Since its inception in 2012 and with two cohorts (2012-2014, 2014-2019) of participants that passed through it, the Roots Peace Work Institute (PWI) sought to enroll young leaders of different backgrounds from across Europe, young people who were and are a voice and not an echo – eager to learn, to try, to grow… Like raw diamonds to shine after the grind.
And we believe that most of these 46 Alumni managed to develop both personally and professionally as they journeyed through PWI.
Today we share with you the story of Helena Hajkova, a strong young woman from Slovakia.
“My study of Technology of Education specialized in School Management was full of diverse and interesting subjects, yet too shallow. A little bit of everything but not enough of anything. Anyway, I tried to get the best of it, even gaining my first international experience during exchange semesters”, says Helena.
After 5 years of studying theories of didactics, psychology, pedagogy, personal management, school law, informatics, cybernetics, etc, Helena realized she was not ready to start to work and needed to learn more. She got accepted to a volunteering project in Montevideo in Uruguay and fell in love with the country.
So… planned one year turned into three. She returned empowered by the extraordinary experience, by practical social work in a very poor neighborhood and decided to do the same in her hometown.
“At this point, the local YMCA found me and recruited me to be their project coordinator which was exactly what I was looking for. We managed to bring tens of volunteers from many countries to work with the underprivileged children in local community centers and personally. I was lucky to share the time with them, listening to their stories, playing and studying together. This is how I got involved with Roots.
With my colleagues, we started to look for new ways to lower the gap between local youth and those from disadvantaged backgrounds and how to connect these groups of young people. The Roots for Reconciliation’s Peace work institute project was perfect for me in that sense. It was full of reconciliation strategies,” shares Helena.
Helena was an amazing and very active participant, always ready to contribute. She joined Roots in 2017 for the second cohort of the Peacework Institute. During that period she got pregnant and now has a wonderful daughter.
“Being part of Roots’ training courses taught me a lot about peace, how fragile it is. The most valuable impact on me was surely the people I met there. Not only the amazing lecturers but also each and every one of the participants.
From now on I personally know people who have suffered, still suffer, and will suffer the atrocities of war. Suddenly, the conflicts have faces, stories are full of important details, which are neither black nor white. Just real. And it is enough if you know just one story, the rest of them are equally bad. I will recommend this course to every young person, as I see Roots as the future of the YMCA,” Helena says.
Since 2007 and ever growing, from the South to the North, from the East to the West of Europe – the Roots has always been there for those striving to make this world a better and safer place, a peaceful home for all. We go where the need is, responding quickly to the emerging issues with the legacy and mandate, capacity and adaptability gained for all these years.
By donating to the Roots, you invest in youth opinion leaders from all corners of Europe – varied by age, ethnicity, religion, race or wealth, but united with one strong conviction – Peace is the only way!