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Through Volunteering We Can Make a Better Future! - An Interview Alexis Steig

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Alexis, tell me something about you… Where are you from, how old are you etc.?
My name is Alexis Steig, I'm from the United States (Michigan), and I am 23 years old.
I really enjoy spending time talking to and learning from people! That was one of the most exciting things about coming here, for me. I wanted to meet new people and experience the culture.
Why did you decide to volunteer in Serbia?
I was actually chosen by my country coordinator to come to Serbia, based on my work experience, interests, and personality. I think it was a great decision, as I think Novi Sad is the perfect fit for me! I have been here since September and will leave at the end of June. (About 10 months here).
What is the name of your organization in America? Can you tell me something about it?
The name of the organization is ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) which is in good cooperation with EHO for many years. ELCA sends volunteers to Serbia every year.
You are here about 7 months. How do you feel about your family and friends, do you miss them, and do they miss you?
Yeah, I do miss my friends and parents, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be. I haven’t been homesick at all, but it is probably due to the fact that I can contact my family and friends easily. I try to Face time my parents once every 2 weeks, and I have contact with my other YAGM friends, which is very helpful.
In America, a lot of young people have a “gap year”. Is your experience of volunteering similar to that?
Year-off: YAGM can be used as a ‘gap year’, and many of my fellow YAGM colleagues are doing this. They just graduated college before they did the program, but I have been in the workforce for about 3 years now, so it wasn’t a gap year for me.
Could you describe your daily obligation in our organization?
Every week, I have 2 English classes (1 for beginners, 1 for conversation) as well as tutoring several EHO colleagues individually. Twice a week, I volunteer at the Svratište za decu, and on Fridays I help at the Kid's Corner program at the Američki Kutak. I try to branch out into other projects, such as visiting the refugee camps in Sombor and Subotica when I can. I also proofread EHO reports (in English) when it is requested of me.
What do you like to do, and what you don’t like to do?
I like my friendships with my colleagues at EHO, and always enjoy spending time in the office and chatting. I also LOVE the food and Novi Sad in general.
What i like to do at EHO: I enjoy proofreading, working at Svratište, joking around with my EHO colleagues, and tutoring English! All of my tasks are fun for me.
As for dislikes, it is upsetting to see the poor treatment and situations of the Roma people in Serbia - specifically the kids I work with at Svratište.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend a lot of time reading (I just finished “Poisonwood Bible” and “Zlata’s Diary”), exploring. Novi Sad, and having coffee with friends here in Serbia.
What is your favorite place where do you like to drink a coffee and relax?
My favorite coffee place is Frida Kahlo café - very cozy atmosphere, tiny, and warm-feeling.
How is your Serbian?
I know the very basics and can navigate conversations fairly well, but I still have a long way to go. I think I am scared to mess up. I do love Serbian, it’s a beautiful language.
What do you think about Serbian people and their knowledge of English?
I am so impressed by the Serbian/Hungarian people I have met and their language abilities. Almost everyone knows at least 2 languages, which is not very common in the U.S as English is obviously the dominant language. It is intimidating, but enlightening.
How did volunteering influence you, especially now when we talk about Serbia?
I am especially encouraged to see so many young people volunteering in Serbia when they are not working or in faculty. Serbia, like many other countries, needs people who are willing to be the hands and feet of Christ - whatever that looks like!
I love my work at EHO because it gives me the chance to do that. It allows me to build relationships with some incredible people and to learn from them. That is my ultimate goal.
What is your general opinion about volunteering?
I think every person should volunteer at least once in their lives. I have been volunteering in many different ways since I was in high school, and love to help/serve others in any way I can. I think it's up to us who are able to take care of those who have less, to serve our fellow humans, and take care of the planet we live on. I believe that, through volunteering, we can make a better future.
And finally, what is your message for young people?
I know that volunteering is much more time consuming and it’s a sacrifice for young people... especially when you have a lot of college work to do, when you have a job, when you’re trying to make money... but the experience that you get from volunteering is so much more valuable. It’s practical, life experience. And it’s just it’s worth it to know that you’re serving someone that might be worse off than you. You’re improving conditions in some way and it’s just good for your soul!

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