YOUTH WORKERS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The youth sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of professionals working tirelessly to improve the position of young people. One such dedicated youth worked is Branislav Ristić from Prnjavor. Branislav is in his final year of studies at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He’s now doing what he loves most – youth work at the local and international level, at the center “Zdravo da ste”, where he works as the Project Manager and coordinates youth activities.
The idea to become a youth worker came spontaneously through a series of events. Getting involved in the NGO sector gave him a clear sense of direction in terms of personal development, his status and the status of young people in the community. His dedication to non-formal education in his own personal development led him to contribute to promoting and developing this type of education in his community.
“Becoming a youth worker in BiH is very easy. All you need to do is stay in BiH, be willing to work with youth, be understanding of their level of maturity, identify their needs and your needs, what they want and what you want, be aware of your environment, spend time with young people, create opportunities with them and for them, stay informed and involve young people in various experiential learning and decision-making processes. After using this approach for a while, I found myself at a crossroads that very clearly mapped out the directions I could take and provided me with guidelines for personal and professional development. But what’s interesting to me, is that even though I have very clear guidelines I still encounter unexpected obstacles that give me the energy to grow and develop. I think other professions that entail working with people face similar challenges, but when you’re working with young people, it’s both easier and harder in a way.
Branislav understands the importance of lifelong learning, which is why he attended the Training for Expert Youth Work Associates organized and implemented by the Institute for Youth Development KULT with the support of the Olof Palme International Center.
“Going through a training structured like this helped me in more than one way. First, I met new colleagues who do (or try to at least) similar things to what I’m trying in my community. Opportunities to share experiences are always welcome for every youth worker. Also, networking with people who do the same or similar things, cooperating with them, and recognizing the needs of young people who work with other young people and getting an overview of the current state of the youth work sector in BiH was all very useful and helpful for youth workers, and gave us the motivation to go to new heights in youth work. This training definitely left a positive impression on me, although I think I needed something like this a long time ago. I can’t say it was life-changing, but it was a new and positive experience. It’s the type of training that asks you to pour your soul into it and let the process lead you so the results you get are real and better. That way we let ourselves leave our comfort zone and take on various challenges at different levels. New acquaintances, new community and a new opportunity to start over. Ultimately, even if you don’t learn anything new (which is unlikely) you can say that you were a part of something where you left your own unique trace.”
Some of the most important benefits of the training for Branislav were new acquaintances, contacts, words and sentences, images, the message that people care about youth workers, which he says isn’t appreciated enough in our country.
Branislav sums up the current situation in the youth sector in BiH “BiH never had fewer young people, and the youth sector never had more work to do.”
“Those who persist are still here and want things to get back on course. Institutions are under the control of political parties, so youth clubs have the most support, and by that I mean youth branches of political parties. But in my opinion, this doesn’t have to do with youth work, as much as it is recruiting voters in between elections. Youth limited by one political party’s program lose a lot and gain very little.”
In a couple of years, he says, he expects to still be in BiH, and urges young people to observe, reflect and be active, whether staying or leaving.
“I’m happy when I meet a young person eager to improve and grow, I’m happy when young people are doing the best for themselves and their future, even if that means leaving BiH. In that case, my job is very easy and the rest is up to individual choices and the state.”
Branislav Ristić is another perfect example of a professional dedicated to building a better future through youth work, both for himself and other young people choosing to stay in BiH.