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Kosovo: A New Way of Working

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.? This statement rings true everyday for Public Achievement participant and organizer, Genta Gola.

Although Genta is only 15 years old, she has a solid belief in the role that community and public work can play in creating a democratic culture. Since her introduction to Public Achievement several years ago, she and her classmates have tackled issues such HIV, drug use, and poverty through their school community.

Genta lives in Kosovo and recently celebrated as, after nine years of struggling for statehood, the Kosovar Assembly declared its independence from Serbia. The territory of Kosovo has always been a part of various empires, including the country of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Bloc of the USSR. Because of this, Kosovo has had a history strewn with nationalistic, ethic, and religious conflicts with its neighbors. Even now, the newly independent country of Kosovo is still opposed by some countries, including its neighbor, Serbia.

kosovo_independence1.jpg image from Washingon Post, February 18, 2008

Given the political turmoil and violent history of Kosovo, it is no surprise that young people in the country have struggled to have hope about the future. They have had little opportunity to develop public problem solving skills such as community organizing, group decision making, and deliberative discussion. These skills, usually learned through living in a democratic culture, are new to many citizens of the Republic of Kosovo.

When I asked Genta how she thinks she and her peers have benefited from using the Public Achievement model, she talked about the skills, the awareness, and the relationships that have come out of the work they have done in her school. Most of all, Genta shared with me the great hope that comes from working together toward a better country.

“Students have become more informed. We have learned to talk about our ideas and to debate things freely,? Genta related. She and others have worked to create the space where discussion and negotiation of viewpoints can occur after school. When I asked her why this was an important step towards a better republic, she talked of the power in people knowing “what they think? and learning the skills to take action around their beliefs. With great hope in the future, Genta sees Public Achievement as part of building a ?new democratic culture in Kosovo.?

“Violence cannot be used to find solutions,? Genta explained as she talked about the possibilities and the challenges in a new country. “In so many communities there are problems with crime or people doing drugs. These things happen because people don’t have hope that things will improve.?

With a vibrant and powerful vision for democracy and a dedication to the necessary work, Genta’s energy for the future is infectious. Through working as a school community, she and her peers have developed important relationships and done significant work that has encouraged them to, as Genta said, “Never give up, to be creative in solutions, and keep fighting for things up until the end.?

Genta’s school is a member of the Schools Plus network that includes Public Achievement in the educational culture of schools in many Eastern European countries. Two years ago Genta and other members of her school attended the PA Unite Conference in Popova Shapka, Macedonia.

Comments

Nice write up, interesting read!

BRAVO KOSOVO

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs