Guest blog by Su Jones
By day I’m a senior design manager for a high street retailer, and in my evenings and weekends I am a virtual volunteer for The Ideas Partnership, working from the UK to remotely support the fantastic work the team in Kosovo are doing. Having worked with Elizabeth in a more hands-on capacity for the last 2 summers where my partner Paddy and I have used annual leave to be voluntourists, and having loved both experiences I was keen to support any further work and keep involved even if we weren’t able to afford the time to visit Kosovo this year. So, I became a virtual-volunteer, offering my support with planning and admin wherever I could, in particular helping to co-ordinate the volunteers for the forthcoming summer programme where we plan to teach English in the Fushe Kosove community to anyone who wants to learn (those who are registered for school and those who are hoping to get registered).
My role has been fairly small compared to the teaching commitments made by others, but I hope in some way the regular skype meetings, emails to volunteers, application form processing and information packs, along with the newsletters and campaign flyers that I have been able to use my design background to create, have helped to ease the pressure of those at the chalk-face (or should I say whiteboard) doing the real hard work, and it has been a real privilege to be involved and be asked to create guest blog to talk about the part I have played.
There have been times where my demanding day-job has eaten into my time, and when I have hastily driven back from work to jump straight onto another computer for a 2 hour skype meeting, whilst Paddy has placed food and drink in front of me with a look of patient understanding. And I’ll admit that once or twice during my skyping and scoffing I had questioned whether I was over-complicating my life, but then I’d read the emails and this blog and be humbled by how much Elizabeth and the team were pushing themselves to achieve their mission and my busy day would pale into insignificance. I also have a great reality check from the school stuck onto my fridge; it’s an early faleminderit poster from Selime (one of the first letters sent out in response to a donation I made to the project and probably some of the first letters of the alphabet Selime ever wrote). As a virtual volunteer it was lovely to receive something that was actually from the school, something tangible to have in our house and it’s a great advert for the project for our friends and family to see. Every time I go into our kitchen it reminds me of the progress that has been made since those letters were carefully scribed out back in the early days, to last Friday’s big day before the commission, and, after a long day at work it helps put things into perspective: I am really lucky to have had an education, to have been able pursue my career aspirations and I should never take that for granted.
I guess the moral of my blog is that volunteering is good for you and good for your stress levels, so no matter what time you have and what capacity you can work in (virtual or real) you should offer up some of your time for good causes like this because it makes you feel good too. And before I get too Jerry Springer on everyone, I would like to take this chance to plug the summer programme which starts on 18th July through to the end of August, I can highly recommend the tourist experience Kosovo provides and doing something worthwhile whilst you’re there. You don’t have to be a student, a teacher or have to take a sabbatical from work to do anything like this; it is possible to have a mini gap adventure with a 1-2 week break from any job. So if anyone fancies taking time out to do something different as well as getting a tan then please get in touch, it’s not too late to do something amazing with your summer break.