Teodora, 6 years old, wants to be a ballerina, and Liridon, 11 years old would like to become a cameraman. They both have dreams and they both took part in the workshop organised in Mitrovica by GAIA Kosovo during November and December 2019. The project involved young children and teenagers (from 3 to 14 years old) in creating tea bags that were later disposed for free all around the city.
The idea to organize such workshops came to us this summer, during the workcamp that we organized about street-art. We welcomed foreign and local volunteers with home-made seeds bags and tea bags and thought it was a nice idea. Too often, we tend to forget that nature is here, around us. Offering bags containing our own garden seeds and natural tea is a nice way to make you think about your relationship with nature, and to show how easy it is to make useful gifts, without expecting anything in return.
Behind the project also lies the willingness to acknowledge that people are just the same on the other side of the city in the eyes of the children. Mitrovica is not a typical city. Since the war, it is divided into two parts, a South mainly inhabited by ethnic Albanians and a North mostly inhabited by ethnic Serbs. Where it used to be a very mixed city, now interactions between the two parts are too rare, and some of the youth never crossed the river to visit the other side, let alone did they meet someone from the community they still consider as “rival”.
Since GAIA started its program in September 2018, it seeks to create safe spaces for people from every community to meet and communicate. Involving children from both sides of the city came as an evidence to us, and we tried to find activities that would highlight what everyone has in common (no matter your age, community, sex, etc…). We named the action “We are all Dreamers!” after one specific task that we asked the children to realize: write on a small paper what their greatest desire is, and to put those messages inside the tea bags. Tea bags created in the south were displayed in the north, and vice-versa. For this reason, we translated all the messages in both Albanian and Serbian.
From sewing to filling the bags with tea, children and teenagers all contributed, showing great enthusiasm and surprising us with their dreams. We started the project with teenagers from Musa Hoti school. Their task was to sew the first tea bags. With the help of teachers and of the GAIA team, we managed to create around 80 bags. Children from Nonda Bulka school continued the work, filled the bags with tea and wrote messages. In the North, Miljana from the Gallery Akvarjius, helped us organize the workshop with younger children (from 3 to 10 years old). Some children expressed dreams about their own future, others wished that everyone on earth would be happy. Often, the desire to have one united city came up. We hung the tea bags in specific locations: Mitrovica Social Club, Gallery Akvarjius, the bus station and the main street in the north, the main bus stops in the south. Through this project, we tried to emphasize the importance of getting involved in the life of the city, we tried to foster contact between different communities (may it be an indirect contact) and to encourage altruism through the creation of “gifts” for people we don’t know.
What a nice surprise when on my way to the bus station in the north, the evening after we hung all the tea bags in the town, I discovered that all of them had already been taken, probably to some kitchen, ready to be brewed.
By Célia, volunteer in Gaia Kosovo.