IRC Youth Center Opens in Pristina
The opening marks the culmination of a network of youth centers the IRC has established throughout Kosovo. Since November 1999, the IRC has been operating youth centers in Prizren and Gnjilane and in March, a center opened in Pec. The new center in Pristina was funded by UNICEF, United Hebrew Congregations and UNESCO.
Christine Ash, IRC Pristina youth center manager, was surprised by the tremendous show of interest and support. "Clearly, the youth center is already a big success in the community," she said. "The facilities are in place, programming will begin this week, but based on youth interest so far, all of that will be icing on the cake."
The programs and facilities are likely to make the center even more popular.IRC Youth Center in Prishtina
Centrally located in the heart of the capitol, the center will be the largest in Kosovo. It has a large common room equipped with a stereo, television, and library, a computer lab of 30 computers, 24 hour Internet access, counseling and meeting rooms, and use of the theater and performing arts facilities next door.
The center will provide sports and recreation activities and offer classes in fine arts, performing arts, and music. Computer training, Internet access and the development of a Pristina youth center website are set to begin, as are language classes in English, French, Spanish and German.
The Pristina center, like all IRC youth centers, will conduct satellite and outreach programs to surrounding rural communities, and encourage the participation of youth from every ethnic and minority group.
By helping youth face life challenges, and particularly Kosovar youth coping with life in the aftermath of war, the goal of the IRC youth centers is to provide safe havens and to cultivate an environment in which the qualities of tolerance, respect, safety and stability thrive.
Christine Ash also expects the center to become a resource for all formal and informal youth groups in the area. "The youth center," she explains, "builds upon the tremendous personal assets of adolescents and youth. And when we reinforce the positive side of things, through programs and activities, youth really thrive."Building the Personal Assets of Kosovar Youth
Building self-esteem, teaching leadership skills, providing support and encouragement, and training in essential life-skills, the IRC youth centers also strive to help Kosovar youth build a better future. Apprenticeship programs with local businesses and organizations provide important opportunities for youth. For example, local radio stations, television, and newspapers offer training programs and have given youth their own programming time. Small businesses, restaurants, construction and engineering companies, and others help youth build skills and learn trades.IRC Youth Centers as Focal Points
The centers also serve as focal points for other community initiated activities, such as sports events, cultural festivals, social services and school curricula. As the centers develop, the IRC will expand its computer capacity, not only offering Internet access and email but also video conferencing as part of a Balkan-wide youth center network.