Visionaries are creative people who implement ideas into deeds by their great driving energy. Ides which others often see so fantastic and unreachable that in the eyes of pessimists, they have the status of impossible.
Still, the vision was not realistic from the very beginning – Novi Sad as the city in which young people decide about matters and decisions related to young people. Both in terms of present and future challenges which the generations that are currently growing up will face.
If someone had told a year ago that we would wait for the year of 2020 with the official code and recognized occupation of a Social Worker, much higher local budget for young people, young people in committees for the assignment of funds from the budget of the city, first successful Pride and Pride Week in Novi Sad, first World OPENS Gaming Festival and programs which have connected more than million people from around the entire world for a year behind us, the majority would say that we aim too high.
However, that has been reached. And much more than that.
In the discussion with young people who have followed and participated in the activities, it is necessary to tell the story of someone who have found their official occupation with the help of OPENS. Anja is one of them.
“I met OPENS a long time ago, but my first contact with the particular activities was at the recent FundCon conference. I have been interested in human resources for a while now, and FundCon was processing that topic for one day. And I saw that as an opportunity of learn something more about HR (human resources). Thanks to OPENS, I have enrolled an HR course and I continue to discover this interesting and dynamic field. Now I can certainly say that OPENS has channelled my choice of future occupation and I am eternally thankful for that”, nineteen-year-old Anja Luković, student from Novi Sad says.
The story about European Youth Capital was spreading like a good word about a good book and we have managed to widen perspectives and connect young people in the region. We are sure that it has helped someone feel the energy of Novi Sad and want to be a part of it. Bojan Topalović is a student from Modrič who came to Novi Sad in October, to study, and he had been introduced with the title Novi Sad held even before that.
“Last summer, within the project called Gatherings of Young People of Republika Srpska, I heard about OPENS and the fact that Novi Sad, which was not that far away from me, had won the prestigious title for the first time. Representatives of OPENS came to my city then and presented us the activities they implemented, and I remember that it was then that I wanted my city to get that prestigious title. Now I study here, in Novi Sad, and I am proud of everything it is. I think that any initiative which moves young people is very important for every city and country, especially when we talk about Serbia. It is important for young people to find their role in the society and to be the initiators of changes”, Bojan says.
In a similar way, Vojin Jagličić, a student in Paris, heard about Novi Sad – European Youth Capital and OPENS.
“I was in Paris at the moment when OPENS was presenting its activities. It was a pleasant and heart-warming meeting full of mutual understanding. Upon the invitation of OPENS, I came to Novi Sad during summer, and I am looking forward to a mutual project soon”, Vojin adds.
Twenty-one-year-old Bernardo Ribeiro Barela comes from Portuguese city of Cascais. Cascais was European Youth Capital for the year of 2018 and it is city from which Novi Sad has taken over the title. He met the team of OPENS and Novi Sad during the youth exchange.
“It was an amazing experience which has enabled me to meet new culture, new country and to make friendships which would last for life. Different countries have different problems and experiences, and with OPENS, I learned how to understand other people and use opportunities which are given to young people. After such an experience, I knew I would come back sooner or later, so I visited Novi Sad and friends I have here during summer, and would happily come back to it”, Bernardo says.
With Bernardo, Novi Sad was also visited for the first time by twenty-six-year-old Catia Sofia Godinho da Cunha, also from Cascais. That was the first time for her to leave the country, on a trip which was exotic for her.
“That was the first time I did something like that – went to a country about which I know nothing with people who I met then. But I felt such a warm welcome. We learned about human rights and OPENS opened the door to new experiences”, Catia adds.
Through the OPENS project, youth organisations and organisations for young people got the chance to constantly and sustainably finance programs and projects for a longer period of time (three years), the opportunity to employ young people who will implement such programs but what is very important, opportunities for additional trainings and empowerment of organisations and members of teams themselves (through OPENS fundraising congress FundCon or through additional trainings for 42 partnering organizations of OPENS).
The story of twenty-five-year-old Bojana Kvrgović is similar.
“I am just one of several hundreds of young people in Novi Sad who have found their place in a lovely city which holds the prestigious title of European Youth Capital this year. I have been living an average student life, I was just a bit more active than my peers. My main goal as a student was to finish the faculty. As the time has been passing by, I realised that things are not learned at the faculty only but that you can improve and invest in yourself every day in every life situation, so I started volunteering and then working at OPENS”, Bojana says.
The year behind us is a record-breaking year according to successes and moments which are not measurable by numbers only. Still, in the last 365 days, there were 1,440 activities through which we met more than 291,440 young people from all around Serbia. More than that, for the execution of 46 OPENS projects with 42 partnering organisations, 147 young people have been employed this year, with those occasionally engaged as experts.
After the year of 2019, nothing in Novi Sad will be the same. Not because we now count more festivals or better programs. Not because we have organised events which have attracted, made young people interested and included thousands of them. But simply because the system, mechanisms of decision-making, awareness of the significance of changes and even laws have changed during this year.