April brought many actions and projects that emphasized the importance of volunteering in our society. Some included food drives for socially vulnerable families, support for the elderly and other vulnerable groups, and organizing cultural and sports events that brought people from different communities together.

This month has shown us how significant the impact of volunteers is on society. Their commitment and work have contributed to many people having a better life and the opportunity to achieve their goals. However, volunteering is not only beneficial to others but can be an extremely fulfilling activity for the volunteer.

If you want to become part of the volunteer movement across the region, there are many ways to get involved. Consider your interests and skills, and find the organization or initiative that best suits you. Volunteering will not only allow you to help others but will also allow you to gain new experiences, meet new people, and contribute to a positive impact in your community.

Niš cardiac surgeons eliminate waiting list with weekend operations

After working for 12 consecutive weekends without compensation, the Niš Cardiac Surgery department doctors have eliminated the waiting list for cardiovascular surgeries, according to the clinic's director, Dragan Milić. According to him, this means no patient who passes through the anesthesia clinic will wait for surgery longer than 15 days. To reduce the waiting list, which had 149 patients at the beginning of the year, Niš cardiac surgeons began operating on weekends in January, without official approval from the authorities.

He adds that 98 surgeries were performed in March alone, and since the beginning of the year, 248 surgeries have been done, while in the same period in 2022, 117 people were operated on.

He notes that the mortality rate remained the same - below 2%, including emergency cases, and emphasizes that none of the patients operated on during the weekend has died.

As he notes, the reduced number of hygienists, nurses, and anesthetists could potentially jeopardize their work, so he expects to recruit new staff.

Although they did not approve overtime work, the authorities provided them with consumables, says Milić, and he adds that he hopes the clinic will receive new equipment that has not been renewed for 15 years. According to him, the most needed is an EKK machine because they have only one and monitor for invasive monitoring.

He says that if the influx of patients who cannot be operated on during weekdays increases, they will operate on weekends again without compensation. 

Students from the Bakar elementary school brightened the day for the residents of the "Oštro" retirement home with their visit during the holiday season

The first to fourth-grade students gifted the residents and staff with handmade cards, decorations, and sweets. Their visit brought about a positive and cheerful atmosphere. The visit was made possible through the school project "Heart and Flower for a Better World," initiated by teachers Alma Hes and Vesna Batistić. The project has been implemented throughout the school year with various charitable actions to spread kindness and good deeds.

The students also sang songs and recited poems for the nursing home residents, which brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts. The visit was a fantastic opportunity for the young students to learn the importance of showing kindness and compassion towards others, especially the elderly. The teachers hope that the project will inspire their students to continue to make a positive impact on their community and always to remember the value of giving back.

Story from Sarajevo: Unity of three young men as an example

The nonprofit humanitarian organization Pomozi.ba from Sarajevo, which helps disadvantaged people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina, not only carries out humanitarian campaigns but also often publishes stories about people who support their work.

Thus, they posted a picture of three young men who contributed to the organization on their Facebook page. Dario Adžić, Izrael Jakob Navaro Lopez, and Marin Petrović volunteered at the beginning of Ramadan for the Pomozi.ba organization. They are fourth-year students of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Sarajevo. Izrael is originally from Peru, where they have their own way of sending people to different countries or continents. He was assigned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he works on a mission and will operate within the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna.

Dario and Marin chose our organization for volunteering as part of Introduction to Social Doctrine of the Church, but they volunteered many more hours than required.

Pomozi.ba emphasizes that it was a pleasure to host these young people who, according to their colleagues, were more than hardworking. The story concludes with the words of Dario Adžić: "I would like to show everyone that our entire Bosnia is one, and we are convinced that these young people are true promoters of interfaith relations in our beautiful homeland," as stated in the official website of the Pomozi.ba organization.

"Cap by cap, someone's life becomes beautiful" with the support of more than 2,000 volunteers

The association "Čepom do osmeha" from Serbia organizes the collection of plastic caps, the sale of which finances the purchase of aids for children with disabilities.

In the campaign launched in 2012, more than 850 tons of plastic caps have been collected, and help has been provided to 72 children. The campaign of the "Čepom do osmeha" association, with more than 2,000 active volunteers and coordinators in cities throughout Serbia, is the largest of its kind in Serbia. With this initiative, they have applied for the "Đorđe Vajfert" Award for a socially responsible Serbian Chamber of Commerce business.

So far, we have collected more than 850 tons of plastic caps and managed to help 72 children, and we sincerely hope to make that number even higher in the future. With the funds raised, we have managed to provide electric wheelchairs, therapeutic tricycles, electric tricycles, electric oxygen concentrators, portable laptops for blind people using Braille, a complete set of assistive technology - a touch screen and a laptop with appropriate software applications for enriching the conceptual dictionary and learning letters - Boardmaker and ABC Maestro, as well as many others," said Vanja Petković, the founder of the "Čepom do osmeha" association, and emphasizes that the aids are given on the recommendation of a doctor, primarily based on the child's needs and truly change the child's life for the better.

The essence of the campaign is to support individuals, explains Petković, namely; we help children with developmental disabilities or disabilities, as well as their families, to make it easier for them to function in everyday life and education.

The collected caps are taken to recycling centers, and the funds raised are used to purchase aids for children, so the campaign, in addition to its humanitarian nature, supports environmental awareness of society and improves the solid waste separation system in Serbia, adds Petković.

In Novi Sad, where the premises of this organization are located, other types of recyclable materials (PET, cans, organic waste, paper, and cardboard, glass) are also collected. With the idea of popularizing primary waste selection, this association has developed a mobile application Eco Hero with great possibilities.

In September 2017, in cooperation with numerous friends and volunteers, we carried out the project "Mozaik za Ginisa" (Mosaic for Guinness), in which we managed to create the world's largest mosaic made of plastic caps, covering an area of 621 square meters, showcasing our city in the best possible light. What is of particular importance is that in June 2018, we managed, with joint efforts, to provide the first playground in Serbia for children with and without developmental disabilities, located on the Novi Sad Strand and then another one in Pivnice. In addition to the mentioned activities, the "Čepom do osmeha" (Cap for a Smile) association regularly holds up to 100 educational workshops annually for preschool and school-age children on environmental protection. So far, we have communicated with more than 60,000 children, which gives us enormous energy, but also imposes a responsibility to continue implementing our mission, emphasizes Petković.

In addition to the mentioned projects, the association carries out numerous projects, such as the Fair of Humanity, the first professional conference called "Ekosop 2019," which deals with the implementation of environmental protection principles in the field of social entrepreneurship, and the OPENS 2019 project "The Mayor opens the door - Let's get involved!"

We are recognized by cities, local communities, state institutions, companies, and the private sector, and we work hard to achieve even better results. We are present at numerous events, such as the Ecology Fair in Novi Sad, the Ecology Fair in Belgrade, the Sports Games of the Youth, and the EXIT Festival, because we strive in every way to make our voice heard even further and as much as possible, says Petković.

"Good Deeds Day" Project for the Second Year in a Row in Croatia

On Sunday, April 16, "Good Deeds Day" was celebrated throughout Croatia for the second year. This humanitarian project is organized by the "Children for a Better World" association from Samobor. It is intended for people of all ages to raise the community's awareness of the importance and necessity of doing good deeds, care, solidarity, and empathy in all segments of society.

"Good Deeds Day" was launched 17 years ago by the international organization "Good Deeds Day", now a global event celebrated in 108 countries worldwide. In Croatia, it has been celebrated for the second year in a row, and the main event of "Good Deeds Day" was the Luka Nižetić concert held on the main town square in Samobor.

"We want this special event to involve as many participants as possible in Croatia, so many associations, local volunteer centers, cities and counties, elementary and high schools, and dance groups and artists are already involved. We are delighted to invite citizens to join in with their own independent projects so that we can all contribute to a world with more kindness through joint efforts," said Leo Petrov, president, and founder of the "Children for a Better World" association.

Associations involved in volunteering activities and citizens with individual or group volunteering activities can participate in the project. Everyone can participate by creating their own activities to be carried out on the designated day or by joining existing activities proposed by other associations. If citizens create their own activity, they must register it on the Good Deeds Day website. Good deeds can be individual (e.g., organizing shopping for an elderly person who needs help) or team-based (e.g., cleaning the beach or helping to arrange a playground).

To spread the event's message throughout the community, all participants are invited to post photos of their volunteering on social media using the hashtags #GoodDeedsDay and #DanDobrihDjela, and they can also send their volunteering photos to djecazaboljisvijet@gmail.com.

In today's world, more than ever, it is necessary to encourage empathy, solidarity, and care for each other, as well as for the environment we live in and for the entire planet. Therefore, the marking of this day this year will be widely echoed among the citizens of Croatia. We hope that this day will become a tradition in Croatia and bring together more and more participants every year, concluded Leo Petrov.

The big heart of high school students in Zagreb: "If young people were better informed, more of them would probably volunteer"

The students of the General Private Gymnasium in Zagreb showed that humanitarian values and empathy for Easter still live among younger generations, as hundreds of them gave up their pocket money during Lent.

In collaboration with the Savao association, they spent the saved money on buying Easter meals and cakes for people without homes.

For some students like Noel, this was not their first time participating in such an action. Participating for the second time, he said that it has positively impacted him, and he feels satisfied and fulfilled.

"I am thrilled that people do not come just for food but to talk and socialize. Those who are aware of the state of society today are in the minority, and unfortunately, even fewer are doing something about it. Therefore, in schools and public life, we should talk more about the real state of society and the weaknesses that can be noticed. If young people were better informed about this, there would probably be more young people volunteering," said Noel.

The meal packages that the students prepared included two sandwiches, juice, wet wipes, a chocolate bar, a banana or an apple, pâté, and two Easter cakes.

The students and those in need also exchanged experiences as they made new acquaintances and expressed hope for a better future during their shared gathering at the central railway station. A student from the General Private Gymnasium pointed out that young people should be shown more about how people in need live.

The Red Cross deserving of the humanity of volunteers and the dignity of its beneficiaries

The headquarters of the Kragujevac Red Cross will be located at a new address next year, at Vojvode Putnika Street no. 4 (and Luja Pastera), as desired by Dr. Desa Milosavljević Branković (1901-1991), the donor of the house at that address.

Dr. Branković was a long-time volunteer of the Red Cross. In her lifetime, as a memorial to her parents and ancestors who had supported and helped her in her education and the construction of her house, she donated her house to the Kragujevac Red Cross for their exclusive use in their program activities after her death.

After a few years of being unable to use the house for safety reasons, the Kragujevac Red Cross has secured a donor who will reconstruct the existing building in the same architectural style and add a new building in the backyard. This will create new facilities such as a kitchen, a warehouse, an entrance suitable for disabled persons, and much better conditions for beneficiaries, especially for our elderly fellow citizens. Young volunteers will be able to continue their good work in modern and better conditions (offices, classrooms, seminar rooms, etc.), thus investing in the informal education of young people in the spirit of humanity.

The Red Cross Assembly and members of the Board of Directors have adopted decisions on the reconstruction and expansion of the Kragujevac Red Cross building because the future building will be functional, modern, and designed for longevity.

The expansion will solve another major long-standing problem: the deterioration of the modular building at Svetozara Markovića Street no. 7. School snacks and meals for beneficiaries of the public kitchen are prepared 24 hours a day. In addition, catering is prepared through revenue-generating activities, which provide much-needed funds for the higher quality provision of social services, primarily for children who are beneficiaries of the public kitchen. The problem became more complex after it was discovered that the owners who had, in agreement with the city in 2001, given the Red Cross land for a limited period of time (for the construction of a public kitchen building), had sold the same land to a new owner in 2022.

Journalists and representatives of the city made an effort to introduce the new landowner to the long tradition of good deeds of volunteers and the work of the Red Cross. A joint solution was found, with the Kragujevac Red Cross receiving a multi-story building of 860 square meters and a reconstruction of the building of 230 square meters, with a total cost of 1.2 million euros. The donor is the company "Old City Residences," which has donated 19,602 euros to develop the project documentation. A particular working group will monitor the planned work, with the obligation to submit reports, proposals, and conclusions to the Red Cross Board of Directors, the Assembly, and the donor once a month.

A preliminary agreement on the terms of relocation has been signed with the donor, and the final contract will be concluded after the Red Cross assesses the value of the property it owns, which generations of volunteers and philanthropists have created to protect and preserve the property in the best possible way.

"I choose good - I volunteer!" competition has opened

The "I Choose Good - I Volunteer!" competition aims to show volunteering as socially beneficial for children and youth, as well as for the whole community, through literary and artistic expression. It provided an opportunity for students from grades 5 to 8 in elementary schools in the Krapina-Zagorje County to participate in a competition by choosing to apply through literary or artistic expression. To apply, they needed to submit a text or a hand-drawn picture that depicts volunteering, experiences, and positive impacts of volunteering.

As project leader Ana Đurkan told Radio Kaj, a professional jury will select the eight best works, to which symbolic awards will be given at a joint meeting of schools, and all works will be published in an e-catalog on the official website of the Zagor Network of Associations.

In the Krapina-Zagorje County, good foundations for the development of volunteering have been created with the construction of the Volunteer Center in Zabok, the establishment of the Volunteer Service, and the implementation of various activities within it, added Đurkan. The competition is part of the project #letsvolunteer, implemented by the Zagor Network of Associations with partners. The project is funded by the Ministry of Science and Education as part of non-formal education and training, with co-financing from the Krapina-Zagorje County.