By Venera Hajrullahu

“Twenty years ago it was a simple story of survival. One of bettering the country found in ashes. Ten years ago it became one of hell of a simple story of challenges to build life. Of the people who stay. Of young uncompromising love that grows and spurs growth. Of bigger plans and grander enthusiasm. Of ideals and of friends who fuel all that.”

The need for having an empowered civil society sector and for civic activism was recognized long before the war, giving birth to what would soon become the Kosovar Civil Society Foundation that we know today. The postwar period brought new hope, but also a myriad of new challenges. Multiple transitions were happening simultaneously, making the lack of capacities and the inability to absorb support all the more apparent.

People needed to be aware of their role in the public sphere. Civil society organizations needed guiding principles and operational help. Institutions needed assistance in many areas. All of us were given a one of a kind opportunity of building a new country and setting up new mechanisms in place. With each step of the ladder that we climb, we realize there’s still a long way to go.

Even today, our stage is one of uncertainties, set to a background of a shrinking civic space in Europe, while we try to bring the EU spirit to Kosovo and set an example in regional cooperation. Bringing change to systems and processes requires consistency and persistency. And I can proudly say that we have persevered.

When we commit, we deliver. We went all the way to the Constitutional Court just to prove that state institutions can be challenged in a democracy. We made sure that the government is obliged to hear out its citizens before new laws or policies are adopted. We educated thousands of decision—makers on what the EU is and how its values translate to our state—building process.

Before we were able to function normally, just as the democracies that we aspire to, we realized we needed to make Kosovo better.

And where to start if not our own backyard? We wanted to lead by example. Through good times and bad, transparency and independence have been our beacons of light. It was so humbling to read all the kind words of 20 remarkable people who see us as an ex- ample of professionalism and integrity. I love what those 20 stories tell about our work, but I have to point out why it works the way it does. It’s not my quote, but it has become my mantra: “Nobody is perfect, but a team can be.”

KCSF’s reality is even more beautiful than words can say. We not only complement each other perfectly, but this relation has also allowed us to empower one another. We were able to grow together through a shared vision.

We have each given a lot and received a lot from one another, but all of us have given everything to the organization. We have treated the organization as an institution, one that was of the utmost necessity for Kosovo. This allowed it to grow a life of its own, to the point where it started surpassing us as individuals.

This internal richness of ambition, dedication and talent within KCSF stands in stark contrast with increasing civic apathy in Kosovo. That is why I am compelled to point out that even against what seems as insurmountable challenges, the possibilities to contribute to our country and our society are far greater. But to be able to do this, believing in change is essential.

Ours is a simple story of people who believe in what they do. No project was ever a “project” at KCSF, it was always a way to change our country and our lives. Our contribution may be just a small drop in the much larger sea of needs, but we truly believe that if everyone is doing their share, we will all be doing a bit better.

Our full story can be read HERE