Finale and a new beginning

My heart and soul have been infused with love for a country and its people which I knew little to nothing about when I was chosen for this journey.

My fellow IWitness co-workers have filled you in on lots of details about the schools and places we visited. I would like to share with you what it is like to be an IWitness, in hopes that everyone reading this will be inspired to apply.

Meeting the staff at Save the Children Kosovo office and our morning briefing - by Melita Kabashi
Meeting the staff at Save the Children Kosovo office and our morning briefing – by Melita Kabashi

First of all is the excitement when you are told that you were selected. You begin to wonder, where will I go, what are all the things I must do before, during and after I’m there. If you have not traveled to a foreign country before, this will be an experience in itself. But do not despair; you’ll have an abundance of help along the way.

There’s getting a passport if you don’t already have one, getting your vaccinations or updates, and getting to know you fellow IWitness co-workers. There’s learning about your destination and the organization you will work with. There will be lots of emails and some conference calls so you will be briefed on customs of the country you will visit, culture, weather, proper attire, safety and precautions, transportation, hotel information.

Turkish Airlines - by Celeste Ledesma Gregory
Turkish Airlines – by Celeste Ledesma Gregory
Hotel Afa, Pristina Kosovo
Hotel Afa, Pristina Kosovo

IKEA Travel will make all the arrangements for you from flights to hotel reservations.
There is ALWAYS someone at IKEA to answer your questions. Then, of course, you’ll be emailing you fellow IWitness co-workers and learning about them when you are finally together. You will only need spending money for what you want to buy. You will receive your regular pay, and it starts when you leave your home for the airport. Of course you must take time out for lunch/dinner breaks and submit a time sheet. You must keep ALL receipts for items related to the trip, like transportation to/from your home airport, mileage if you drive, and parking fees or cabs, bus fares, etc.

The excitement never ends. You will probably laugh, cry and hug. You will eat foods you have never tasted before. You will see living conditions like you have never seen before. You will meet people whom you will fall in love with and work with a staff of amazing people in the country you are visiting with Save the Children, UNICEF or UNHCR. You will see children you wish you could take home. You see people whom you wish you could help more. You will never forget your journey or why you applied, and you will learn and feel “more” than you ever thought possible.

Roma family, at their home. Me holding their five-week-old baby boy - by Melita Kabashi, Save the Children
Roma family, at their home. Me holding their five-week-old baby boy – by Melita Kabashi, Save the Children

For my journey, it was a trip of a lifetime and I would love to go back to Kosovo in a minute, well maybe after a few days of sleep LOL. The staff at Save the Children in Kosovo, our IKEA Foundation mentor, Pina from Save the Children USA and my fellow IWitness Ambassadors were simply fabulous. It felt like I had known them all my life. The children and educators in Kosovo were warm and friendly. They were so glad to see us and have us visit their schools.

They were proud to show us what the children were learning and how much they appreciate the assistance received from the IKEA Foundation and Save the Children. They were so grateful that we took the time to visit them. We were in awe of all they had accomplished with little means.

My impressions would not be complete without the mention of the incredible feasts that we were treated to. Kosovars LOVE to eat and be merry, and for us they made no exception.

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I repeat: My heart and soul have been infused with love for a country and its people, the Republic of Kosovo.

English
    Sue Clemons