Today and tomorrow May Day is celebrated here in Serbia and around the world. Sometimes called “Workers Day”, it is a time to not work and here in Serbia go on a picnic. We left Belgrade for our 160 mile drive to Pirot, it was just us and about 1/10 of Serbians on the road this
morning. It took about 75 miles for the traffic to thin down which was just in time for us to go thru the mountains.
Even with a rain forecast, today was beautiful! A perfect driving day. The roads are very nice in Serbia- one main highway runs North to South. This is a toll road, very well maintained. Our last 50 miles were on 2 lane roads that will soon be 4 lanes as a new highway is being built with 1/2 of it open. We even saw road crews working! Impressive on a holiday. This is one of 17 camps which currently house over 7,000 refugees in Serbia. This location is a military camp which was built to house refugees after WWII. There are 240 people at this camp with over 100 under 10 years of age. Kids are EVERYWHERE!
CTF’s partner at this camp is: Refugees Foundation. Amanda and I worked with both Edin and Anita when we were here in January. At this camp they are doing much the same as what they were doing in Belgrade. A center for youth to come to hang out, do art and have language and math classes. Currently in Pirot the children are not attending school. This small non-profit is the only consistency these kids have. Without a car both Anita and Edin walk the 2.5 mile walk each way to work 5 days a week. On the other 2 days a week they are fundraising for the work that they do. They are amazing.
Given all that the children have been thru, their joy and exuberance for life is infections! We purchased for them with CTF money and money we had fundraised: a new cupboard to store items in, 2 tables, Lego’s to play with, window coverings, an A/C unit and a white board. When we unpacked the white board ohhhhh and ahhhhhs from both the students and teachers were heard. Camp residents also teach classes, German, in addition to the Serbian and English classes Edin and Anita provide. The white board will be a fantastic addition to the classes.
Amanda and I taught the English I class and English conversional class. Thankfully Edin had done the lesson plan and we just helped everyone with their pronunciation. It actually was very fun. These classes were for the adults but if the children could sit still they could attend too. We had about 20 per class and 4-5 of these were 10-12 years old. Going to school in their spare time. Excited and looking forward to learning. I spoke with Sami who had been a 1-3 grade teacher in Kabul. He would have 42-45 students per class. Imagine!! His family is in Germany, he had gotten his far when his money ran out to pay the smugglers. He said he just wanted to be in a “secure environment with no bombs raining from the sky”.
Once class was over at 5:00 pm about a 1/2 dozen people got to work assembling the tables and cabinet. IKEA opens this summer but thankfully Amanda and I found some IKEA like mega stores to find what they needed.
You could see the pride in the residents faces as a group of them put together items- of course the children were eager to work. And just like when Rob puts something from IKEA together there were extra pieces!
We will be here working for a few days- the air is clean and this city of 35,000 is known for it’s handwoven rugs.