June 01, 2014

People for people even when the river doesn't swell

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Help, even when Sava is not swelling and destroying lives. Help, without asking whether Nole (when he beats Rafa again in a couple of days) will donate the entire Roland Garros prize money. Help, even when it becomes clear that Timberlake has not publicly acknowledged that he was a Serb, Bosnian or Croat, moreover a human, and that Ronaldo hasn’t donated who-knows-how-many of his millions to the citizens of Obrenovac. And when the IPA funds are not opening, or they perhaps are, but not soon, and when very few people are able to interpret immediately that abbreviation. And when there are rumors that someone is already abusing the help, and when the media are not full of stories after which the tears are flowing, and when... as someone put it, the gene of waning interest activates itself. The truth is that a person shows himself in trouble. Which shouldn’t mean that we must hope for one in order to show ourselves.

The interlocutor of the Voice of Russia is Igor Rasula, president of the non-partizan, non-profit, non-governmental and completely transparent organization “Serbs for Serbs”, whose bills do not stop receiving donations from literally all over the world, the organization which has been delivering great help to the flood victims, and has been trying for many years to “deal with the tendency of the silent extinction of Serbs in the homeland, and to help every Serbian family with five and more children in former Yugoslavia. Word and deed.”

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Thank you, Igor, you’ve found time for us, and above all, what is the current engagement of “Serbs for Serbs”?

First of all, thank you for the invitation and the great support of the people from Russia, both Serbs and the Russians. It represents a great honor, commitment and responsibility to help the endangered people in the flooded areas of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska.

Currently our organization is delivering the urgent help, consisting of food, water, medicine and other necessities, so that people whose electricity, water or any normal flow of traffic are cut off, could have the possibility to obtain the most basic – flour, oil, sugar, water, canned food, warm clothing, footwear, to succesfully overcome the first wave of the crisis. After that, we have already begun to prepare the projects, which will hopefully provide that the great number of people get a tidy households, barns repaired, agriculture machinery provided and so on.

I feel free to say that “Serbs for Serbs” are somehow unofficially the most transparent charity organization. And it’s not just my observations. Let me give a recent example of the donors in Las Vegas, who decided by the majority of votes that their help (of over $ 40,000) should be forwarded on the account of your organization.

Yes, we were surprised by the news as well. We didn’t even know that the vote is going to take place. Nor did we know that the people organized themselves and gathered. Indeed, we are more than honored.

I do not like to say that we are “best” at anything, but we certainly try to put the transparency in the foreground in absolutely every aspect. In both receiving and spending money. This implies scanning of the invoices, displaying the list of donors and showing pictures taken during the actions. Therefore, all those information can be checked without us, on the spot, by people, donors or any civil service. That refers to whether people really received help, whether the money was actually transferred through bank etc. We try to make our work absolutely open, available to everyone, to both those who donated and to those who didn’t. We maintain the practice of transparency almost from the beginning, from the very foundation of our organization.

We also emphasized that generally we won’t do anything on our own, but we will cooperate with absolutely all organizations and institutions, so that the help could be truly effective and reach as many people as possible. The most important thing for us is to spend the money in the best possible way, the most correct way possible, which represents the change and difference compared to the some previous actions and mass fundraising, when unfortunately the state and organizations that were involved in collecting money could not, did not want and were not able to really show how the money was spent, to show the bills and simply justify the trust they had acquired.

During May alone, more precisely from May 16 you raised nearly half the money (approximately € 300,000) you had on your accounts since 2006. Although you have earlier set the approximate target for this year of € 200,000, you now hope for a million.

We certainly did not expect such a flow of funds. Up to the 16th of May we were a very small organization which was trying to do some great things, great number of projects across Balkan for helping the families with five and more children. We simply felt the need to join in. But we certainly didn’t expect so much confidence of people and such a response. We were absolutely ready to accept that challenge, and I think we’ve done everything in our power to justify that trust.

We managed to exceed the planned income for the entire year in about ten days, and in one of the meetings of the organization we decided to raise the amount we wish to raise this year, and to use it for helping the endangered people in the flooded areas. I don’t know whether we will be able to raise a million of euros, and if we raise two-three millions, our aim will be 50 millions. May God help us in that many people responding.

How to encourage a large number of people to help when there are no disasters?

Unfortunately, it is very challenging, and it is difficult to awaken in people a desire and the need to be involved when the situation is, shall we say, normal. From our experience, the situation before the flooding was very difficult, very bad. We have appealed and asked people and state institutions to engage, to allow us to get, i.e. an access to SMS numbers for collecting donations. All of this was somehow on the back burner. It wasn’t feasible, it wasn’t possible, there was no particular desire to engage. But it’s up to us to try to motivate people, even when this problems with the flooding is overcome, to join into some of our standard action, standard projects of helping the families with a large number of children, to maintain the continuity and simly enhance our work and help as many families as possible.

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Igor Rasula, president of charity organization Serbs for Serbs

Would you agree that the primarily problem about donating is not the lack of wish to help, but the fear that the funds won’t be purposefully used?

Of course, it is the number one problem. We always emphasize and ask people to pay attention to whom they give money, to check whether the money actually went to where it was said. I do not exempt our organization of these checks. Therefore we ask people not to rush and participate in our programmes by any cost, but to see for the beginning how we do it, and then, if you really find it necessary, you are welcomed to join. From the standpoint of our organization, we absolutely understand the fear and concerns of many people, because so far we were able to see a large number of organizations and government institutions who in all the misfortunes during the last 20-25 years had often usurped that help and used in, so to speak, illegitimate way and for personal benefit and gains. And people who were deceived a few times or several dozens of times simply do not wish to participate in such matters any more, which is quite understandable from their point of view.

„Serbs for Serbs“ has its representative offices in USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, Austria... There is not one in Russia.

Unfortunately, there isn’t. We have several friends of the organization, both Serbs and Russians, but unfortunately we haven’t managed to register the organization officialy, nor to have official representatives. For several years we’ve been trying to get in contact with the Serbian community through our church there and through our friends. But for some reason, all that is hard. First of all, it is the communication and the willingness of people to dedicate their spare time in action. At the same time, the situation in some parts of Russia is also difficult. From our point of view it is absolutely understandable that people in Russia organize themselves to help their own people, because there are a large number of endangered families in Russia who need help. We are trying to organize something within the Serbian community, to bring people together, and so far we have really done a great step forward, because we motivated a great number of Russians to get financially involved into our project, and until now it has resulted in donations of nearly € 25,000, which is really amazing, it is commendable and worth of our gratitude towards the people in Russia.

The most important thing is precisely that, that both you and we convey the gratitude to both Russian and Serbian people, and to all of those from Russia who supported us. And to the special teams who came to Obrenovac, with whom we also worked on the field in rescuing people. Big fraternal help and big fraternal love, perhaps I should say christian love that binds us together has once again showed at work as an example. It binds us together and obliges us to stand next to each other in the forthcoming period, in a case of any crisis or any problem.

Source: http://serbian.ruvr.ru/2014_05_27/Ljudi-za-ljude-i-kad-reka-ne-buja-7575/  

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