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On-the-ground The Balkans - Day 2 Serbia

This afternoon it was a joy to be welcomed by the amazing Collective Aid volunteers and their enthusiastic students at the Azadi Community Centre about 1km from the Obrenovac Camp.

In the middle of town, and with local people living in flats above, Azadi opens daily with a mix of language lessons (English, French and German), practical skills and activities (theatre, art, yoga).

Coming into the Centre I was greeted by a small, welcoming reception, then there are two teaching spaces and an activity room, all off to the left. Normally about 30-40 people would come to Azadi daily, but during Ramadan this is understandably halved and lessons have been pushed back an hour to accommodate the change in daily routine too. Even so, it felt busy in the space. And whilst I was chatting to volunteers T and Timo in reception, all we could hear was laughter filling the Centre from the Drama activity Romane and Natalie were running two rooms away!

The team introduced an activity called European Culture which has since been updated to Cultural Exchange and I was keen to join in last thing in the day. Cecile and Djordje were leading and chose to discuss the pros and cons of societies built on I or We (Individualism and Collectivism). Despite a relatively challenging topic, and so many different languages, a lively and considered debate took place that was so interesting to be part of! It made me reflect a bit about Brexit and the causes of divide in our own country...

Azadi is a trial which appears to be a big success. So the next challenge will be to find, and pay for, bigger premises. Definitely a project we’d be proud to support (and we’ll need your help when the time comes). They really want to involve the local community more and are exploring the best ways to do this too.

So here’s some photos from Azadi yesterday. A beautiful project with beautiful international students and teachers! Love and laughter.

Volunteer Cecile teaching Introductory English

Volunteer Cecile teaching Introductory English

Volunteer Djordje teaching Advanced English

Volunteer Djordje teaching Advanced English

Volunteers Natalie and Romane with their Drama activity students - who never stopped laughing!

Volunteers Natalie and Romane with their Drama activity students - who never stopped laughing!

Cecile and Timo kicking off the Practical Skills session, today making a solar system

Cecile and Timo kicking off the Practical Skills session, today making a solar system

The weekly schedule of lessons and activities in reception

The weekly schedule of lessons and activities in reception

Natalie on reception registering some keen new students

Natalie on reception registering some keen new students

A gift for Azadi beautifully crafted by a young man in camp

A gift for Azadi beautifully crafted by a young man in camp

The Wall of Hope is T’s favourite part of the Centre. An idea the guys from camp came up with and is in pride of place in the Activity Room

The Wall of Hope is T’s favourite part of the Centre. An idea the guys from camp came up with and is in pride of place in the Activity Room

Artwork is displayed everywhere and this is in the open classroom - a big mix of styles and skills

Artwork is displayed everywhere and this is in the open classroom - a big mix of styles and skills

You’d hardly know it was here! Street view

You’d hardly know it was here! Street view