Written by Tatjana Srceva
MAAA success stories are uncountable and at the same time very inspiring. The MAAA alumni network is not only large in number but also, very proactive and engaged in many community, professional and charitable activities, even in extraordinary times, such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic crisis. In this issue of the MAAA newsletter we are presenting the most recent stories shared by a few exceptional ladies and a gentleman, all of them MAAA alumni, who, during the beginning phases and the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, have been exceptionally productive and proactive in helping the society in different segments.
The pandemic has changed our lives dramatically. Moreover, it has imposed new, stricter procedures of behavior and conduct, new work ethics, list of rules for interaction and socializing, which meant that people had to put their old lives on hold and adjust to the ‘new normal’ fast and in the best way possible. Following the initiative of the US Embassy in the Republic of North Macedonia, as well as the Macedonian-American Alumni Association, a lot of members of the alumni network took part in the initiative to share their recent activities and projects linked to the pandemics and mostly done online. In that manner, they demonstrated ideas and ways that could facilitate people’s lives during the pandemic and most likely, in the post-pandemic period. Not only did many alumni show their active participation and involvement in this initiative, but they also proved how one can be involved whole-heartedly in helping their local and global communities during the COVID-19 crisis through practical activities, advice, and support. This article underlines several of the stories of our alumni members who were actively engaged in promoting projects and activities during the pandemic crisis.
For instance, our alumnus, Mr. Mite Kuzevski, the founder of Види Вака, a digital media startup which is a part of the Foundation for debate and education IDEA Southeast Europe, created video stories to inform and educate the citizens on COVID-19. The interactive video stories provide a full report on the current COVID-19 situation in Macedonia.
Another alumna, Ms. Dragana Gjoreska, who took part in the Fulbright Teaching Excellence & Achievement – Media Literacy Program, and is an English language teacher at the economics and law vocational school “Vasil Antevski- Dren” in Skopje, shared her experience from the USA on the National television – MTV1 weekly program “Nedelen magazin” (Daily magazine), where she talked about her experience with the Fulbright TEA Program, as well as the interesting project that she is currently involved in entitled “Balkanska zbornica”. The idea came from the desire to take active part in the global network of teachers – “Balkanska Mreza Tokom Pandemije” (Balkan’s Network During Pandemic) and share materials and knowledge and support each other in these difficult days. This has led to the establishment of the EduBalkan community, which connects fellow teachers from the Western Balkan region who have interesting ideas, projects and novelties to offer.
Another interesting story was shared by Ms. Nina Nikolic, a YTILI Alumna, who is currently working as a SwissEP Program Officer and is a Startup Macedonia co-founder as well as Womenpreneurs Balkan leader and initiator. Ms Nikolic makes efforts to gather the right people for further development of the ecosystem due to the current crisis, which is one of the latest projects she works on. With the @StartupMacedonia team, they have managed to mobilize the #MKstartups and ICT community to launch techpack.mk in order to help traditional SMEs, that are affected by the crisis the most, to stay in business and digitalize their operations.
Another successful story that Ms Nikolic has been working on is the initiative entitled @Womenpreneurs Stories – an initiative meant to celebrate inspiring women in business and on leadership positions, which, in two years, grew into a structured 5-day bootcamp for female founders. Ms Nikolic and the team from CEED Hub Skopje tested a concept she had had in mind for a long period of time, which is uniting all Balkan countries and creating links for collaboration.
Ms Besa Arifi is an Associate Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology, as well as a Pro-Rector for Research and International Relations at South East European University, and a SUSI alumna. She talked about the online classes at their university. Following the Government measures related to the Covid19 pandemic and the state of emergency in North Macedonia, the South East European University switched to online teaching immediately after the measures were proclaimed. During this time, Ms Arifi has been actively involved in online teaching through the Google Classroom software, she was conducting weekly lectures, midterm and final exams, defense of Master theses or PhD dissertations 100% online. The online education, according to Ms Arifi, was very beneficial for the students, since some of them managed to complete different levels of their educational background in spite of the world pandemic.
One more story was shared by the IVLP alumna, Ms Snezana Dimitrova Saramandova, a project manager at Apollonia Foundation. She said that she felt even more empowered to work harder the moment the COVID-19 blocked everything. Together with the colleagues from the IVLP group, she began sharing new projects, ideas on how to help people in this situation, information on funding opportunities etc. through the Youtube channel. As an IVLP alumna, she was invited to talk about (link from her interview) the important work of the NGOs, their projects, collaboration with the Peace Corps, and share some information briefly on the challenges NGOs face during the pandemic regarding financial insecurity, and how the IVLP has brought different perspectives and tools for future work.