April 01, 2015

Project which people trust and support


Interview: Aco Dragicevic, Diaspora
For years, Serbs have had a global charity organization. By choosing the name, its founders have, actually, written the shortest program. It consists of only three words, Serbs for Serbs. In terms of organization, young people form the backbone of the organization Serbs for Serbs. The majority of them live in diaspora – in the west European countries and overseas. In their work they use modern means of communication, primarily the Internet. At the official website, they have to account for each and every collected and invested Serbian dinar, Euro, US dollar, Swiss franc, Convertible mark.

Here is several data as an illustration. On the bank accounts of the organization, up to March 6, 2015, there was 6 010 433 RSD, 86 031 BAM, 34 821 CHF, €19 183, $36 901. Since 2006, €1,137,166 has been raised. So far, this year, €35 970 has been raised, and the goal that they have set for themselves is to raise 250 000 € (the data is taken from the official website of the Charity organization Serbs for Serbs)

Diaspora: First among equals who have built and affirmed the Charity organization Serbs for Serbs, is the President Igor Rasula. At the beginning of the interview, we ask Igor what he considers to be the most valuable result of the work of this organization.

Igor Rasula: The most valuable result of the hard work of the Charity organization Serbs for Serbs is the fact that, in the past ten years of dedicated charity work, we’ve helped  more than 1 400 Serbian families with many children which together count up to several tens of thousands of children. The organization was launched with the aim of helping only one family, and with God's help the number of those whom we help is increasing almost every day. Thanks to numerous donors throughout the world, today, dozens of families live in their warm homes, children sleep in their own beds, the food is prepared on an electric or a wood stove, they have their own bathroom, refrigerator, washing machine, they have water and electricity supply in the house, the roof does not leak, perhaps for the first time they even got their own bedroom, a desk, a wardrobe, a toy, a computer... Many parents, today, are able to provide their children a glass of fresh cow or goat milk, they have a tractor to work on the field and earn for themselves. Many families received fresh hope and faith to fight for themselves and their offspring, and to stay where they are, on their fatherland.

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Diaspora: People trust you. It wasn’t exactly a simple and easy job to build confidence, the more so as the work of numerous humanitarian organizations in the Diaspora has been misused in the Homeland, or by those who have allegedly been the benefactors. So, we want to hear your thoughts on how you managed to gain the trust of the benefactors throughout the world and primarily Serbs?


Igor Rasula: The truth is that in the past ten years of hard and persistent work, we have gained the trust of the Serbian people in the homeland, the region, but especially in the Diaspora through hundreds of implemented actions to help disadvantaged families. This trust and support that we have is not something that is everlasting, but it is put to the test and examined almost every day, both by the old and the new donors. It is very important that people are able to check on where, when and how the collected donations are being spent, because in humanitarian work and activities there should not be any secrets nor hidden information. All the actions that we undertake to help the families, and the collection and expenditure of funds are transparent and always open to control and verification, primarily through our official website www.srbizasrbe.org and our popular Facebook page www.facebook.com/srbizasrbe. There are also monthly reports which we are required to send to all donors.

Diaspora: Following your work, we know that you have had problems to set up a part of the organization in Belgrade. What’s the situation today, have you encountered any understanding from the authorities in the Homeland and homeland countries?

Igor Rasula: Unfortunately, the relationship with the authorities in the Homeland and the region has not changed much, either positively or negatively. On our part we are trying to make contact and establish cooperation with the representatives of local authorities in municipalities, of ministries of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, but so far there have been no definite discussions on numerous open issues that socially disadvantaged families, but also the entire Serbian nation, are facing. We hope that the current and any future authorities will have a better understanding and a willingness to engage in projects of our organization that aim to provide direct and concrete help to Serbian families and above all their children. Of course, I must emphasize the fact that, on March 5 of this year, we received the long sought humanitarian SMS number (7763) in Serbia, where we above all received support from the company Telekom Serbia, and Telenor and VIP as well. This kind of support from the state owned company Telekom Serbia but also the private ones like Telenor and VIP is commendable and appreciated, because precisely such form of donating will, in the future, enable us to help more families who desperately need help.

Diaspora: This journal has supported your organization from the beginning. As your work is drawing the attention of the wider Serbian public, it can be noticed that the media with national frequencies in the Homeland are not turning their backs on you. Can this also be observed in the results of your work in the Homeland from the point of raising funds or is the number of families in need of social aid, that turn to your organization, increasing?

Igor Rasula: Support of the Diaspora journal to our organization was more than significant, especially at the very beginning of our humanitarian work and action. As for the media in the Homeland, with national frequencies, things are changing in a positive direction, mainly thanks to the willingness and self-initiative of journalists to invite us as guests in their programs and to present already implemented and scheduled projects of the organization. We were the most present in the media during floods in May last year, when we organized and distributed great help to flooded families in the Republic of Srpska and Serbia, a value of over half a million euros. Our growing presence in the media certainly reflects on the increase in collected donations but also on a dramatic rise in the number of people and families turning to us for help.

Стони фудбал за породицу Симић


Diaspora: By committing to provide financial support to Serbs in the Balkan countries, your organization has, in the nicest possible way, brought to life a verse of the poet Aleksa Santic: And wherever there is a Serbian soul / To me, that is where my Fatherland is. How do you choose the people you are helping?

Igor Rasula: We come to a decision on which families to help in a variety of ways. Starting with information we get through the media, then contact with priests and monks of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the local eparchies, through recommendations of friends and donors of our organization, as well as direct requests we get from the families. We try to reach the most remote regions inhabited by Serbian children who need the help of our organization. Unfortunately, we fail to help all the people who turn to us for help and that's why we are often forced to refer the families to other organizations with which we also collaborate or to those organizations for which we know to provide the necessary assistance. We work and we will work hard in the future to increase even more our help to the Serbian people throughout the Balkans, in order to preserve the verses by Santic we brought to life.


Diaspora: In the past years, have you managed to establish cooperation with national humanitarian organizations in the countries in which your own organization operates?

Igor Rasula: Certainly, in our charity work so far, we have made contact and cooperation with numerous related humanitarian organizations with whom we have together provided a very large help for Serbian people throughout the Balkans. We work actively with over 50 organizations in Serbia, Republic of Srpska, in Montenegro, FYR Macedonia and numerous Serbian communities and charities around the world. Results of such cooperation are tens of thousands underprivileged children who have been helped.


Diaspora: You’ve mentioned the priests and monks of the Serbian Orthodox Church. How do you, otherwise, assess the collaboration with the Orthodox Church in general?

Igor Rasula: The collaboration of our organization and the Serbian Orthodox Church is very active and concrete, especially in Kosovo and Metohija, Raska region, Montenegro and Krajina, specifically in the form of obtaining information about the families who need help, followed by supplying and distribution of necessary assistance. As I have mentioned, we maintain the collaboration with the priests and monks, because everyone in their own region and area has a better overview of the situation, the infrastructure, the organization of work and help for the endangered families. For example, in the Metohija region we have been collaborating most with the brotherhood of the monastery Visoki Decani, in Montenegro with the brotherhood of the monastery of Ostrog, in Krajina with the brotherhood of the monastery Ocestvo and Krka, and in the Raska region with the brotherhood of the monastery Djurdjevi Stupovi. Certainly, we have been receiving the necessary support and blessing from the relevant episcopes in a certain region which we are planning to help. In addition, we have been receiving a lot of help and support from the local priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church who are even more present within the people and have the information on whom exactly is the help necessary. Above all, our organization has been working with the blessings of the Serbian Patriarch Irinej since 2011.

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Diaspora: Your organization, at the beginning, pointed to the low birth rate issue in Serbian national corps. You've decided to financially help families with five and more children. Thereby, you've taken over part of the work that the State should have, not to say had to, devise and implement and thus bring to life. The impression is that this aspect of your help was left in the background. What is the reason for this, is it the increased number of Serbian families who are in need of social aid so the funds are not sufficient for all the needs, or is it the disappointment of activists of the organization who encounter lack of understanding of the authorities in the home country of Serbs as well as in other countries where Serbs live?

Igor Rasula: The primary goal our organization, aimed to help, continues to be directed towards families with five or more children throughout the Serbian countries. As the organization grows and develops, thus we see a growing need to lower and correct criteria regarding the number of children, and again everything in order to help as many families whom the slightest help of our organization represents a huge unburdening from the everyday needs, expenses and costs which they have concerning children and the household. We are witnesses that numerous families we helped, after our actions of aid, got one or two children more in the family and thus proving that our help was really expedient and to the welfare of the family as well as the entire Serbian nation, who is, as you know, in danger of rapid extinction. With the help of donors and friends around the world, we will try to expand and strengthen our organization even more so that we can tackle the numerous problems and temptations which thousands of socially disadvantaged multiple-child families, as well as the entire Serbian nation, are facing.

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