VOLUNTEERISM IN MONTENEGRO
According to the Law on Volunteer Work of Montenegro, volunteering is a voluntary and free investment of time, knowledge, and skills that perform services or activities for the benefit of another person or for the general benefit of society. Some of the most famous volunteer organizations in Montenegro are the Red Cross, the First Association of Parents of Children and Youth with Developmental Disabilities, and the Humanitarian Foundation “Be Human”.
The Red Cross of Montenegro is a voluntary humanitarian organization whose membership is open to all regardless of origin, language, race, nationality, age, gender, religious or political affiliation. They currently have about 2,000 active volunteers at the state level, and during the pandemic, this number was much higher. From March to July this year, they distributed over 100,000 packages of humanitarian aid, provided psycho-social support for about 7,000 people, delivered numerous hot meals as well as purchased basic foodstuffs for people in self-isolation. However, not only the number of volunteers but also the organization itself is important for successful action. "Successful action can be realized with one and one hundred and one volunteers. It is very important to design a plan of action well in advance, organize it and, of course, socialize with volunteers. It is important to feel and allow volunteers to design activities on their own, exchanges information with each other, and complement each other”, an information associate in the Red Cross of Montenegro, Marta Perković, said.
The Red Cross of Montenegro estimates that young people in our area are most interested in participating in various volunteer activities. One of the ways in which they attract volunteers is to organize lectures in primary and secondary schools throughout Montenegro where young people can get all the information about volunteering. Information associate said that to become a volunteer is not enough to just fill out an application. "In order to become a volunteer of our organization, you must first go through certain training, and then personal interests are directed within the programs we implement. Young people most often want to be able to provide first aid, join voluntary blood donation actions or motivate others to do so, they want to help the elderly, people with disabilities, or members of marginalized groups such as Roma, Egyptians, migrants, asylum seekers," Perković explained.
She points out that young people usually apply to them on their own, motivated by the activities of their peers and friends who are already active in our organization. One of them is Nina Pejović, who has been volunteering at The Red Cross of Montenegro for six years. "I found out about the volunteer club through my sister, who had already volunteered for a couple of years, and listening to her stories, I became curious and I wanted to be a part of it," she says.
Twenty-year-old Nina Pejović says that she gained some of the most beautiful experiences, learned that one conversation can change a lot and that when she became a member of a volunteer club, she also became a member of a large family. "The thing that unites all volunteers is the feeling of happiness and satisfaction when you put a smile on someone's face or make their day, at least for a short time," she points out.
The student of graphic design believes that volunteering is not as represented in Montenegro as it should be. "There is still a certain stigma around volunteering and we are often asked if they pay us, why we work for free and the like, and people don't even realize that none of it is for free because we get something in return that money can't pay off,” she claims.
An interesting way in which people, and especially young people, can contribute to the community and help those in need is through a program called Classroom-Companion.
Classroom-Companion is a program that has existed since November 2017, and it's implemented by Toylibrary and the Development Center in cooperation with the Parents’ Association. The program is intended for children from the most vulnerable families with the aim of supporting education, socialization, and development in order to realize their potential.
The social worker and coordinator of the Classroom-Companion program, Tanja Ćirović, says that support in learning is not the only thing that is present here, but the entire type of support in mastering school materials, monitoring the needs of children, potential talents, enrollment in high schools and so on.
"Since its establishment, the Parents' Association has worked and continues to work, to improve the position of parents and children in Montenegro. Children and families living in poverty are one of the target groups who were helped in the form of various one-time benefits such as clothing and footwear, food, household equipment, assistance in exercising rights, support in preparing children for school", she points out.
Volunteers give the greatest contribution to the functioning of this program, and during the previous year, 53 of them participated in the work with children. There are no restrictions for volunteering in this program, all that is needed is a love of working with children and building quality relationships.
"Volunteering does not require higher education, and we do not know the age as a condition since our volunteer team consists of people of goodwill, ready to share their knowledge and love with children - the youngest volunteer has just started high school, and the oldest is a grandmother who gladly spends her retirement days sharing experience and knowledge", emphasizes Ćirović.
During the previous year, 80 children were included in the group and individual support program. Children involved in a group learning support program are children who need to be worked on to acquire basic knowledge. They work with them on literacy, work habits, basic socialization skills, and personal hygiene.
"Volunteers work with them to clarify ambiguities regarding materials, help with homework and serve to support children in mastering the curriculum as children often come from families that have only completed primary school and are unable to support children in learning", she explains.
For the past 10 years, the Parents' Association has been organizing the action "Let's share because together we can do more" with the aim of equipping children for school. The costs related to the purchase of accessories and books are quite high, especially for single-parent families and families with more children who live off material security or irregular income.
"Thanks to socially responsible companies and individuals, we have managed to equip as many as 429 children. Solidarity and support for others are especially needed in challenging times like this, so we hope that this year companies will have an ear for those families who cannot afford to equip their children for school. The action of collecting donations will start this year at the end of July, and will last until the beginning of the new school year", said Ćirović.
The coronavirus pandemic has further worsened the financial situation of families that were at risk before the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports in the second half of the previous school year, as many as 5,000 children did not have devices for monitoring online classes.
"Apart from the continuous support in education, which was realized online, the Parents' Association provided one-time assistance to families who needed it. In accordance with the possibilities and donations, a number of families were provided with telephones and tablets for learning, food, and hygiene", she said.
There is also a Toy Library that has over 2,000 different books and toys for children - social, didactic, plastic, etc. Currently, 621 families are members and use the library every day, and the process of choosing toys and favorite fairy tales or readings causes special joy for children.
Since its founding in 2016, through the “Be Humane” Foundation, funds have been provided for the treatment of 38 children and over 1.4 million euros have been raised for this purpose. Every payment, SMS donation, as well as expense, is maximally transparent and can be followed on their website www.budihuman.me.
"In the past month and a half, the foundation managed to raise funds for as many as seven children, in the amount of 92,238 euros, which provided a chance for their treatment. At the moment, money is being actively collected for three children, and several other children have entered the procedure of opening a profile in the Foundation", said the representative of the “Be Human” Foundation, Dajana Ljiljanic.
Ljiljanic also announces that the Foundation will soon expand its activities and thus help a much larger number of children who need help.
Through cooperation with numerous celebrities, the Foundation manages to raise more funds to help our youngest fellow citizens.
"The ambassadors of the 'Be Human' Foundation are prominent people who have accepted this role in order to directly help raise funds for children as efficiently as possible. Cooperation with them is an exceptional experience, and in the coming period, we are preparing projects in which they will also participate. Certainly, we are grateful to our ambassadors for everything they do and that with their engagement they stand up for our children, as well as for the Foundation itself ", stated Dajana Ljiljanić.
She believes that Montenegrin society is very humane and that the Foundation has nice experiences with young people who, driven by empathy, are ready to help and want to be part of someone's better future, which they do with their contribution.
"We hereby encourage them to, if they have any idea, proposal or in any other way want to help, contact the Foundation, and we will be happy to consider any suggestions," emphasizes Dajana Ljiljanic.
The representative of the "Be Human" Foundation concludes that greater systemic support is needed for actions and organizations dealing with humanitarian work, in order to create a system that will be the foundation of a better society, a society of unity, humanity, and assembly.