THE HISTORY OF “BREAD OF LIFE” – FROM ITS FOUNDATION IN 1992 UNTIL 2020
"Bread of Life" organization was founded in 1992 to address the acute refugee problem created by the Balkans War. The aim was to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also to displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija. Throughout the years of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, and the profound changes in society beginning in 2000, "Bread of Life" provided extensive humanitarian aid to the local, vulnerable population and to those in need.
PERIOD OF HUMANITARIAN AID
- Humanitarian Aid provided at different times, varied in its timing, its expansion and its intensity. Humanitarian Aid work in the period of humanitarian catastrophes lasted from 1992 to 2004. For the "Bread of Life", an individual was not merely a statistic or a number, but a person with a unique story and needs. All the projects grew and developed from direct contact with people and from listening to their stories and to their needs. Due to the length of the conflict in the region and the long-term consequences, Bread of Life implemented numerous projects aimed at helping the victims of the war. The beneficiaries were largely refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, as well as the displaced population from Kosovo, and those who came in three different refugee waves: 1991/92, 1995, and 1999.
- From April 1992 until 1995, we helped refugees from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, most of whom fled from urban areas. The basic provision of humanitarian aid took place in the buildings of the two churches which were also the founders of "Bread of Life". The number of users who received aid kept increasing from year to year. The method of providing assistance began and continued throughout the 12 year period 1992-2004. Humanitarian Aid was provided first by means of hospitality where everyone had their own chair, their own cup of coffee or tea, and the opportunity to talk and tell their story.
- During the military action in the Republic of Croatia in August 1995, called "Operation Storm", about 250,000 people fled to Serbia from the territory of the Republic of Srpska Karjina in a very short period of time. With their arrival Bread of Life had a tremendous increase in the number of users for whom they provided humanitarian aid. As early as September 1995, Bread of Life made a step forward in providing assistance to those in need, by choosing to "be on the ground", that is, to visit potential beneficiaries for a better insight into their challenges and types of needs. For this purpose, the social workers of Bread of Life have trained about 50 assistants to be able to do the field work and reach out directly to those in need. Bread of Life determined the criteria for providing humanitarian aid, the type and time frame for aiding different groups, and which kind of aid its users needed. It is especially important to underline a newly designed form of aid, entitled the "Self-Sustaining" programme. It was designed together with the users or beneficiaries of the programme, and is aimed at providing long-term aid by making beneficiaries independent and self-sustaining. This is a more complex form of providing assistance to refugee families, designed to support their beginning of a new life in a new environment. In this project it was necessary to educate and train users and beneficiaries, on how to use available resources in order to generate income. The project included donations of resources such as breeding heifers, suckling sows, pigs, laying hens, chickens, goats, sheep, carpentry and lathe tools, sewing machines, saws, greenhouses etc. The obligation of the recipient of the donation was to help other vulnerable families with products of their work in the same way as they had been helped. This usually included help in the form of calves, pigs, meat, eggs, craft services, vegetables.
- The NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the final phase of the war in Kosovo and Metohija, which lasted from March 24 to June 10, 1999, led to a new humanitarian catastrophe. At this time, when bombing ceased, until April 2004, Bread of Life reached out further, taking another step by implementing special humanitarian aid programmes for internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija, and also for the local population endangered by the bombing. Assistance programmes for refugees from Bosnia and Croatia continued during this time as well. In this humanitarian phase, which lasted until April 2004, the scope and intensity of assistance multiplied many times, thanks to the very large donations we received. At this stage, Bread of Life opened several new distribution centres in addition to the previous two located in the church buildings.
In addition to the ever-growing Self-Sufficiency project, in July 2000 we launched a programme for children in schools, entitled "Improving Living Conditions, Education and Social Integration." As part of this programme, we distributed a significant number of aid packages (food, personal hygiene, winter jackets, footwear, school supplies, first aid kits) for 7,000 children.
As part of the project's psychosocial assistance, 1,183 workshops, additional and preparatory classes were held for 1,363 children with the participation of 39 experts (25 pedagogues, psychologists, educators, social workers and 14 teachers)
What was very characteristic of the programmes and activities in 2000, was the provision of material and psychosocial assistance to a wide segment of the population, in order to help them overcome the traumatic experience of the 1999 bombing. A large number of users or beneficiaries who received our material and psychosocial assistance were from the local population, and the beneficiaries were largely children.
Achieved results of the humanitarian aid provided in the period from 1992 to 2004, included:
- The distribution of a huge quantity of humanitarian aid - 20 tons in each of 1,200 trucks - to the affected people and people in need;
- Regular monthly material assistance for 40,000 refugees and internally displaced families;
- One-time humanitarian assistance distributed to about 500,000 people in cooperation with social, health institutions and other associations;
- 470 wood stoves and firewood distributed to 919 refugee families.
Furthermore, the self-sufficiency project provided assistance to about 700 refugee and displaced families.
During and after the NATO bombing a special humanitarian aid programme was implemented for internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija, and also for the local population endangered by the bombing.
We have created and implemented two large programms for children:
- Improvement of living conditions, education and social integration of children in Serbia in the period from July 2000 to January 2001. We helped over 10,000 children through material and medical assistance and 1,000 children through psychosocial, creative and educational workshops in schools and in the local community. This was made possible by ECHO donation.
- Provision of basic urgent needs and psychosocial assistance for children and young people in Serbia in the period from November 2000 to April 2001. We offered material assistance to 7,000 children, and help through educational and various other workshops to 800 children. The donor for this project was World Relief International.
Bread of Life wants to cooperate with all those who are concerned for the welfare of children, and want to use their knowledge and love for children to aid them - be it individuals, professional associates, schools, kindergartens, ministries, churches or the local community in general.
‘Overcoming Violence, and Conflict Resolution, among Children in Primary Schools’ was a programme which ran from 2007 to 2009.’ It was funded by the German government through the CFI (Christliche Fachkräte International) or the International Christian Experts. This is a state-recognized development organization in Germany which acquired the right to use the financial resources of the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany. Conflicts exist in everyday life, including schools. Therefore it is important for children to learn how to understand themselves and others. The goal of the project was to help teachers, children, and schools to accept their differences from one another, and not only to tolerate them, but to lead to new initiatives in the community toward reconciliation. In a very condensed summary of our activities, the key for prevention of violence in schools was in teaching students to accept and understand their own personalities and accept others who are different. Our target group were students 10 to 14 years old, schoolteachers, and also parents. Only after teachers have become competent and understood the practical part of "accepting yourself and others", did we begin to work with students, and eventually with parents. The test questions from PST-R test, which were intended for the adults, were then simplified and adjusted for students. On the basis of the test results and the acquired knowledge, teachers then created workgroups in which they applied the acquired knowledge practically. A movie was made by each class in the school, in which students played different roles and applied their knowledge from the project, and in this way promoted many possible peaceful solutions in situations of conflict.
- In the period from 2005 to 2019 another 200 truckloads of humanitarian aid was imported and distributed. Of that, 20 trucks distributed equipment for several hospitals and nursing homes in Belgrade and Serbia - beds, mattresses, bedding, blankets, pillows, staff uniforms, medical devices, sanitary material-gloves, masks, floor disinfectants, wheelchairs , walkers for hospitals and social welfare institutions. Over 100 tons of quality canned beef and turkey meat were also distributed. In cooperation with Roma associations, humanitarian aid was distributed to over 7,000 Roma families in the form of food, hygiene, blankets, second-hand clothes. Through various associations such as veterans’ and pensioners’ associations engaged in helping particularly vulnerable groups such as the blind, sufferers of multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other disabled people, assistance in the form of disability aids, diapers for adults, food, hygiene, clothing, etc. was offered to about 5,000 people. From 1994 to 2014, over 500,000 Christmas packages were distributed to children in Serbia. These were prepared by children from Great Britain and Germany for their peers in Serbia.
In addition, the valuable experience and knowledge which Bread of Life gained in dealing with humanitarian disasters, and its efficient implementation of various complex programmes to support vulnerable groups, helped in the very complicated organization of assistance to the flood victims in Serbia in 2014. The project entitled "Reconstruction of households and businesses devastated by floods in Serbia 2014-REHAB" - is a short-term programme. It aims to provide the necessary emergency assistance to households and businesses and start the process of recovery from damage caused by catastrophic floods and landslides in May 2014. The grants which Bread of Life had at its disposal were $ 900,000 from the American Foundation for Reconstruction and Development OFDA, and 1,250,000 EUR from ECHO for the implementation of the REHAB project.
The role of Bread of Life" in this project included touring the flooded areas, working with relevant local authorities to determine priorities for the selection of beneficiaries to whom assistance will be granted, as well as to oversee the distribution of the approved type of assistance.
Main goals and phases of the programme were:
- Donations to the most endangered families for minor repairs or the purchase of the most necessary household appliances;
- Donations to the most vulnerable owners of agricultural farms, small shops or businesses in order to restart their business.
In addition, Bread of Life received grants from 15 of its traditional donors, a total of 80,000 EUR, with which it was able to respond to the extraordinary needs encountered on the ground.
The project was implemented in the following municipalities: Obrenovac, Ub, Koceljeva, Sabac, Krupanj, Loznica, Mali Zvornik i Ljubovija.
In partnership with other organizations during this very intensive and exhausting work, 2,501 donations were awarded for the reconstruction of households, for 7,203 individuals, and 2,915 beneficiaries received 658 grants for restarting of their small businesses.
A total of 3,159 households, in 10 different cities, especially in Obrenovac were also provided with assistance in the period from May 2014 to May 2015.
- The following year, 2015, assistance was provided to MIGRANTS who came to Serbia from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. Bread of Life responded to the needs of migrants from the Middle East, who came in large numbers to Belgrade, on their way to the countries of the European Union. The massive influx of migrants through Serbia began in August 2015, when the daily influx increased to over 2,000 people. Thanks to donations received, Bread of Life was able to provide significant assistance in food, hygiene, clothing and footwear.
From October 2015, we were providing material assistance at the main bus station where migrants gathered. From November onwards, we sent aid to reception centres/camps in southern Serbia (Presevo) in cooperation with REMAR, and to the north (Sid reception centre) near the border with Croatia.
In accordance with its capacity, Bread of Life provided volunteers to join the REMAR team in their work with migrants, in several locations.
Among the migrants there were many babies, children of preschool and school age who, in addition to humanitarian aid and accommodation, also needed psychosocial support and assistance for integration into the school system, due to a longer stay in our country.
In collaboration with the Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN), https://psychosocialinnovation.net/ Bread of Life was able to help about 150 children and 15 adults in collective centres for migrants, providing assistance in the form of cribs, strollers, diapers and baby food, winter clothes and shoes for school children, school textbooks, school supplies, laptops, materials for various workshops for children, and board games.
We sent help to the following reception centres: Sid, Presevo, Adasevci, Bogovadja, Banja Koviljaca, Sjenica, Tutin, Krnjaca.
- The outbreak of the pandemic due to the COVID 19 virus in 2020 did not find Bread of Life unprepared. We have adapted our projects to the new situation. Since the declaration of a state of emergency due to the Covid 19 pandemic, Bread of Life has developed a programme to help vulnerable groups. It uses its many years of experience in humanitarian work, especially with the elderly and Roma children.
In this emergency, while respecting epidemiological measures and recommendations for the protection of the population, staff and volunteers from Bread of Life distributed humanitarian aid in the form of food and hygiene, diapers for adults to the elderly, especially those without relatives.
A total of 1201 different aid packages were distributed to the poor of various categories, mostly the elderly as follows:
- 300 different packages purchased in accordance with the needs and health status of each of the elderly users;
- 200 food and hygiene packages distributed to elderly households, of which 100 packages were in cooperation with the Serbian Red Cross, which coordinates the humanitarian activities of the Humanas network during the pandemic;
- 177 Covid hygiene kits distributed consisting of disinfectants, gloves, masks to increase safety of its beneficiaries during the pandemic. Elderly beneficiaries of aid and Roma children from the Bread of Life programme were included;
- 160 packages of school supplies provided for Roma children in Surcin and the Roma settlement on Cukaricka padina;
- 70 hygiene distributed packages in a Roma settlement on the Cukarica;
- 1.5 tons of second-hand clothes through Roma associations in Makis and Novi Becej were distributed;
- 89 food and hygiene packages provided for the socially vulnerable population;
- About 200 packs of diapers distributed to the elderly and demented elderly;
- Heating for the winter (chopped wood) or electricity bills paid in the winter for the 15 poorest elderly households;
- A total of 538 individuals, children and families were covered through various types of assistance.
With the exception of these emergency humanitarian interventions, the amount of the regular assistance that beneficiaries have received has decreased significantly compared to the previous period, for understandable reasons.
"BREAD OF LIFE" PRIJEDOR
Due to the growing needs caused by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the work of Bread of Life was expanded in 1996. A new office was opened in Prijedor in order to provide assistance to the large number of refugees and returnees in Bosnia. About 200 trucks of material assistance delivered and distributed food, hygiene, clothes, shoes, furniture, hospital equipment and materials, and over 200,000 Christmas packages to children.
In addition to humanitarian assistance programmess, development programmes were also created in order to provide self-sustainability of the organization. Bread of Life started a few businesses in the field of wood industry and agriculture (greenhouse production, goat farm etc.)
At the beginning of 2011, Bread of Life started operating the first soup kitchen in Prijedor, serving over 100 cooked meals every day to the socially and financially disadvantaged population.
In the same year, the Second Hand Shop "Hatikva" was opened in the centre of Prijedor. Income from this supported the organization's humanitarian and social programmes. High quality goods, good relationships with suppliers, customer trust and the awareness that Hatikva is a social enterprise, have kept this business in operation for nine years.
Then a scholarship programme was created for children from large and socially disadvantaged families, designed to help them in education. Children were provided with help in learning, completing homework, learning foreign languages. Field trips were also organized for them to offer relief from studying.
In 2014 Bread of Life started the programme "New Beginning" in a small town of Bozici, near Prijedor. Its purpose is the treatment of alcohol and drug addicts. The programme provides opportunities for physical recovery and rehabilitation, as well as spiritual recovery and building. Engaging in agriculture and animal husbandry as part of occupational therapy, has also been a way of independently financing the work of the programme, and some help from donors from abroad also contributes to the programme.
The transitional period in Serbia began in 2001, with the aim of building a more democratic society. A new type of assistance was required, which demanded co-operation with all relevant state agencies and institutions and local leaders.
In the earlier phase of providing humanitarian aid to refugees, Bread of Life undertook the design of a more complex form of assistance, which involved the active participation of beneficiaries to take responsibility for their livelihood. Through the programme of self-sufficiency and independence, we enabled beneficiaries to support themselves through food production and trade services. With this kind of help they have the opportunity to become independent, and not dependent on additional help or aid, thus becoming quickly integrated into the local community.
PHASE OF DEVELOPMENT / SOCIAL PROGRAMS
Bread of Life works on developing awareness and assisting people in need to take responsibility for their lives and livelihood, and to show readiness to contribute and influence the renewal and the development of the society of which they are a part. In order to prepare for the development phase of the programme, Bread of Life undertook intensive training of its staff in order to increase the capacity of the organization. Bread of Life partners provided training in designing and managing project cycles, training and strengthening in leadership which strengthens the organization itself, and implementing and managing change in community. Training was in the fields of financial management, community impact, advocacy, peace building, the role of the church in community, networking and strategic planning. As a result of the training, the first strategic plan of Bread of Life for the period from 2003 - 2005 was developed.
The main characteristic of the implementation of the development programme of Bread of Life was continuity in achieving sustainability. Since April 2004, when SIDA (Swedish Government Development Fund) approved the project for "Support in education, psychosocial support and integration of marginalized children", education has been implemented at all stages of the programmes.
- THE ELDERLY are enabled to live with dignity, as completely and independently as possible, thus reducing the time in which they have to rely on institutions for providing direct social and health care, such as senior homes.
This programme with its complexity has been continually developing to the present day. "Social services for the elderly, promotion of active aging and support for people with dementia" are some of the services that are a part of the current programme. Thanks to its professional and quality work in the field of social assistance, Bread of Life received a license (number 399) in June 2018 from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs to provide social service "Home Care" for the elderly and adults in the community.
- ROMA CHILDREN, young people, and adults are finishing their primary school. They are nurturing their relationships and enjoying their basic human rights. The goal is to enable Roma children to be equally included and successfully integrated into preschool and primary school education, to finish primary school regularly and enrol in secondary education, and to exercise their basic human rights by nurturing mutual relations and relationships with others.
In addition, the goal is to train young Roma men and women, potential Roma leaders, to actively engage in the effort to create a better future and improve the living conditions of the Roma community as a whole. This is addressed through the education process, supporting different models appropriate for the educational needs of their communities, in order to create better living conditions and standards for the whole Roma community.
- Re-Socialization of FORMER ADDICTS (from 2009 to 2017)
This programme has two long-term development goals:
- that former addicts will successfully return to Serbian society with life and work skills that increase their chances for employment or self-employment;
- that Bread of Life will provide an environment and conditions which support a certain number of former addicts to resocialize and recover, and assist in developing their own organization called Izlazak (which means “exodus”).
INCOME GENERATION PROGRAMME
With the passing of a Law in relation to Associations (Official papers of the RS, No. 51/9), which entered into effect in 2009, the legal conditions for performing economic activities and earn income for non-profit work Bread of Life were met. In order to help the organization to be self-sustaining and support its social programmes, Bread of Life registered the "Used Clothes Store" as an economic activity for gaining income. The project was supported by donors from Sweden whose second-hand business was developed as a source of revenue for humanitarian work. Their experience was very encouraging for us and for that purpose we visited Sweden on a training trip.
With the registration of a second-hand shop in March 2011, Bread of Life began social entrepreneurship activity, in order to help vulnerable members of society - the poor, the elderly, former addicts, and the Roma.
It was also planned to invest the earned profits in developing the capacity of the organization itself to support various new programmes.
The store successfully worked and achieved its goals to support humanitarian and social programmes of the Bread of Life until 2018, when it was temporarily closed due to organizational changes. Plans have been made for the store to reopen when more favourable conditions allow.
Development and construction of CER campsite in Tekeris since 2014
The concept of the camp included the vision of participants staying ‘close to nature’ during the summer holidays, and being accommodated in tents and in the facility building. In the planned space for tents accommodation is possible for about 40 people. Up to 20 people can be accommodated in one of the buildings.
In two newly-built buildings, with a total area of about 300 m2, there are a professionally equipped kitchen, a bathroom with utilities and toilets, bedrooms, and rooms for social activities and workshops.
The property has its own source of drinking water. A drinking water treatment system and a waste water treatment system have been installed to protect the environment. Fields for football, volleyball and archery are available.
Among excursions organized are those to Mount Cer, to the Museum dedicated to the Battle of Cer in Tekeriš, and by arrangement, to the nearby spas, Badanja and Koviljača Spa, as well as visits to Vuk's birthplace., Karadzic in nearby Trsic.
Camp supports our activities with children and the elderly.
The Centre was made according to a design and construction plan from 2015, when the necessary building permits were obtained from the relevant municipality agency, and construction work was begun for 3 buildings.
There are fields for football, volleyball and archery. Walks to the top of the Cer mountain and visits to the Museum dedicated to the Battle of Cer, which took place in the First World War, are all organized in the area where the property for the Centre is located. It is possible to organize trips to the spas Badanja and Koviljača, as well as visits to the birth house of Vuk Karadzic in Trsic.
The last phase of construction is still in progress. In 2020 the final work on the main building was completed. In the next phase, it is necessary to build a third facility, or a conference hall with an area of about 100 square meters.