It was four days ago that our new Belgian volunteers arrived at Skopje airport. In the middle of the night, four young and motivated people from Belgium set foot in Macedonia. Three exciting weeks are ahead of them: They will join our long-term volunteers in the VCS office. In there, they will gain skills in writing and designing articles for VOICES magazine. Also, they will help street children with their homework and play with them at Shutka DayCare Centre.
They already had a city tour, explored the Macedonian kitchen and enjoyed live music in Skopje.
Let’s get to know Stefano, Quincy, Karl and Michelle:
Stefano, 19 years old
Hello, I am Stefano, I am 19 years old and I live in Bilzen, Belgium. Since I was 12 years old I have been very interested in traveling. I myself have already been to France, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Romania and now Macedonia. I find traveling very interesting because every country has its own culture and standards. But above all, many beautiful places! In Belgium I studied child psychology.
I have always been interested in the behavior and way of thinking of a young person. In the future I would like to help children with behavioral problems to improve the bond to their parents. I have many opinions about children’s rights, children’s organizations and the behavior between a child and a parent.
I myself had a very difficult childhood, which I don’t like to talk about myself. Because of this I had an example of what not to do. I also have a lot of experience, so I can empathize well when a person presents a difficult situation to me.
I am currently working in various places as a volunteer in youth groups. I get a lot of satisfaction from this. Hopefully I will learn more about the Macedonian culture and working with street children.
Yesterday I went to the night shop with my girlfriend for a drink. There we saw a beautiful dog that followed us all the way to our apartment which was at least a 30 minute walk. After a while we said goodbye to the dog and we went upstairs to the 6th floor. When we got there, the dog suddenly stood at our door on the 6th floor. I had bought some dog and cat treats the day before. We gave these dog treats to him and also something to drink. He rested with us for at least 3 hours afterwards. Saying goodbye was hard and teardrops fell from our face when we saw the sadness of the dog. We even thought of adopting him but the procedure is quite difficult.
So far Macedonia is great. I want to see a lot more here, especially Matka Canyon. I’m sure this place is great and I’m really looking forward to it! Greetings from Belgium!
Quincy, 19 years old
Hello, I am Quincy and I am 19 years old. I live in Bilzen in Belgium together with my friend Stefano. At the age of 17 I was placed in a community housing due to a difficult home situation. It was a difficult period but I came out better than expected. Atschool I studied elderly care. Unfortunately I did not finish this. After school I immediately started working as a domestic help. At the moment I am looking for another job that suits me more. I used to go on holidays in other countries a lot. Curacao, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. I like traveling a lot, especially getting to know another culture and living the same way like them.
I think this trip is very special because I have never done volunteer work abroad and this is my first holiday without my parents. You are completely pulled out of your comfort zone.
This is always a bit scary. Before this adventure I worried quite a lot and I still do. I am not fluent in English so I hope I will be able to improve my English during this trip. I also hope that this trip will make me more confident. The adventure in Skopje is very nice. I am looking forward to see many more beautiful things like Old Bazaar and Matka Canyon.
Karl, 19 years old
Hello there! I’m Karl. A 19 years old Belgian guy who somehow ended up on a plane to Macedonia. I was born and raised in a city called “Tongeren” until I was 16. It’s the oldest city of Belgium and it dates back to the Roman Empire.
I graduated from high school this June. In high school I’ve studied a course called “Boekhouden- Informatica”, it means “Accounting-computer Science”. It basically involved business related things and let me tell you, it wasn’t for me. Long story short: I didn’t follow through with a course I wanted to do because of circumstances and that’s why I ended up in a course that didn’t suit me for about five years. I originally wanted to do “Human Sciences”. That’s all about culture, psychology, politics etc. So young me, freshly graduated, have to wait until the end of September to start University while being eager to travel in summer. I want to do an oriental study called “Japanologie” in Ku Leuven. It’s something I really want to do because it suits my interests. Japanese language, history, culture, politics etc.
Because of those interests, I’m obviously also interested in travelling and learning about how other people live their lives. It’s why I ended up here in Macedonia. I got recommended for volunteering work by someone who helps me manage some important stuff (I live alone). And when she mentioned it, I was intrigued. To be honest, the last couple days before my flight, I was a bit stressed because I never took a plane before and I didn’t know much about this work here. But I was going with an open mind, wanting to learn and I’m not disappointed. Even before arriving here, this program already taught me something, how to travel by plane. The flight went very well, I really enjoyed the experience. Some things I like doing in my free time are: going to my youth club called “Juniper” in Tongeren (you can find us on instagram “juniper_tongeren”), listening to music (primarily metal but I enjoy almost anything), watching geeky stuff (Starwars, DC, Avatar Tla etc), watching Youtube videos ranging from fun to educational to martial art videos, I practiced Goju-Ryu Karate for three years and I want to start with Judo. That’s also a reason why I want to study Japanologie. Because I got introduced to their culture in Karate and it intrigued me.
Some other things I love are animals, food, nature, architecture and history.
If you managed to get to the end, great! Because I want to end it with some wisdom: You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road, and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength. – Iroh
It’s something I try to live by because we all experience bad things. Some worse than others. But try to look forward, think big, be open minded and I’m sure you’ll one day meet your goals in life. Don’t forget, life’s a journey and we’re all on it.
Michelle, 28 years old
Hey, Hi, hello, I am Michelle Sapion, 28 years young and living in Olen. I grew up in a small village in Belgium. I come from a family of three children with a younger and older brother. I also grew up with several pets.
Because I am creative since childhood, I studied Graphic Design at the Mad-Faculty in Hasselt. Where I lived for several years. I like to be creative. I am extremely versatile and very eager to learn, so I have already completed a few courses and I am currently following a course in Free graphics at the art academy of Herentals as a hobby. Some other things I enjoy are sports because it’s an important factor to stay healthy and fit. I am always open to volunteering, both for small and large projects and events. For example, I have already helped clear up litter and illegal dumping.
And now I joined VCS project. I’ve only been here for a few days so far. This is my 5th day in Macedonia. I aim to stay for about three weeks. I had no knowledge of Macedonia before coming here. But what I’ve seen so far is that everyone is very nice and helpful here.
The reason I decided to come here is because I saw an opportunity to improve my educational knowledge, to get more work experience while also helping the organization and the local people here and to improve my English skill and I want to become more at peace in my mind, to remove the barrier that makes me comfortable speaking English. Because new challenges make life more interesting and overcoming them is what makes someone grow. I also enjoy and find it interesting that we meet numerous people from all over Europe. This project is not only because of my enthusiasm to explore but also because it would be a great experience, to see how the people live, the nature, the food etc.
I look forward to improve my journalism and youth work to help people, understand autism and show them a way to communicate and find ways to play with them. In short, everyone makes their own choices and creates their own path in life.
It is also very important that you never give up when you encounter setbacks in your path. So it can take you to unexpected places, as I am now here.
I never expected to experience this and I realize this is a unique opportunity for me from the organization. I’m eager to know what this experience has to offer for me.
Also, I’m going to celebrate my birthday here in Macedonia for the first time without family and friends from home what’s kind of weird and I don’t know how this will go but I’m sure we’ll make the best of it. As a graphic designer, I’m primarily active in de ‘Kempen’. I use all the tools presented to me so I also use creations that already have been created, in my arsenal. I prefer to call myself a graphic artist rather than a graphic designer who follows strategies. I try to follow my heart and interests with the guidance of my ego. To create work that suits both the client and myself. This is a heresy in the design world, the ego should not be involved in graphic design. But I realized that the more I treated the work as my own, as something personal, the more successful, interesting it becomes and the longer it stays modern. While the others are interested in more measurable results, I try to work and am I more interested in ethereal things like:
Does it bring joy?
Does it arouse curiosity?
Is there an atmosphere of wonder?
I want to make the target group aware of the daily things around them. In this way, I draw attention to their environment and themselves and the everyday things surrounding them. This Is what I want to bring back to the project for VCS.