Marina and Vjollca grew up on opposite sides of the Serbian-Albanian conflict. Now, as co-workers with World Vision, they've become friends. Together, they're working to break down the barriers between their cultures and to change the mentality of the next generation through World Vision's summer camps.
Yesterday, we heard Vjollca's story in part 1. Today, we hear from Marina.
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Marina lives in an all-Serbian community near Pristine, the capital city of Kosovo. Before joining World Vision, she had never been to Albania. Now, she has visited the country more than 10 times. Here's Marina's perspective:
When I started working at World Vision, I was happy and scared at the same time. [I was] happy, because I wanted this job. I liked it, but it scared me, because it was something new for me – working with people that I barely knew.
I was also worried about working in a city where the people there are of a different nationality from mine. I was worried about how I would travel there every day, and especially about how I would communicate with them.
My family and my friends were skeptical about my choice. They were afraid for me. They were afraid because it is very difficult to live and to build something in a country with a history full of pain and tears, in a country where people are forced to live together, and in a place where instead of trying to improve this strange relationship, people choose to hate and to harm each other. They choose to live isolated and not to interact with the others, trying their best not to know one another and not to give each other a possibility to show themselves and how they truly are.
Before I started working with World Vision, I have never had an Albanian friend. I didn’t know much about them. I was very surprised when I learned that in Albania there are wonderful orthodox churches. In Kosovo, war and wrong politics have led to all Serbians being identified with orthodoxies and all Albanians being identified with Muslims. I learned that this is not true. Day-by-day, traveling around Kosovo and Albania opened my eyes that the world where I was living was a wonderful world, full of colors and vitality. I understood that all people laugh in the same way.
My first days in Pristine were full of warring emotions, but with the support of my colleagues everything went well. When I enter World Vision offices, I feel safe, like I am entering my secret place, a place where I am safe and nothing can harm me.
After months of dynamic work, traveling, meeting people, and working with children, my life has suddenly started to make sense. I began to realize where I was and what was my role is in this little world.
I am very happy that God choose me to be part of this world, the world of children, a world of innocence and purity. I believe that the change that all are looking for will come from these children and I am happy that I have my role in all this.
For Serbian parents, it is very difficult to bring their children to these camps. Before I started working, not one Serbian child came here. My presence here gave them security. At first, they hesitated to come. But when I tell them that I will be there, too, everything changes. This is a fragile relationship, but is based on trust so I believe that we are on the right path.
Now, after a year of facing my fears, I am very happy to see that my best friend is an Albanian.
Both Marina and Vjollca acknowledge that working with World Vision has changed their lives for the better. They say that you cannot be a peace builder if you are not able to build peace with yourself, because if you can’t change yourself you can’t bring peace to the children. This is exactly the process that both of them went through.
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Florida Bonjo is a communications intern with World Vision Albania.
Child sponsorship plays a vital role in World Vision’s work in Albania, with sponsors from the United States supporting more than 12,200 children. Sponsorship helps make possible programs like summer camps as well as life-saving basics like education, economic development, and healthcare. Consider sponsoring a child in Albania today!