Updates from GAIA Kosovo

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Dear SCI comrades,

            GAIA Kosovo would like to share with you some recent developments in the organisation. Our, now almost decade-old-organisation, opened a new long-term program last September in the city of Mitrovica. This town is sadly famous for its bleak role during the last war and the ensuing troubles. Today, the city is still divided between an Albanian-majority south and a Serbian-majority north. No physical barrier stops the people from crossing the demarcating river, but long-lasting conflictive mindsets, state propaganda and political corruptions make the two main communities feel unsafe to go out of their “side” of the city. GAIA wants to change this, inviting the citizens of Mitrovica to meet, exchange, cooperate, and learn to coexist again.

            Our first project entitled “Mitrovica’s Joint Stories”, financed by the European Union, started in January. Once a month, we will gather three inhabitants of the city to tell us their story, their experience, their link to this place. Not famous politicians, not fierce activists, not serious academics, but casual inhabitants, people like any other, the ones who lived not extraordinary lives but have an experience in the city like any other inhabitant. Their stories are gems of knowledge, tools to travel in time, to understand a past of coexistence, to get the truth of the city without its corrupted politics, to touch the most positive aspects of the place we share. This is, in our sense, peacebuilding as its most efficient. Events will happen once a month, each addressing different topics of life in common: sports, water, music, and a final event with various workshops in the city museum. Our first event, “Women of Mitrovica”, was held on January 19th, and was a resounding success. You can read more about it in this article written by our volunteer Jeremy.

Mitrovica Storytelling Caravan first event

            The Mitrovica program is the first GAIA long-term program focused more directly on the issue of peacebuilding. We contend that the Kosovo society is still in a “post-conflict” status, even though war ended almost 20 years ago. We feel that a similar problem remains in the whole region of the Balkans, where peace is still fragile, where minds are still stuck on a traumatic past, where fear dominates the judgements. But, everywhere around, we see more and more youth sharing our values, being curious to meet other communities, wanting to discover other perspectives, working for a common good. More and more, peace can settle. We felt the urge to initiate such a program, but we also feel the hope that change is really happening.

            Through this article, we send a call to our friends in Balkans, in Europe and in the world: you are more than welcome to come and meet us in Mitrovica. If you are interested by our work here, feel free to contact us. We need companions in this adventure, that can benefit far more than just one city. Together, we can try to blur the borders, the physical and the mental ones. As we meet, as we cooperate, we create our own stories of international brotherhood and sisterhood. Let’s undivide our cities, our countries, our world!

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  In other news, GAIA has still two full-time programs going on. In Gračanica, our non-formal education centre “Imaginatorium” still attracts a lot of Roma and Ashkali children, to whom international and local volunteers teach basic knowledge in literacy, mathematics, English, art, music, but also provide an opportunity to gather for sports and excursions.

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In Bozevce, GAIA continues to develop a permaculture estate, with natural construction and gardening. The place is to become a training and meeting centre about permaculture. Highlight: we built the first rocket stove of Kosovo! (A rocket stove is a natural construction allowing efficient heating in a building).

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 As for the upcoming times, GAIA will continue to organise workcamps this summer:

  • Gracanica, “Imaginatorium”: educational activities with kids and youth
  • Bear Sanctuary of Pristina: art camp
  • Korishe village, Prizren: archeological camp
  • Draganac Monastery: help for Slava celebration
  • Bozevce: natural building
  • Mitrovica: peace camp

As SCI will blow its 100th candle in 2020, GAIA will celebrate its 10th birthday. This will be the opportunity to look back on our experiences and talk about peace. Still a birthing project, GAIA plans to release a book about ten years of its work in Kosovo. Friends of GAIA, partners and comrades, you will be more than invited to participate in the drafting of this document. In the meantime, we wish you a happy new year, full of peace and meaningful acts.

Written by GAIA Kosovo

 

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