YOUTH WORKERS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
We continue our series about youth workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a story about Dejan Rađen from Brčko. Dejan is a 25-year-old with a degree in Architecture. His coworkers say he’s ambitious and amicable, and see him as an example of how youth work shapes people from an early age. Dejan agrees with them – he really was shaped by youth work.
Dejan is happy to talk about his beginnings in youth work, which is now his profession.
– When you ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, they don’t usually say youth worker. Many don’t know what that means, and many never find out. The first activities I took part in were in high school and they were organized by the PRONI Center, when I now work. I looked up to the trainers and youth workers and dreamed of doing the same. It began only as a childhood dream that in time turned into decisions that made the dream come true.
Big changes take time, and wishes don’t come true overnight, so Dejan will always emphasize that hard work and giving his all to his job is what led him where he is now. He thinks the road to success isn’t a straight line; to him it looks more like a pyramid.
– I think that in this sector we all go through a pyramid-shaped learning process. You start off as a participant, in time you grow into an activist, then a volunteer. Then you learn and improve until you get a chance to take part in trainings for trainers where you get a chance to put to use everything you’ve learned so far. Learning and improving is what took the longest for me in this process. I spent around two years taking part in trainings and learning on my own. That’s when I realized that I want to do this professionally.
Being someone who values lifelong education and invests in his development, Dejan took part in the 2015 Training for Expert Youth Work Associates conducted by the Institute for Youth Development KULT with the support of the Olof Palme International Center.
– This training was a way for me to hone my skills in youth work. I think that just one training or one university program is not enough to teach someone how to be a youth worker – it takes more than that, it takes combining experiences. This training was very important for me, because once I completed it I was officially an Expert Youth Work Associate, which the Agency for Statistics included in the classification of professions in FBiH. I was finally able to explain to my parents what it is that I do exactly.
From September 2017, Dejan has been working at the PRONI Center for Youth Development and is currently their Youth Work Manager. For the past year, he has been coordinating the work of the PRONI Youth Club in Banja Luka. Every week in his organization he works with young people from BiH and the region but is happy to respond to invitations by other organizations to work as a trainer/youth worker/coordinator. For him, the best part of the job is seeing the positive impact you have on a young person’s life.
When it comes to the youth sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he is an optimist:
– We’ve seen a positive change over the last few years, with a growing number of young people and organizations getting involved in youth work. International organizations took on too much work, without investing enough in building the capacities of local organizations. Cooperation among organizations in BiH also has room for improvement, since they tend to treat each other more as competition than partners.
Dejan Rađen is another young man who is planning to build his future in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although he admits that he came close to deciding to leave several times before. He says he stayed because of this sector and the chances that he was brave enough to take, and that helped him transition into adulthood. His advice to young people he works with and all those who choose to stay is to invest in themselves, improve, avoid complaining and blaming others and take responsibility for making the best of every day.