August 18, 2023 | Friday

Fostering Animation and Community Through Volunteerism

The Anibar International Animation Festival, the sole animation festival in Kosovo, once again opened its doors this summer, bringing together passionate animation creators and supporters. Over the years, the festival has evolved, contributing to the initiation and growth of Kosovo’s animation industry by promoting animation as both an art form and a medium to raise awareness about societal issues.

As one of the most significant cultural events in the country and a major gathering of the animation industry in the region, the festival boasts an extensive network of volunteers that have become emblematic of Anibar’s community. Over the years the festival was supported by the EU through different projects such as Promotion of cultural heritage in the region of Peja and Cultural Spaces of Kosovo. This year, the festival also welcomed the participation of Young European Ambassadors as part of their volunteering network. 

We had a conversation with Andrra Anadolli, a project manager at Anibar, about the festival’s culture of volunteerism and its broader impact on the community.

EH: How integral are volunteers to the sustainability and continued success of the festival?

AA: Volunteers are an integral part of hosting the festival. Their involvement spans across 17 different departments and encompasses around 100 activities throughout the festival week. These departments include media, technical production, education programs, cinema halls, special programs, and hospitality. This extensive engagement highlights how volunteers play an essential role in ensuring the sustainability and success of the festival. The collective efforts of volunteers within these departments made the successful organization of the festival possible.

EH: Can you describe a situation in which the festival faced challenges that were overcome with the help of volunteers?

AA: In 2016, the “Jusuf Gervalla” cinema hall in Peja encountered the challenge of privatization by the Kosovo Privatization Agency. In response, Anibar collaborated with festival volunteers to organize a petition aimed at halting this process. The petition garnered over 6,000 signatures.

Over the years, volunteers have consistently played a pivotal role in various festival departments, offering their unique contributions. Their commitment and assistance have extended beyond the petition, encompassing a range of activities that have significantly contributed to preserving the cinema hall’s cultural importance.

Thanks to the collective efforts of volunteers and the community, the Jusuf Gervalla Cinema Hall is now on the list of cultural heritage sites, and provides an active annual program of cultural activities that enhance the cultural offer of the city.

EH: Have volunteers introduced any innovations or improvements that have become standard practice for the festival?

AA: Festival volunteers have not only contributed their youthful energy and creativity but have also introduced creative ideas that are now standard practice.

One example involves the current festival director. She began her journey with the Anibar organization as a festival volunteer, showcasing exceptional organizational skills. She took the initiative to create detailed information sheets and to-do lists, outlining tasks and responsibilities. Her commitment to volunteer work ensured her steady rise within the festival team’s organizational ranks, effectively integrating her practices into the organization’s core.

The practice of maintaining well-organized and detailed documents has significantly enhanced communication between festival departments, ensuring accurate and effective sharing of essential information. Her story stands as a testament to how a volunteer’s dedication can shape operational procedures, benefiting everyone involved.

More recently, our volunteers have recognized the importance of enhanced communication and collaboration. They introduced the concept of conducting regular meetings during festival days, providing a platform for knowledge sharing, addressing challenges, and celebrating successes. This practice has evolved into a cherished tradition, fostering a sense of unity among volunteers and festival organizers. These meetings not only enhance teamwork but also provide a space for expressing opinions and solving problems.

EH: How has the spirit of volunteerism influenced the culture and ethos of the festival over the years?

AA: Since its inception, the Anibar International Animated Film Festival has thrived solely through volunteer efforts. For us, volunteer involvement extends beyond the festival itself; it naturally permeates the entire year within the Jusuf Gervalla Cinema Hall. Volunteers play a pivotal role, serving as a vital link connecting our organization, the community, and the festival’s vision.

Through the dedicated engagement of volunteers, we’ve nurtured a culture of commitment and cooperation. They also cultivate a sense of community, transforming our festival into not merely an artistic event, but also a dynamic platform for connection and exchange.

Conversely, volunteers derive manifold benefits from this commitment. Participation in orchestrating a substantial event provides them with opportunities to hone their management, collaboration, and communication skills. In return, they become part of a larger whole, directly contributing to the creation of a successful festival and influencing its ongoing enhancement year after year.

This collective effort brings the community and volunteers together in a symbiotic relationship. The community provides volunteers with a platform to influence and contribute to the cultural event of the festival, while volunteers, in return, give their efforts with a sense of involvement and commitment to their community.

EH: In what ways do you believe volunteer involvement enhances the festival’s reputation and credibility within the wider community?

AA: Volunteer involvement significantly enhances the festival’s reputation and credibility within the wider community, in a number of ways. Every year, a significant number of young individuals, approximately 80 volunteers aged 16-29, from various cities and municipalities throughout Kosovo, participate in our festival. Active engagement from a diverse group of volunteers creates a powerful synergy that resonates beyond the festival’s immediate scope.

First, the enthusiasm shown by these volunteers demonstrates how attractive the festival is to young people, reinforcing its importance and positioning it as an important cultural activity.

As these volunteers return to their respective communities, they carry with them not only their experiences but also the essence of the festival. This strengthens the presence of our festival, portraying it as an event that has a positive impact far beyond its physical location.

EH: How do you manage volunteer retention, ensuring that individuals return year after year to support the festival? 

AA: After the end of each edition of the festival, an evaluation form is distributed to all volunteers. This form includes questions about the overall organization of the festival and self-evaluation of their contributions to the festival.

Insights gathered from this evaluation consistently show that a key factor motivating volunteers to re-apply for future involvement is the opportunity to utilize and develop their professional skills within a supportive environment. The freedom to express themselves openly and the exceptional quality of the activities spread across the city, contribute significantly to their desire to contribute to the festival once again.

Volunteers also contribute to the festival’s sense of community engagement and involvement. Their willingness to participate and give their time, creates a strong bond between participants, organizers and the local community. This connection fosters a positive reputation for the festival and encourages attendees to return in following years.

EH: As the festival continues to evolve, how do you see the role of volunteers changing or expanding in coming years?

AA: We, as organizers, used to be volunteers ourselves. This experience has given us a unique perspective. We understand the passion and commitment that volunteers bring, and this allows us to create an environment where new ideas are welcome.

Volunteers constantly bring different perspectives and creative suggestions. Appreciating these ideas, the festival has evolved and become more exciting every year. By continuing to value volunteers and their contributions, we ensure that the festival remains a great art and animation event.