I want to tell you my story about how I became a youth worker and volunteer. After more than 20 years of working in the office, I decided to leave my job and change something in my life. I have always been attracted by helping people who have found themselves in an unfavorable situation and who needed help.

I knew about the organization Volunteers Centre Skopje from before, and I decided to address them and offer myself as a volunteer. Because of my age (45), I could not be an EVS volunteer abroad, but they offered to train me as a youth worker and I could volunteer on the local level. I started participating in seminars, trainings, youth exchange, and training abroad and in Macedonia. The first international training course was in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, where the topic was developing knowledge, skills, and competences of the youth workers in resolving conflicts and building peaceful solutions. That first experience made a great impression on me because I had the opportunity to get to know and to work with young people and youth workers from several European countries, and it strengthened my decision to work in this area. Trainings followed in Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Bulgaria, where I learned a lot of new things, I acquired great experience, I met people from all over Europe, I established contacts with a lot of organizations, I strengthened my competences and skills that I now use in my ongoing work on projects and activities. At the intercultural events, I got acquainted with the traditional customs and specific characteristics from different countries, but at the same time, I had the opportunity to represent Macedonia, all interesting facts and data, as well as food and drinks, among which the most demanded and the most specific was, of course, our Macedonian ajvar. During the international projects, Volunteers Centre Skopje offered logistic assistance connected to the organization of the trips, communication with the host organization, and the technical details, but also moral and friendly support, which was very helpful. Some of the ongoing projects were taking place online because of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the opportunity to travel to a new destination is temporarily postponed until the stabilizing of the situation.

VCS included me in several projects on the local level, and I had an opportunity to volunteer at the event at which along with two EVS volunteers, we accompanied the children from the Daily Center in Shutka to the awarding of New Year presents by the mayor of Skopje in the mountain lodge on Vodno.

Volunteers Centre Skopje functions as a big family in which I was accepted from the very beginning. All the employees and volunteers are here for me every day and selflessly try to help me whenever there is a need, and share their knowledge and experiences. Besides the official work, we also privately hang out, have a lot of fun, and go on trips together, and since recently I was nominated as a mentor of a young volunteer from France, whom I help in getting used to everyday life in Macedonia.

This is my story, but it can also be yours if you feel the wish or the need to be a volunteer and become a member of our family.

Josip Gegaj

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