start the van and cheered when the engine came back on.
All that is left to say is: thank you Serbia, our partners and all the amazing people we met!
Ayelen and Felipe