I’ve always loved to travel, see new places, learn something new from each culture, delve into their customs. Therefore, I was beyond happy when WYA Europe told me they were going to send me to Zagreb for five days for the WYA Croatia week. I knew I was going to visit the city, as well as helping out for the events, but certainly I was not expecting to feel at home while doing so. But let’s start from the beginning.
I was welcomed with open arms by the WYA Croatia team, which, although at their first steps, have achieved a lot already, the events that I was going to attend to being a blatant example. All the panel discussions addressed the issue of the Croatian youth leaving their country for good because of the lack of opportunities. The problem was analysed at its roots. In fact, the need for a revived Croatian identity was highlighted, as well as the bad influence and distorted information that the media sends to the youth. It was in fact advocated that the government invest in educating the young people to read through the media’s messages, which often focus only on the unsuccessful. Many examples were brought on the table about successful Croatian entrepreneurs, who encouraged the youngest to pursue what they want by creating something themselves, something that can both generate opportunities and raise awareness about the fact that it is possible to stay and win. This is indeed what happened during the workshops on the last day of the conference, when powerful men and women shared their experiences and presented their entrepreneurial activities.
The youth that participated to the conference was eager to know more about this particular condition affecting their country in order to fight it, to work together with the government, NGOs and national institutions to create those opportunities that Croatia has been lacking for too long now. I could see the passion and keenness to change things behind both the organisers’ work and the participants’ contribution to the WYA week. I also saw that WYA managed to bring once again different groups of people together, and once again it’s been heard. In fact, the event was covered by the news and and the Ministries that participated are going to bring the raised questions to the government for them to be worked upon.
Not only, though, was I amazed by how influential the week was. Something else made my stay in Zagreb special. As I said, I travel a lot and now it’s been three years that I don’t live in my city, Rome. Oh, how much I’ve been missing my Bella Italia, the sun, the people, the warmth! Well, that stopped while I was in Croatia. For five days I felt at home. Ana, WYA Europe’s Regional Fundraising Manager working from her country in order to help the Croatian chapter to grow, welcomed me in her house with her family as if they had known me forever. The other members of the WYA team enjoyed and were proud of showing me their city just as much as I enjoy showing Rome to whoever comes to visit. We had coffee breaks at the bar on the square chatting about how everything was going, getting excited for what was about to come, just being happy about the good company and those coffees. I wasn’t expecting our peoples to be so similar and it was a pleasant surprise!
In a place that I had never visited before, the solidarity of the WYA team made me feel safe and not out of context at all. Even if the panel discussions were in Croatian, I managed to understand everything that was going on at every moment thanks to great volunteers who offered to translate for us every day. In only five days I made some special friends and I had the honour to help them and to watch them putting all their effort in something that I am sure is going to succeed the establishment of one of the greatest WYA Europe Chapters. Can’t wait to see what’s next!
Written by Barbara Pernice, an intern in the WYA Europe office.