Help Volunteers on the Balkan Route
$14,756 of $20,000 goal
My name is Kelsey Montzka-Boettiger from Boise, Idaho, and I am a former Fulbright ETA who was placed in Nis, Serbia two years ago. I have been volunteering in the movement crisis throughout Serbia since August of last year. After a few months of calm, now new crises are emerging. We have been so fortunate to receive your support for our ongoing projects.
WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES:
Supporting volunteer costs: In order to build stronger connections between the refugee community and the host community, local volunteer initiatives must be supported. Many youth in Serbia have an interest in helping, but lack the financial support to pay for their transport, needs, and housing. Your money helps local volunteers cover their costs. Local volunteers have language skills, connections, cultural knowledge that international volunteers just don't possess. Your money last year helped sponsor several volunteers who singlehandedly set up camps and provided aid for weeks with little to no institutional support.
Food and Non-Food Items: At this point, many of these needs are being covered by larger NGOs, however when an emergency strikes (such as a freak storm), it will always be small groups that are the first to provide urgent aid.
Tools for projects: Currently, the creators of this fundraiser are providing help through an organization they made to protect volunteers and ensure better coordination of support activities. We are working on long-term educational outreach programs for people trapped in Serbia. Your money will support school supplies, teacher training, and books.
These are our main funding areas. Your support has been magnified manifold. I (Kels) hope to sit down and crunch some numbers as to showing exactly where your money went. <3 <3 Much love from Serbia.
It finally happened! After several trips to set up contact and scope out the situation, we are now happily working out of the Kelebija Learning Center, which is sponsored by I'm Human Organization. We are very excited to announce that with your money, we can support Nevena who has several years' of experience managing the Writing Center in Niš, to design and run educational programs.
Kelebija and Horgoš on the Hungarian border are the temporary homes of hundreds of refugees who are waiting to cross into Hungary. The children at these zones have been waiting for months, and will probably wait more. We are providing educational and entertainment programming to help push back boredom and bring some routine to an otherwise disrupted life.
It's very disturbing to see the effects of stagnancy on the people here and across the balkan route. Many are just left, stored like a can of beans on a shelf. :( But programs like this are helping fight that narrative, which is why we are so dedicated to them.
Thank you so much for your support, and we hope to update you with more good news soon!
Through the magic of social media, we heard Zuzana's report of the very difficult situation at the Hungarian-Serbian border and how she and her partner Kristoff have been working to assist people on their way to that crossroads. As the waiting times are very long , tents are helpful to keep people a bit sheltered from the spring rains, and a simply plush stuffed animal can make the wait less scary for kids.
I reached out to friends with contacts in Subotica and the charismatic and indomitable Petar passed the word on. He, his friend Levente, and I hatched a plan to provide some support to Zuzana and Kristoff, and here's the fruit! Two bags stuffed to the BRIM with plush animals as well as several tents.
We hope the new toys make good friends for the journey and, with their new owners, find safe new homes soon. <3 <3 thank you always for your support.
We have been keeping good care of your donations as we wait for a way to fund them. In the intermediary five months, we have been able to sponsor several volunteer missions to Presevo, Idomeni and elsewhere with your donations. Thank you so much for your ongoing support. We haven't shared the fundraiser due to a desire to hold off until we had a concrete need-- with the closure of the Balkan route there was a great lack of clarity and upset.
Now, however, our worst nightmares have come true. Many refugees have been pushed to the edges of society and aid, into the hands of predatory smugglers and those who would take advantage of them. Guided by the hope of the legal transit zone between Serbia and Hungary (allowing around 30 refugees through per day), refugees are still crossing the Balkan route, with less protection than ever before.
Although some large NGOs are on-site providing aid to those trapped at the Hungarian/Serbian border, due to the nature of the situation, many people are falling through the cracks. Two-hundred are arriving per day at the border, trying to cross in sanctioned and unsanctioned ways. We have made contact with a small volunteer operation that is providing support to those arriving.
This weekend through the help of some friends in Subotica, we are purchasing and delivering tents and toys for children. Tents are necessary as the wait for the legal crossing is very long. Toys are necessary because children are children and deserve to be treated as such, to get a fuzzy friend to help them through their journey.
We will keep you updated as our support for this community deepens. Thank you for your love and patience with us. <3 <3 <3
Kelsey and Jess.