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Three years of work of Caritas laundry services for refugees

For over three years of helping refugees and migrants, Caritas in Serbia has developed many innovative activities, which are an essential part of everyday life of refugees. In November 2015 Caritas started with laundry services for refugees residing in the reception centres Krnjaca and Presevo. Before Caritas introduced these services, there was no place where refugees could wash their laundry, which represented a major problem for families with children. Through this service, washing and drying machines with fast washing cycles were introduced, which at that time was especially important for refugees in transit, so that they could quickly wash their clothes and continue travelling through Serbia. 

Caritas laundry services were subsequently opened in the reception centres Kikinda, Obrenovac and Adaševci, where they continue to work, thanks to the support of Caritas Germany and Caritas Austria. In Presevo reception centre, the washing machines were active until the centre was closed in mid-August this year, when they were moved to Bujanovac reception centre, where they continue to work.

Caritas laundry services are used to wash personal items of refugees, as well as linens, blankets and towels of reception centres. This reduces the spread of infection, contributes to the overall hygiene of the centres and the welfare of refugees residing in these centres.

In the Krnjaca Asylum Center, through which thousands of refugees have passed and where more than 500 people currently reside, the machines installed in the Caritas container work with full capacity. The container has four sets of washing and drying machines that are used to wash personal items of refugees. In the central laundry room of the Krnjaca Asylum Center, there are other four sets of Caritas machines, which are used by the Commissariat for Refugees for washing linens and blankets. Thanks to the support of Caritas Germany and Caritas Austria, the laundry service is open from 8am to 8pm from Monday to Friday and from 10am to 6pm on Saturdays.

Creative activities with refugees at the Krnjaca Asylum center in Belgrade

At the Krnjaca Asylum Center in Belgrade, in two rooms that the Commissariat for Refugees and Migrations provided for Caritas, a number of creative, educational and occupational activities for refugees and migrants are taking place.

Adults have the opportunity to learn English and Serbian, participate in creative workshops and play board games. A large number of women spend time in the activities of sewing, knitting and making various decorative items, which are used for decoration of the working room  and their own rooms.

For school-age children, Caritas organizes supplementary classes to help them write homework and learn Serbian language as well as other school subjects.

In these premises Caritas professional staff: psychologists, interpreters and educators are at disposal of refugees and migrants. The refugees can discuss their personal problems, get different information and referrals to other institutions and organizations who can provide additional help.

The second room is intended for children from 2 to 6 years of age, where they are also able to learn Serbian and English and get to know more about the world surrounding us, with lesson adapted to their age. Creative, sports and music workshops are organized for them, as well as time for playing and dancing. All these activities are carried out with the aim of better development of children and their abilities. The joint artwork of these children decorates the room, creating a colorful and cheerful atmosphere. Through music workshops, children relax and develop motor and orientation skills. Watching cartoons, which attracts a great number of children, besides entertainment, is also a way of acquiring certain knowledge, language learning and developing the ability to maintain attention and concentration.

Communication with adults and with children is taking place more and more in Serbian language, which is an evidence of the progress of refugees in language learning.

Caritas’s laundry service at disposal of refugees and local population in Kikinda

The Refugee centre in Kikinda is located far from the city and there is no possibility to connect to the sewage network. Waste water is collected in a septic tank that is not envisaged for a large number of users, and in order to avoid infection, it is discharged twice a day.

For this reason, in 2017, in agreement with the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, Caritas opened a laundry service for the needs of refugees and migrants outside the reception center, in the premises of the former parish of St. Joseph in Kikinda, where there are proper conditions for washing, drying and ironing laundry and bedding of refugees and migrants. The laundry from the reception center is thus transported to the laundry service and returned back washed, dry and packaged.

In addition to the laundry service, Caritas also provides facilities for personal hygiene of migrants and refugees in Kikinda, facilities for maintaining the cleanliness of the environment and hygiene of the reception centre’s premises, in order to reduce infections and diseases.

The laundry service is not only used for the needs of refugees and migrants, but also for the local poor population, those who do not have conditions or opportunities for it, primarily old, sick and lonely people. The transport of laundry is done from their homes to the laundry service and back, so that they get their clean and dry laundry for free.

Andrej is 34 years old and lives alone in an apartment he inherited from his father. He lived only with his father since he was 10 years old, when his mother left them, until three years ago, when his father died of cancer. The father had a small pension, from which both of them needed to sustain, but spent much of it on alcohol. In addition, most of the furniture was sold by the father in order to buy alcohol. Andrej was left only with a couch, on which he sleeps and a wardrobe with some clothes.

Besides being alone, Andrej is a pulmonary patient and is not able to work because of his illness. He spends most of his time at the Special Hospital for Pulmonary Diseases.

The supply of electricity and water was abolished in his home, because he could not pay the bills, as well as social assistance because he owns a property. The apartment is very cold, so in the winter sometimes he goes to friends house to warm up a little.

He gets running water for washing and drinking from a faucet in the yard, when the weather conditions allow it, because the faucet freezes is in winter. There is no place where he can wash his clothes, which is why it’s very important for him to get his laundry cleaned from Caritas. In addition, Caritas volunteers try to help him in other ways and find solutions to his problems.

Laundry services in Kikinda are funded by Caritas Germany.

Caritas sewing and tailoring workshop at the Principovac Reception Center

For refugees and migrants who want to sew new clothes or fix old ones in Principovac reception center Caritas opened a sewing and tailoring workshop.The workshop is mostly visited by women residing in this center, who like to sew linen sheets and curtains for doors and windows, as well as dresses and t-shirts from materials provided by Caritas every month. Refugee women are mostly sewing together and helping one another. Men also proved to be skillful in sewing and tailoring and they are always trying to teach each other through work. Those who are not so skilled usually come to the workshop to seek for help, especially for repairing their clothes, bags and backpacks. In addition to sewing within this workshop, there is also a workshop of knitting and crocheting, where until now special skills have been shown by young girls who are staying at this reception center.

Serbian and English classes for the refugees in Vranje

One of the activities of Caritas Team in Vranje refugee center are Serbian and English language classes. Due to high interest of refugees for learning languages, and limited space of our container, they were divided in more groups. Whenever possible, Caritas team was using warm weather to have classes in the open, in front of the container. Caritas staff have noticed that during the classes in the open, refugees /students were more active. Moreover, refugees who maybe did not plan to attend would join classes in the open and continue to participate in Caritas activities. 

Language classes organized by Caritas team in Vranje are implemented with the support of Caritas Germany.

Clean hands for a healthier life

On the occasion of October 15th – the World Day of Clean hands, Caritas team of psycho-social support from Bujanovac organized a workshop for children in order to draw attention to the importance of washing hands in order to preserve health. The activity started by washing hands, followed by a game with watercolours. Each child picked up a colour and first dyed the palms of their hands and then painted a big paper with them. While decorating the paper with their hands, the children talked with representatives of Caritas about the importance of clean hands and how infectious diseases are brought into the body precisely because of dirty hands. This was a very interesting workshop for children, because it brought together fun and education. The children were enthusiastic about the activity and were willing to participate in it.

With the forum theatre “Stories from the Soul” Caritas Serbia commemorated World Mental Health Day in Belgrade

On the occasion of the October 10 – World Mental Health Day, a forum theatre – Stories from the Soul was held in Belgrade, Serbia.  This interactive theatre performance is based on the experiences of users of psychiatric services. Forum theatre is a specific type of open theater, which aims to influence current sensitive topics. Both actors and audience are active in it, as they try to find acceptable solutions to the problems they face together.

The creative process of the forum theatre was conducted by psychologist and artist Vera Erac, and the participants / actors were Bosiljka, Dragan, Milutin, Ognjen and Slobodan, representatives of the Association Duša and Videa. Through this interactive theatre play, the actors presented how society treats people with mental disorders through five bad stories about their everyday life.

After presenting these stories, psychologist Vera Erac introduced the audience to the problem in order to find alternative solutions to the presented situations. In this way, the audience could enter in the daily life of the users of psychiatric services and try to find solutions to the situations of discrimination and stigmatization that they are facing.

This forum theatre was organised within the campaign IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE, which is jointly conducted by Caritas Serbia and the users of psychiatric services, member of the Network for Mental Health NaUm. The idea is that this campaign sends a message that it is important to cultivate mental health and break prejudices.

Mental disorders do not discriminate and they can affect anyone, anytime, regardless of age, sex, intelligence, education, income. Nobody is immune! It can happen to anyone!


My right to live happily and healthy – Celebrating Children’s Week in Refugee center Bujanovac

On the occasion of the “Children’s Week”, celebrated from October 1 to October 7, under the slogan “My right to live happily and healthy – for growing up without violence”, Caritas team of psycho-social support from Bujanovac used the opportunity to teach children about their rights, but also about their obligations. Children were given envelopes on which their rights were written in Serbian language, which they read and translated together to other languages, so that everyone would understand. After explaining each right children continued playing and dancing.

For children of school age a workshop on sexuality was organized, adapted to both sexes. During the workshop children and their mothers had a chance to watch an animated film explaining the topic. Children were explained what is allowed and what is not, who can approach them and in what way, what kind of people should they be careful of, how to ask for help and who to turn to if they encounter a problem. It was pointed out that they should not trust everyone and that they should be ready to react on time. The children liked this workshop very much and carefully followed every word spoken.

The bishops of Serbia supported Caritas’s campaign “It Can Happen to Anyone”

At today’s meeting of the bishops of Serbia, the director of Caritas Serbia Rev. Ivica Damjanovic presented the campaign on the occasion of marking October 10th, World Mental Health Day. By being photographed with the slogan “It can happen to anyone”, the bishops of Serbia supported this year’s anti-stigma campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of protecting mental health and combating the stigmatization of people with mental disorders.

Around 450 million people worldwide live with a mental disorder. Two thirds of them never ask for help, because they are ashamed and fear a brutal reaction to the society.

Unlike people, the mental disorder does not discriminate and does not choose between sex, age, occupation, level of intelligence or education … Nobody is immune! It can happen to anyone!


Study visit to Serbia within the project Societies

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Within the project SOCIETIES a study visit was organized from 11 to 13 March, aiming to exchange experiences and examples of good practice in the field of social inclusion between civil society organizations (CSOs)participating in the project. Representatives of 15 CSOs from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo, together…

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Recognition of Caritas Serbia work on disaster risk reduction

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Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina and Caritas Serbia recently received recognition for their exceptional work in disaster risk reduction. On March 1stthey were awarded by the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina for supporting disaster risk reduction in their respective countries and co-operating across borders. Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina’s main contribution was…

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English language classes for refugees in Bujanovac

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Caritas psycho-social support team from Bujanovac Reception Center organises lessons of English language for refugees and migrants, every day, from Monday to Friday. The participants are divided into three groups, in relation to their previous knowledge. They attend classes regularly, with the goal to master the language better. The members…

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