This endless flow of humanity is still on, and thousands of men, women and children keep on coming to Serbia on a daily basis. Their arduous journey towards a better life in western Europe takes them to and through Belgrade, and after a brief break they move on towards new borders, getting closer to their final destination. With the cold fall days moving in, already exhausted, and not used to inclement Belgrade weather, many of them have to depend on solidarity shown by the locals, who bring them warm clothes, food, and anything else they might need. Moreover, there is a huge number of families with small children and babies not used to severe life conditions. This truly sad picture of refugees in Serbia has had a strong impact on our school community. The ISB students, teachers, and parents were determined to help.
In mid-September a joint planning meeting was held with representatives of all three student councils, the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) Coordinator, the sponsor of another student service group, members of the PTSA and school administration, in order to coordinate ideas and efforts across the school community. All students began collecting donations, and organizing the refugee relief effort. The Upper School students partnered up with the organization - Refugee Relief Serbia, which organized a huge distribution center in downtown Belgrade. Many ISB students and teachers volunteered to come to the center and help distribute food, water and supplies to the refugees. The students were praised for their commitment, perseverance and maturity exhibited during the time they spent at the center.
In addition, an assembly was organized at the Lower School to update all students on the migrant situation in Belgrade as well as the efforts underway by SIA (Students in Action, the Lower School student council) to collect donations. The PTSA contributed to the drive by researching and informing students what the refugee collection center needed at this specific time of the year, as the needs continue to change on a regular basis. The Upper School teachers and CAS students joined the assembly to share their experiences with volunteering at the distribution center downtown, so that younger students could gain a better understanding of what happens to the collected items once they leave ISB. Demonstrating commitment, groups of ISB students keep on rotating and helping at the center after school and on Sundays. Members of the PTSA also continue to volunteer their time downtown at the center. Younger students have worked together with their older peers on sorting a huge amount of donations, while Upper School students and teachers help out at the distribution points.
The refugee relief effort organized by ISB will continue in the months to come for as long as our help is needed. The whole community is participating in collecting food, warm clothes, waterproof jackets, hygiene products, backpacks, traveling bags, blankets and anything else these people may need. Our youngest students were most inventive – they decided to add small gifts, treats, handmade cards and notes to the items they collect before sending them to the refugee center. They have already learnt an important lesson – the little things can mean so much.
Compiled by Divna Stakic, International School of Belgrade