Afërdita Sylaj Shehu and Nemanja Nestorović are jointly running an NGO Community Building Mitrovica (CBM), operating in Mitrovica region whose mission is to contribute towards peace. They come from Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities, living in a divided city of Mitrovica.
Living in Kosovo’s everchanging developments, the unstable political situation that dictates the normal life of the citizens can be somewhat amplified in a place divided only by the bridge, which unfortunately still serves as a dividing point.
CBM through its work wants to bridge the divide between communities, bring people together, enable the space for communities’ dialogue, addressing pressing needs. In our storytelling event, we invited Aferdita and Nemanja to share their stories reflecting on their important work together.
Asked how he felt when he joined CBM, Nemanja said that the environment was healthy, easy-going, and hard-working, which debunked his prejudice in the back of his mind of one NGO consisting of multiethnic staff.
“I always felt comfortable. I realized that CBM consisted of hard-working community members, who believed in changes in the city the same as I did.”
Reflecting on the personal feeling and the pressure from the surroundings, Afërdita shared that it wasn’t always easy as the times were more challenging, and the division was more present than ever. “Unstable situation affects us all, and our work in CBM too. But not only the work, but also our personal happenings. When I celebrated my wedding, I invited all my colleagues, but that brings the question of whether everyone would feel comfortable from my Serbian colleagues. That just shows the situation we live in, that even happy occasions are thought twice. I am happy that my colleagues were there and celebrated an important day for me, and we all had fun.”
In an outdoor space, 30 guests enjoyed listening to Afërdita and Nemanja. When asked about the relations outside of the work, are Nemanja and Afërdita friends, Nemanja replied: “Of course! We spend most of the time together during the day, more than the time we spend with our family, and I can say that CBM is in a way, my second family. We share all happy and sad moments. Our morning starts with joint coffee, over laugh, talking about hot topics, and the workday is off to a good start”.
Afërdita shared the same feelings as Nemanja and added that “The cooperation and friendships are possible and are happening, as Nemanja and myself are serving as a good example. I am also happy to see that the cooperation among communities is better nowadays. The bridge is used more frequently by the people from one side to the other, visiting shops, going to work, and I am happy that I am part of and contributing to that change.”
The evening ended with questions from the audience who wanted to know more about their work and funny anecdotes from Afërdita and Nemanja’s joint work.
#RCT storytelling activity is an ongoing initiative, with the goal to enable space for generating positive reconciliation messages from an individual level to the wider audience in Kosovo. The activity is gathering individuals who share positive reconciliation examples, thus inspiring a wider audience for connection with neighboring but still divided communities. These stories will be shared with media outlets on the local and national levels, to further reach out to the wider audience and reinforced positive healing and reconciling messages through media and citizen-centered reporting, focusing on shared values and trust-building.