Mosaic was European Voluntary Service trying to merge several different aspects of life and making them work together, blending them into one big picture. Done mostly in Bitola, it was a service project for two Spanish volunteers, Lidia and Andrea, and one Romanian, Luca.
First important aspect of the whole picture was the personal development. The project provided space and opportunity for the volunteers to learn from their own experience, from their own trials and errors of managing everyday responsibilities and activities. “Not always things are as we want them to be” was most common remark from them, followed with “Patience and good planing is what makes you succeed at the end of the month!” as response given from the volunteers at the YMCA Bitola.
The volunteers met a lot of different people, had support from their mentors, they’ve met with a lot of representatives from the “Bitola On Bike” initiative in order to discuss various things, make plans for arrangements of the critical masses and the video etc., – but also in order to get to “know around” and familiarize with the locals, and to see further then only the Bitola environment. At some point they explored a local historical excavations of Hеraclea Lyncestis that are near the city of Bitola, the foothils of the Baba mountain which is on the opposite side of the city, as well as visiting the Ohrid lake, near the neighboring city of Ohrid.
Involvement in the local community, of which the most important was already mentioned – meeting the “Bitola On Bike” initiative was the second big thing. “We were helping this initiative to become more active, helping their cause in every possible way. That meant we were helping them promoting their activities on the social networks, making flyers and leaflets and disseminating them at the local cafes on the main pedestrian street of the city (called “Shirok Sokak” or “Wide Alley”). We took part in the preparation and making of a video for this initiative, that will serve as anniversary for this local movement. It was not clear at the beginning what the goals of the video were, but we’ve managed to come to several good ideas until the end and to film them. And another thing we did, considering that we were taking part in the critical masses, was the bike repairment.” Luca had a lot of experience with bicycles that helped bikes always to be ready and prepared.
“Important thing to mention is that we adopted a pet dog, and we bought some fish from a local pet shop. But the dog was a stray dog, we took care of him, took him to the veterinarian and kept him in the apartment. With time, it became bigger, and at the end we’ve left him to a local family to continue to take care of him. This was warm experience, but what we didn’t like was seeing a lot of stray dogs and cats roaming the city – and the very bad and poor treatment they received from the bystanders. It seemed like there is very low level of understanding for these things among the people of this city.”
“We also did help with the YMCA Bitola camps, we provided mostly logistical help. We were making sure all the tents for the campers are ok, we helped in what was needed at the office and the storage facilities were the camp materials was held, and also we went on the actual camp site to bring some more stuff and also to visit the nearby beautiful city of Krushevo.”
“Third most important aspect was the fact that we were provided space to explore and also show some aspects of our culture. We were given much freedom about this, and we took the time to see what will be. The “Spanish summer conversation hours” was the event and we did share or Spanish culture and language with the locals who came. We need also to mention that we included information about the EVS service during these conversation hours. It was difficult in the beginning to see how this would fit due to some technical problems, but eventually we did manage to share info and awareness of the possibilities of the EVS programme, and along with these talks we talked also about the difference life in the European Union and living out of it.”
“Last important piece of the puzzle was the promotion of the green approach in life. Being part of the “Bitola On Bike” and supporting their cause was how we did this and how we’ve maintained it. They are promoting the bicycle as a alternative transport vehicle for in the city biking (being faster then walking and cheaper and non-polluting then cars). From the YMCA Bitola we were given bikes, not only for the whole time to use them as we pleased, but also for promoting deliberately biking on special events designed for this called “The Critical Mass” gatherings. They were held usually once a month , but during the summer period were held more often, depending on the occasion, weather etc. We either biked with the others, or have been part of side event to these critical masses, usually with some workshop for the visitors. We had a great time in Bitola and we hope this will not be the last time to visit the beautiful people and the countryside of Macedonia.”
The volunteers took part in almost all critical mass events driving a bicycle (around 10 of them), they’ve supported and helped in organizing all of them by promoting them online, as well as in the city. They also helped a lot of other stuff YMCA Bitola was doing (some photos are available here).
But the main results is the video that was done. The video is celebrating four years existence of this initiative and it is first complete video story done in this way for this initiative. It will serve as reminder of the history of the initiative, but also as future incentive for the movement, since it can easily be spread through social networks and people can get a glimpse of the movement’s core ideas from it. The video can be seen here.
Upon return, Luca continued to be more involved in his local organization, working with youth and helping the youth initiatives they are running. Lidia and Andrea shortly after return home, they promoted their EVS experience on a local radio network and it can be seen here and here (it is on Spanish!).
Mosaic was a European Voluntary Service project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The representative of this E.U. programme in Macedonia is the Macedonian National Agency for European Educational Programmes and Mobility.