Juveniles use art to produce bean bags and contribute to their community

A group at the Correctional Educational Center in Lipjan got together to create something new

A group at the Correctional Educational Center in Lipjan got together to create something new
Bean bags
26 October 2021

September 2021 - In 2019, UNICEF Kosovo extended its programs to Juvenile Correctional Educational Centers in Kosovo, through an agreement with the Ministry of Justice. This was done in order to support inclusion of these young people and ensure they have an opportunity for re-socialization after serving their sentence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed this goal. In the second half of 2020, an UPSHIFT workshop was implemented in the Correctional Center in Lipjan. This time young juveniles created various projects to support the common good of the community.

The UPSHIFT methodology combines some of the leading approaches to youth and adolescent development, social innovation, and entrepreneurship, to empower marginalized youth and adolescents to become social innovators and entrepreneurs. Through experiential learning, the youth and adolescents understand community challenges and design and build impactful solutions in the form of products or services.

One group of young people thought of something out of the box. When everyone else was only thinking about pandemic challenges, this group had quite a different idea: they thought about how they could use art to build recreational environments. These five young people decided to make bean bags through art.

Bean bags in the making

Endrit*, the mastermind and leader of the team, who has by now already completed his sentence and is considering how to use his experience with UPSHIFT to reintegrate himself into society, told us about how he came up with the idea for the project Art n 'Thes (Art in a Bag).

"We had seen that there is a lack of recreational equipment in the Correctional Center, and we decided to look for a solution to this. First, for our own needs within the institution, and then for other spaces that are visited by young people.”

This initial idea was then honed during the UPSHIFT workshop, which was held online in order to protect young people from COVID-19 and comply with COVID-19 measures. Endrit’s team was mentored by Shpendim Sadiku.

"My role as a mentor within the institution during the UPSHIFT workshop was to initially help in identifying a problem that concerned young people in the Correctional Educational Center in Lipjan, and then together we concentrated on finding a creative solution to the problem in question", Shpendim said. “The key objectives of the Art n'Thes project were gaining skills in tailoring, the production of bean bags, creating recreational corners and engaging in community service,” Shpendim said.

Endrit said that his team produced 48 beanbags throughout the project.

"We donated 38 to other institutions, including the pediatrics corner at the Main Family Health Center, the city library, the center for social work, the Autism Center and many other institutions in Lipjan", he said. "The benefits to us have been enormous. Initially, during the online workshop, we gained knowledge about online programs and applications, and then the group work helped us a lot, as well as the experience in tailoring, community service and the realization of the recreation corner for our reading, painting, singing and relaxation needs."

Endrit is convinced that he will use these skills as he reintegrates into society.

"It has helped me a lot in terms of socializing, and the group work and sharing of responsibilities has been very useful for us. In addition to socialization, we have also benefited from professional training in tailoring and logo printing", he said.

ADA visit

In total, ten groups of young people within the facility were involved in the workshop where they presented their ideas. Four of these groups received financial support of €1,000.00.

Shpendim said the new recreational corner in the institution has helped a lot of young people spend time more positively.

UNICEF and ADA visit

The empowerment and acquisition of 21st century skills to support employability and the transition to employment, remains one of UNICEF’s priorities not only in Kosovo but around the world. UPSHIFT is a program that provides direct seed funds, in addition to training, for young people who want to become catalysts and active actors of change within their communities. UPSHIFT has become something of an export product, as it was first developed in Kosovo and is today being implemented already in in 35 countries around the world.

With the help of UNICEF and thanks to the generous funding from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) that has supported the programme since the onset, it will be much easier for Endrit* to reintegrate into society, to re-socialize and to use his skills for employment outside the Correctional Educational Center.