15.03.2011
Alpa Rana
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Renewed passion for social policy - A visit to "Studiorum" in Macedonia

Alpa Rana from Rutland Citizens Advice bureau in the UK spent 14 days with Studiorum in Macedonia.

 

My main goal was to understand the aims and objectives of Studiorum. I was also very interested in their public health department and what effect their work had on citizens. I wanted to know what the difficulties and challenges the organisation faced and how they proposed to deal with them. In addition I wanted to learn how to confidently network and try to build lasting relationships and identify common areas of interest and possibilities for future co-operation.

One special event that I experienced during my exchange was a meeting with new Bosnian think tank. It was very informative as not only was I able to network, I was also able to learn about how to set up a think tank and get an insight into the challenges that think tanks face. It was also very informative to see the extent of partnership working and sharing of information. Unfortunately many of the meetings attended by my mentor were conducted in Macedonian therefore I was unable to experience this.

Public health was something I expressed an interest in before going to Macedonia because of the nature of my work and personal experiences. The host noted this and compiled information and was willing to discuss this at great length. The organisation was aware that there was a call for papers on migrants and ethnic minorities in Europe. We decided to try and co-write a paper on the challenges that ethnic minorities face in accessing the health care system. Therefore I read widely on the Macedonian health care system and the challenges. We were unable to complete the paper within the time frame required but I still hope to complete and publish it if we are able to.

My mentor, Neda, was very hands on and discussed ideas for the paper with me on several occasions. She also provided all of the relevant reading material. I was also lucky enough to share an office with Filip Gerovski and Kiril Jakimovski who were also part of the project and we spent quite a lot of time discussing Macedonia, the NGO system and comparing it with the UK.

All the members of Studiorum were very welcoming and took me out for meals and coffee several times. They were always happy to share and discuss the culture, history and aspirations of Macedonia. I was surprised to learn how similar the structure and processes were to the UK and this was very enlightening for me and allowed me to broaden my understanding of general civil society. I also learnt that as Macedonia is a small and developing nation they work in close partnership with other European countries over projects.

Sightseeing was difficult as at the end of the working day most of the tourist activities were closed. I was given the opportunity to do some sightseeing over the weekend which was very enjoyable.

I believe that I have achieved my short term goals as I achieved most of my objectives. I have gained valuable understanding on the possible benefits of consultancy and social enterprise as a way of tackling funding issues. I also hoped to develop my networking skills and have learnt that networks take many years to develop. Furthermore the mentoring experience has reminded me of the important role that non governmental organisations play in advocating the views of citizens in society. The whole experience has renewed my passion for social policy and I have already been more active in this element of my job.

 

by Alpa Rana
 

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