Emma Keown shares about her first time visiting our project partner in Serbia when three of the GAiN UK team visited there earlier this year.
“We landed in Belgrade for my first trip to Serbia, a country with a tumultuous recent history. Crossing the river Danube, we made our way north to the city of Subotica, near the Hungarian border. Our journey there was to meet our local partner who had just received a shipment of donations from GAiN UK, and to see how our partnership could develop. Tibor, a local church leader, welcomed us into his home, feeding us lots of delicious Hungarian specialities and showing great hospitality. I was eager to learn about his work and the communities they are serving, including impoverished neighbourhoods, Roma and refugees who have fled north from Afghanistan.
Tibor shared with us about the complex reasons for the high levels of poverty in the country, as well as the many needs of the people he meets. Throughout the long, cold winter, these families are faced with the impossible decision to choose between being cold or going hungry. We had the opportunity and privilege to visit with three such families, who would be described as living in extreme poverty, and who are receiving support through Tibor and the church volunteers.
Irina lives with six others in a tiny house with just two rooms, no bathroom and no running water. The roof was so low that my colleague Frikkie had to watch his head when standing. Despite her circumstances, she serves others each week at the soup kitchen run from the local church building.
Next, we were welcomed into the home of Anja, Nikola and their three children. Nikola is always exhausted as he works long hours for very little pay in a slaughterhouse. At the school gate, Anja got to know another family, Petra and Simeon who also struggle with the challenges of living with little income, and she invited them to visit the church community.
Simeon had been put off having anything to do with church because of his experience growing up. But when he saw the church leader himself getting involved and serving a family by building them their first bathroom, he was convinced to come along. They are now fully part of this community themselves and see how it has transformed their lives to find fresh hope for their future.
This experience really opened my eyes to the needs people face here in Europe. We can view poverty as something that is far away, but it is actually very close to us.
We also were able to visit Tibor’s warehouse and see the few remaining boxes yet to be distributed. These boxes had been packed in the UK and sent just a few weeks before. There were clothes, shoes, duvets, coats, toiletries – all things that would be hugely appreciated by the people we met.”
Can you be a part of supporting Tibor’s work in Serbia? You can use this link to contribute to our relief work across Europe. We are planning on sending teams to Subotica soon – email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be informed about any future projects in Serbia.