Exchange Visit to Philanthropy
Todor Karagjozov, Coordinator of the “Stulbica” project and Miryana Malamin-Siriyski, Training Program Coordinator, both from Pokrov Foundation participated in the four day visit to Philanthropy offices in Belgrade. The visit included meetings with staff and volunteers involved in Philanthropy’s projects, including Programme Director of Philanthropy office in Novi Sad, Programme Director of Belgrade office and Philanthropy’s Director, Dragan Makojevic. Through this meeting, Pokrov staff was able to get acquainted with Philanthropy’s history, structure, regional offices, projects such as Psychosocial Palliative Care Project, which deals with HIV/AIDS infected, Mobile Medical Care Service Project, similar project run by Pokrov and St. Sava Classroom Project, which deals with education support for institutionalized children. Some of the most striking impressions of Pokrov staff were: the enormous communication needs of the people with HIV/ AIDS; the voluntary work under the project; the quality of the promotional materials; the development of the project activities concerning the needs of the target group and the way this project is related to the Orthodox Church, the different situation of the terminally ill people related to BG and the way of attracting and involving the volunteers; the continuing need to support refugees and IDPs, the way institutionalized children are supported with classes, the way of participation of the volunteers, the cooperation with the institutions for children.
The field visits to Philanthropy projects included meeting with HIV/AIDS infected, participation in the Candlelight memorial for people died of HIV/AIDS, visit to the collective center for refugees and IDPs, visit to the VI Department of the Clinic of Infective Decease, Clinical Center of Serbia in Belgrade, and visit to the Institution for Abandoned Children. The visits enabled direct contacts with concrete beneficiaries and see Philanthropy’s approaches to work in practice. This gave them the opportunity to also talk with volunteers involved in the projects and to be touched by the problems of the target group. Finally, the exchange visit was concluded with meetings and visits to other Belgrade-based partners such as meeting with father Radovan Bigovich, priest from Belgrade, visit to the Orthodox Theological Faculty, University of Belgrade, visit to the Orthodox Pastoral Center for Psychological and Pastoral Counseling and visit to the Christian Cultural Center. This enabled Pokrov staff to develop further contacts with Serbian organizations and institutions, related to the Orthodox Church.
“Being humans, one of the most important things for us is the communication. All new contacts and friendships develop our personality. We share and benefit simultaneously in the mutual relations. For me personally, it was a glory to meet such wonderful people in Serbia and I’m sure I will always carry a piece of them in my heart.”
Training Program Coordinator, Pokrov Foundation
Exchange visit to Pokrov Foundation
Jelena Pavlovic, Program Assistant from Belgrade office and Ljiljana Vrhovac – Kapor, Coordinator from Banja Luka regional office, both Philanthropy, returned the visit to Pokrov Foundation in mid-June. The three-day exchange included visit to Pokrov Bogorodichen Parish Community Center projects such as creative workshop for children deprived of parental care, a once per week workshop, where children create Christmas, Easter and other kind of cards, that are being distributed under Pokrov Bogorodichen Parish center through book stores, stores in the churches and various galleries. Income of this selling is given to children as a kind of their pocket money. Orthodox volunteer initiative started in 1997, which includes regular visits of volunteers to children in orphanages. Educational program includes provision of basic religious education for people of all ages, vocational training for unemployed and training for the people with disabilities.
Further programmes in the Center include kindergarten, music classes for babies and mothers, iconography courses, wood crafts, choir and catechesis. Philanthropy staff also got acquainted with other work and programmes run by Pokrov: Day care center for children with disabilities, Medical Center, “Stulbica” program, designed to help youth to cope with problems of modern society like drugs, terrorism, sects, HIV/AIDS, Pilgrimage tourism and youth camps, including icon painting camps for high school children in monasteries in Bulgaria, OMOFOR publishing house and Training program, which supports church initiatives through various training, consultations, workshops. The visit was finished with the meeting of Pokrov’s Director, Plamen Sivov and joint meeting with Pokrov staff to plan for future cooperation between the organizations.
“Thanks to this visits, exchanges, new friendships,…I find feel whole Balkan is like home. And I think that what is the most important thing is that we can benefit from this kind of gathering: we should all think about ourselves as a Balkanians. There is one thing around which we can very easily gather around, and that is the Orthodox Church. And no matter how/what/where any of our Organizations are doing, while we are doing it for the Church, in the name of God, we are doing the same thing. But if we manage to synchronize a bit our activities, or at least launch some common projects, we can achieve even better results.
The most impressive thing for me was to realize how professionally Pokrov is conducting its mission. Although you are covering pretty small area, I think, I am sure you will expend your activities. It was a quite short time, but we saw a lot of things.”
Coordinator, Philanthropy Banja Luka office
Results and Future Plans
Regardless of different political context in which both countries are currently in, especially in terms of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in 2007, Pokrov Foundation and Philanthropy staff found that both organizations have a lot in common. As Miryana Malamin-Siriyski, Pokrov Foundation said: “We saw it in our approach to problems we were solving, in the way and methods we run our activities and focus groups we are dealing with. We also found out that we have what to learn from each other and defined that both organizations do a great job due to their volunteer teams.” Work with volunteers is important part of both organizations’ activities as much of the activities get implemented through volunteer work. Both organizations have strong groups of volunteers and that is the direction in which focus on future cooperation is to be placed. Other lessons learned for both organization included: shared experience and enlarged knowledge about the situation, experience and practical work of the partners, new ideas for improvements and development of the organizational behavior and projects in terms of expanding activities to new target groups or small elements of the work (how to make improvements to the voluntary diary) and friendly relationships created between the staff of both organizations.
In the final meeting, Pokrov Foundation and Philanthropy staff defined three potential fields for future cooperation: elderly (corporate social responsibility supporting interest), prevention, and volunteer programs (within the BCSDN). Concrete plan of action was made for the third initiative, namely in the field of volunteer capacity-building and exchange. A three day meeting in “Soko grad” or “Studenica” monastery in Serbia was agreed in the autumn 2005 for a group of 20 – 25 volunteers. The aim of the meeting would be to share experience and raise internal capacities of volunteer teams, to discuss the spiritual based voluntarism and approaches to voluntary work and to share vision and mission within the group and therefore within society.