Our Volunteer Lena Marković: "Wow, I Can Do This!"

by NDFAuthors

  • Aug 12, 2020

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] big part of our success lies in the work, support and strength of fearless young people. Their ideas, creativity and commitment are a daily motivation for our investments into early education, to ensure that as many children as possible in Serbia get to grow up into such great adult people. We have shared touching stories of volunteers at our traditional Friendship Games camp several times. However, for International Youth Day, we have prepared a special interview with the inspirational Lena Marković, whose drive to work with children left us all breathless.

First, we want to wish you a happy International Youth Day!

Thank you very much! I am very glad that I can celebrate it with you, who are contributing so much to the empowerment of young people in Serbia. 

Let’s start from the beginning. What motivated you to apply for the position of a volunteer at our 7th Friendship Games?

I saw an ad at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, and I immediately thought that it would be an opportunity for me to work with children. I am studying education psychology, however, I do not get enough opportunities for practical work during my studies.

That’s why I was interested in the Friendship Games camp, because I could get useful real experience, and an opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge.

Additionally, I heard great stories from older colleagues who volunteered in previous years, and I wanted to have such an unforgettable adventure very much. I sent my application the next day!

Lena Markovic (left) with other volunteers and participants of the 7th Friendship Games.

Lena Markovic (left) with other volunteers and participants of the 7th Friendship Games.

After our team read Lena’s biography and motivation letter, we couldn’t wait to meet her in person. In her motivation letter, Lena explained to us that she had cerebral palsy, which is why she had certain physical difficulties in moving and speaking. However, she explained that this did not stop her from being an excellent student with a passion for working and learning with children. Immediately upon meeting her for the first time, we felt her fighting spirit.

At the Friendship Games, the volunteers spend the whole day with children on different activities, which certainly demands a lot of energy. Was volunteering a big challenge for you?

Even though some could think that, due to my physical difficulties, such an active time could be hard for me, it was actually the opposite! Time spent with children gave me strength. I think their energy and enthusiasm cannot leave anyone indifferent. 

What moment from the Friendship Games will you always remember?

Out of the numerous exciting activities, I will always remember my time with the kids when we were drawing on shirts. I also helped them with coloring, and I was overjoyed that I could be a part of their learning process, and share that moment with them. 

Even though painting and coloring with children might be a regular activity for some, for me it is an unforgettable memory. 

International Youth Day: Our volunteers at the 7th Friendship Games.

International Youth Day: Our volunteers at the 7th Friendship Games.

Our volunteers play an important role in organizing the Friendship Games. In addition to the teachers, they are the ones who help us entertain the children, take care of them and teach them new things. During these 6 days, a special bond of trust is created between the children and the volunteers. The children look up to them and like to involve them in all their games. That is why Lena’s participation in Friendship Games was particularly important for the children. By playing with her, they learned about the importance of inclusion.

The motto of Friendship Games is friendship without borders. Did you meet any new friends?

Of course! I had the pleasure of meeting other young people in Serbia with whom I share the same interests. Other volunteers helped me a lot and were a great support to me. 

And finally – what is your biggest impression after the 7th Friendship Games?

Wow, I can do this?

Before going, I had certain concerns. How will I do it? Will the children accept me? However, in the end, I even surprised myself with how knowledgeable I am and how actively I could participate in the children’s learning process. I gained so much experience, which just gave me additional motivation to keep working diligently. 

Lena with her group at the most fun activity at the Friendship Games - masquerade ball.

Lena with her group at the most fun activity at the Friendship Games – masquerade ball.

Our Foundation will always strive to support ambitious and innovative young people. We are glad that we can provide an opportunity for all those who want to work with children and invest in their education. This way, our successes become more self-sustainable, because we are investing in training, knowledge and skills of young people, who will tomorrow know how to teach the future generations properly. Happy International Youth Day!