Interview | Page 3 | Giving Balkans

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As the Covid-19 virus is still present in our lives, we reviewed nonprofit organizations from the region, which explained to us in 2020 and 2021 how the pandemic affected their work, daily activities, and lives in general.

It is possible that some of their systemic adaptations to new circumstances inspire other organizations that encounter this text to devise new ways or apply some of the existing examples in their program activities.

In today's text, you will be able to get to know some of the prominent organizations from the Western Balkans and their methods of adapting to the new normality.

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Informal group Ženski solidarni front formed spontaneously when a group of motivated women felt the need and obligation to respond to the effects of the pandemic their local community in Vranje suffered. They gathered around the idea to organize a grand charity ball and bazaar in order to raise money for children whose parents had died of COVID-19.

The initiative gathered a number of successful women from Vranje and was supported by the Center for Media Transparency and Social Responsibility (CMTDO). As a result, in just two weeks and with the support of the community, by 20 August, a total of RSD 600,000 was raised  (5.000 EUR)  and 26 direct donations were provided to help the children who had lost one or both parents since the beginning of the pandemic.

In addition to this large initiative in August, the charitable women of Vranje helped their community throughout the pandemic year of 2020 by raising around RSD 3 million (25.500 EUR) for the support to the healthcare system, with the assistance of good and responsible fellow citizens.

Milica Anđelković Jovanović, who wanted to help the children of Vranje and activate her community, made only one Facebook status and launched a chain of support engaging hundreds of women who wanted to contribute to the humanitarian initiative. Today, this informal group has more than 700 members, including several men who have joined recently, since the fact that membership was exclusive to women was criticized by men in the beginning, as Milica points out.

In the interview, Milica talks about the power of community in the circumstances which caught us all completely unprepared. She told us about their motives to get together and help children and families, about obstacles they had to face, and about how one Charity Ball in August 2021 united the citizens of Vranje in common cause.

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Founded in 1996, Kosovo Women’s Network was originally an informal network of women's groups and organizations from different regions of Kosovo. Since its inception, KWN has developed into a network advocating for Kosovo women, locally, regionally, and internationally. Representing the interests of its 168 members, including women's organizations of all ethnic groups from across Kosovo, KWN is a leader among civil society organizations in Kosovo and the region.

In an interview with Etleva Malushaj, Coordinator of the Kosovo Women's Network project "Strengthening women's participation in politics" supported by the EU, we discussed her personal motivation to join the nonprofit sector, what are their current activities and she also explained why it is important for their network to strengthen the feminist movement in Kosovo.

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Knowing well the challenges that women face within their community, NPO Gruaja Hyjnore (Divine Women) set out to educate women about their rights, empowering them economically by helping them gain their own sources of income.

Besides this, the mission of Divine Woman is to support and empower young people and advance the position of women in Kosovo society by raising awareness of their rights, gender equality, improving education and organizing social activities.

In an interview with Qëndresa Hajdari, project manager of this nonprofit organization, we discovered the most significant challenges they face, how they contribute to the development of philanthropy in Kosovo, and which activities they are the most focused on at the moment.  Qëndresa also provided us with an example of their fundraising activities, that reflects their creative ways of activating their community.

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SOS Children's Villages of BiH (SOS Dječija sela BiH) is a humanitarian organization that takes care of children and young people without parental care and gives them a chance for a happy childhood and a better future. In SOS families, with brothers, sisters and SOS parents, children grow up in a family environment with parental love, because, as they point out from the organization - every child deserves to belong somewhere, to be loved and safe.

In addition to caring for children and young people without parental care, their Family Strengthening Program also helps biological families who are at risk of separation from their children to stay together. 210 children and young people are growing up in direct care, and 716 children and 272 families are taking care of them through family strengthening programs.

With our Interviewee, the national director of the SOS Children's Villages of BiH, Mirela Gruenther-Đečević, we talked about how and why the organization was created, how they adapted to work during the pandemic, and about the godfather/godmother sponsorship program – a system that allows every citizen to become a monthly supporter of the SOS families.

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As the environment is becoming the hottest global issue, nonprofit organizations worldwide are campaigning for cleaner air and water and doing their part in restoring the environment in their communities.

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