This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

Rachel Galloway

British Ambassador to Macedonia

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

20th December 2018 Skopje, North Macedonia

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much

I spend much of my time in meetings in offices with people who are involved in politics in Macedonia, or who work on research in civil society, organise public debates, draft legislation, or advise on official strategies. More rarely do I get to meet the every-day youth of Macedonia. So I was thrilled when a few weeks ago my work in supporting one of our programmes took me outside of Skopje to an elementary school in the village of Ljubin within Saraj municipality.

It was a good drive on a Friday morning with the sunny weather accompanying us on the road as my colleagues and I headed to Ljubin.  Upon arrival in the village of Ljubin we were welcomed with warm hospitality at the school by the mayor and the local people who had been involved with our programme. Pupils in traditional Bosniac clothes welcomed us with broad smiles and delicious “rahat lokum.”

The young people showed me the library in the elementary school, renovated as part of the programme we support on youth engagement with the International Organisation for Migration. The renovation of the library is a continuation of the work the young people from Ljubin did last year in renovation of the school playground.

This was an amazing group of committed and enthusiastic young people who have worked tremendously hard. Their innovation and creativity should be praised. When I asked them what motivated them to come up with this project their answer was unanimous; They were all young people from Ljubin who have been to school there and needed a library as a common place where they could borrow books, meet and chat, and use laptop, printer and internet when they need to complete school assignments or simply expand their knowledge.

By having more “rooms of their own”, the young people no matter their background could spend time together, cultivate their sense of belonging within the community, and get to know each other better. Many of the young people told me how, before engaging in the programme, they had harboured bias or prejudice about the others and that this engagement had helped them overcome this.

We regularly hear depressing news in Macedonia about young people seeing their future abroad, lacking prospects in Macedonia and feeling disillusioned. Seeing this group of young people coming together as a group to develop an idea and then see it through to fruition was very motivating for me. Sitting in the library listening to their experiences, I could directly see the benefit of our programme and a reminder that any young person can thrive if we encourage them and give them the tools and the space.

For programmes like this to truly come to life from dry project documents and live on, there needs to be engagement from all sides. I am thankful that we have found partners in the International Organisation for Migration, the municipality of Saraj, and our excellent community liaison points in Ljubin, Afrim and Merima, for their work with the young people. Community is about cooperation and about standing together for what matters. That is why we need to work together, or as Helen Keller said “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”