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Miladinka Mijatović on Her Traineeship Experience

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This sum­mer, …IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA was a part of the Trans2Work Project pro­vid­ing youth with dis­abil­i­ties from Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina, Mon­tene­gro and Ser­bia with trainee­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties. This project, sup­port­ed by the Eras­mus + Pro­gram as well, aims at increas­ing employ­a­bil­i­ty of young peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties upon fin­ish­ing their uni­ver­si­ty stud­ies. It is a sequel to some oth­er sim­i­lar projects pre­vi­ous­ly imple­ment­ed in Greece, Mace­do­nia and Slove­nia, too. The Trans2Work Project is a coop­er­a­tion plat­form for 23 uni­ver­si­ties, oth­er insti­tu­tions and orga­ni­za­tions from the Balka­ns will­ing to engage in voca­tion­al train­ing of future young pro­fes­sion­als by pro­vid­ing them with trainee­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties dur­ing their stud­ies.

Last July, fol­low­ing a coop­er­a­tion offer from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Novi Sad, …IZ KRUGAVOJDOVINA became a two-month trainee­ship host to Miladin­ka Mija­tović, a future social work­er. Miladin­ka is from Bijelji­na, Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina, and a senior at the Fac­ul­ty of Polit­i­cal Stud­ies with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ban­ja Luka. Thanks to a one-month intern­ship dur­ing her sopho­more year, she has already had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence work­ing with social­ly vul­ner­a­ble groups in the local Wel­fare Cen­ter in Bijelji­na. Her stay in Novi Sad, how­ev­er, was her first pro­fes­sion­al and, as she put it, trainee­ship for life:

This trainee­ship was my first oppor­tu­ni­ty ever to live and work in anoth­er coun­try for a longer time. More­over, with col­leagues I’d met only on my first day at the office,’ replies Miladin­ka to the ques­tion about her rea­sons to apply for the Trans2Work Project. ‘It was also my chance to gain a new, in my opin­ion very impor­tant, expe­ri­ence. A chance to meet peo­ple, to make new friends.’

Her expe­ri­ence in the wel­fare cen­ter taught Miladin­ka that its staff must work with every­one who comes through its doors: fam­i­lies, chil­dren, women, the poor, old and ill. The focus is on imple­ment­ing reg­u­la­tions and var­i­ous pro­ceed­ings in order to pro­vide all who address the cen­ter with sup­port they are legal­ly enti­tled to. She chose …IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA because she liked the fact that it pro­vides spe­cial­ized sup­port ser­vices for women with dis­abil­i­ties, such that would oth­er­wise be bare­ly avail­able to them. Her two-month stay in Novi Sad, where she also vis­it­ed oth­er orga­ni­za­tions work­ing with social­ly deprived groups, helped Miladin­ka under­stand that rights of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties was what she would like to be most involved with in the future:

The approach of the wel­fare cen­ters, insti­tu­tions is such that per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties are most often per­ceived as ill. It also makes them some­how invis­i­ble. They blend into the crowd, so peo­ple think they need noth­ing more than ortho­pe­dic aids and med­i­cines. My room­mate in the stu­dents’ dorm is a girl with a dis­abil­i­ty using a scoot­er. Until I had met her, I had no idea, for instance, where and how grave the obsta­cles to wheel­chair users or per­sons hav­ing trou­ble walk­ing were. Liv­ing with them makes you think. It makes you wish to do some­thing to change things for the bet­ter.’

Besides her col­leagues’ men­tor­ship, anoth­er par­tic­u­lar thing that Miladin­ka liked dur­ing her trainee­ship was access to the library of the orga­ni­za­tion. Still, her most pre­cious expe­ri­ence was that of being involved in project activ­i­ties of …IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA:

I expect­ed to come to a place where women would get togeth­er and just social­ize, the way they do in most dis­abled per­sons’ asso­ci­a­tions. I was sur­prised to see the excep­tion­al, not every­day top­ics and activ­i­ties of your orga­ni­za­tion. It seems to me that issues con­cern­ing vio­lence against women with dis­abil­i­ties, their sex­u­al­i­ty and repro­duc­tive health, along with indi­vid­ual psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port to them, are rare and not com­mon in the work of asso­ci­a­tions of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. Then the focus groups! We have learnt about them at the uni­ver­si­ty, but here I’ve had a chance to par­tic­i­pate in their orga­ni­za­tion and to see them “live”. The entire expe­ri­ence over here has def­i­nite­ly sur­passed my expec­ta­tions.’

Asked about her most val­ued expe­ri­ence dur­ing her trainee­ship in …IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA, Miladin­ka points out the pos­i­tive, sup­port­ive atmos­phere at the office and feel­ing like a team mem­ber:

What­ev­er I want­ed to ask, to know, it was right here, with­in my reach. And I don’t mean only books, but col­leagues as well. You took me every­where, side by side, to oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, to see how the sys­tem works. I’ve learnt much more than I thought I would, and not only about work­ing with per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. I ‘ve learnt how an orga­ni­za­tion func­tions. I sim­ply real­ized that this is where I see myself and that I could do pre­cise­ly the things you are doing, deal­ing with the same issues.’

This week, Miladin­ka is, and accord­ing to her own account, end­ing her trainee­ship addi­tion­al­ly moti­vat­ed to fin­ish her stud­ies as soon as pos­si­ble. Her grad­u­a­tion paper top­ic will be an issue she has been deal­ing with this sum­mer. Anoth­er year of stud­ies is before her and she hopes to reach her goals: fin­ish her stud­ies in due time and find a job to work with per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. Judg­ing from the last two months of coop­er­a­tion with Miladin­ka, her col­leagues from …IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA are con­vinced she will, most cer­tain­ly, do it all.

Writ­ten and trans­lat­ed from Ser­bian by Anki­ca Dra­gin

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