Meet Jovana Ivankovic – a young facilitator of the “Support, Not Perfection” program
“Support is important regardless of whether you are a parent, child, or someone at the start of their career.”
Curious young people, full of ambition and new ideas, are the ones who create our future. Their energy and motivation represent a strong driving force in our society. However, every beginning is challenging, and that is why it is necessary to help young people on their path to acquiring new knowledge, experience, and skills. For that reason, our foundation recognized the importance of supporting motivated young people like Jovana Ivankovic. Jovana lives in a town called Sabac, she is 25 years old and she has graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences – social policy and social work department. She first joined our team as a volunteer. She acquired great experience volunteering at our “Friendship Games” camp, where she had the opportunity to learn a lot about working with children.
Seeing her great drive to learn more in the field of early development, our expert team chose her to train her for the facilitator of our “Support, Not Perfection” program. This program includes 10 interactive and dynamic workshops and is aimed at empowering parents with further knowledge and skills which may help them in raising their children. Currently, the 6th cycle of workshops within the “Support, Not Perfection” program is being carried out, and for Jovana, it will be the third cycle in which she is heading workshops as a facilitator in the Macvan Prnjavor village near Sabac.
How did your start as the facilitator of the “Support, Not Perfection” program look like? Did you have any fears, doubts, and how did you overcome them?
At first, I was afraid that the parents would not be interested and that they won’t trust me. I didn’t have previous experience as a facilitator and I did not know what to expect. However, I had great support from my older and more experienced colleague Slobodanka Aleksic with whom I was at first a co-facilitator for one group of parents. It meant a lot to me to see how she worked, how she talked to parents and encouraged them to think about their daily parenting challenges. She answered all my questions – and sometimes I asked too many. Additionally, she was always calm, so her calmness extended to me as well.
In time, I stopped thinking about all those fears. I knew that I could always count on the support of Slobodanka and the Foundation’s expert team and that I could reach out to them whenever I faced certain obstacles in my work. Additionally, the parents were in a great mood, they supported each other, which made it much easier for me and helped me overcome the initial anxiety.
With the supervision of my mentor Slobodanka and the Foundation’s expert team, I gathered courage and started running the workshops myself in the Macvan Prnjavor.
Did your previous experience as a volunteer at the Friendship Games help you with running the workshops?
At the Friendship Games, I spent a lot of time with children, so I encountered many situations in which I learned how children overcome obstacles they encounter in different ways, and how they face certain fears. I understood how difficult it is to influence a child to do something they do not want or which is not fun. The children at the Friendship Games had a lot of energy and asked very interesting and difficult questions. However, parents are like that too, even though the skills involved in working with adults and children are different. Some are skeptical in the beginning, so they do not want to get involved right away, instead of observing from the side, while others start with questions right away. But what is common to all parents is that they come to the workshops because they want what is best for their children.
At the workshops, parents acquire many new skills and knowledge about parenting. And in what way did your experience as a facilitator influence your personal and professional development?
The experience I acquired so far helped me expand my knowledge about children’s development, their position in the family system, and to better understand the needs of the parents, which is very important for the job I do as well. Working with families and children can be a sensitive field that includes a broad spectrum of problems, relations, roles and influences, and now I have the impression that I am more aware of them in fieldwork as well.
The workshops are indeed intended for families, but all strategies and techniques they were taught to use on their children can also be used on adults.
Why do you think that the “Support, Not Perfection” program is important for parents in small places such as Macvan Prnjavor?
Families in small areas usually live in family units (grandparents, relatives) where everyone has an impact on educating and raising the children. Some parents retreat in such a situation believing that the older members know better because they are more experienced. However, this program encourages them to relax in their parental role and teaches them that the others are there simply to help, but the final decisions are always made by them.
During the workshops, parents are also encouraged to share experiences and knowledge among themselves. In this way, they become support for one another, which additionally contributes to the strengthening of their unit.