Below is an article I wrote for the Central and Eastern European Schools Association web site. The link to the article is here.
Earlier this month, the worst flooding in history occurred in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia. An area the size of Slovenia was flooded and thousands of people needed to be evacuated. Here in Serbia, many left in the middle of the night to avoid the almost 2 meter high waters that inundated their homes and apartment blocks. 33 people lost their lives and over 25,000 people fled to evacuee centers in Belgrade or found lodging with friends or family.
The response to the disaster from our school and the entire country was incredible. Thousands of volunteers came out to help fill and carry sand bags, rescue stranded people with boats, etc. I heard immediately from parents, students, and teachers, asking for the school to organize a donation drive. In just a few days, our gymnasium was filled with clothes, diapers, water, canned food, etc. in response to a call for donations. The students helped out by sorting and delivering the goods to evacuee centers around the city. Many of the students held fundraising events like bake sales, theatre performances, donation drives, etc. The high school students asked for a school-wide assembly to explain what happened and to outline the school’s relief efforts. The Board of Trustees and Staff Association are distributing cash donations to our employees from Obrenovac, a city 30 kilometers from Belgrade, located on the banks of the Sava River. We also selected a special needs school in Obrenovac to help. They need everything, from new flooring and paint, to books and school supplies. We also heard from other CEESA schools, asking how they could help.
The city of Obrenovac is covered with mud and some areas are still inaccessible. There is no electricity, water, or mobile phone service. Most people have not been able to get back to their homes. There is much more work still to be done to get the flood victims’ lives back to normal. The school hopes to continue helping and community service initiatives are being planned.
With all of this sadness and tragedy, it has been wonderful to see the kindness and caring of the people of Serbia and our ISB community. It is also nice as an international educator to get the opportunity to help out our host nation of Serbia and make a difference in the lives of those impacted by the disaster.
Below is a report from our Facilities & Security Manager and Director with the donation totals.
Parents and staff brought many bags and boxes of donations, and students were directly involved in the process of gathering, sorting and distributing these. A joint decision was made to send the majority of the donations to Suplja stena in Avala, due to the high number of children there and the distance of this evacuation center from the city center. (Evacuation centers within Belgrade city limits were received more donations than more remote ones.) ISB students were directly involved in two visits there, and brought the following:
• Clothing (male, female, child) – 850 kilos
• Blankets, sheets, pillows – 400 kilos
• Food – 500 kilos
• Diapers – 20 packs
• Baby food – 30 kilos
• Water – 300 liters
• Toys – 20 boxes
• Hygiene products – 16 boxes
ISB has provided a pump for extracting water from houses along with a generator to citizens of Obrenovac, and trained some of them how to use the machines. We also donated 240 liters of disinfecting chemicals and fuel (120 euros). We intend to buy an industrial-strength dehumidifier as well.The remaining donations that are still in the school gym will be distributed during the following weeks directly to households in flooded areas, especially rural ones. Students are eager to help, and will be involved in making packages for
households and distributing them.
We have set up two funds: one for the money that we are receiving specific for the ISB employees who have personally been impacted by the flooding in Obrenovac, the second for any monetary donations we receive towards our intended longer-range relief efforts. We have identified a school in Obrenovac for special needs students as the primary recipient
of funds from the second account. The school is called Dnevni boravak and we have established contact with the school Director. ISB has had previous connections with this school. We envision not only buying items needed, but also involving our students and community directly in things like painting and building projects, all to be determined according to the
specific needs that are identified.