Representatives of the Caritas organizations from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Slovakia and Ukraine together with a representative of Caritas Europa visited Belgrade and Valjevo in Serbia where Caritas Serbia presented best practice on the Institutional Advocacy. The Study visit was organized on 8-10 July 2019 as planned in the working agenda of Caritas Europa Institutional Advocacy Action Group fulfilling the Strategic objective of networking and sharing best practice of one member organization that can be a beneficial tool to another organization.
Caritas Serbia director rev. Ivica Damjanovic and National coordinator Darko Tot presented the topic of Mental health and Home care as two different approaches in their Institutional strengthening Caritas Serbia is dedicated in the past 20 years. Activities on Mental health were Strategical orientation from the very beginning, since Caritas Serbia discovered some anomaly in the Psychiatric system. Some of the Psychiatric hospitals in Serbia were locking patients in the Institution and once a person is in the institution, s/he is hardly released as a healthy person back to society. The Psychiatric institutions were in need for change in the approach to the mental health patients, primarily with deinstitutionalization and decreasing number of beds. With great support of Caritas Italiana and expertise of Mr Paolo Serra today after 20 years proactive engagement in the field of Mental health Caritas Serbia assisted in creation and sustainability beneficiary association “Zracak” in Valjevo. With the understanding various donors and partners particular with great financial and expertise of Caritas Italiana, Mental health activities are in strategic and action plan of Caritas Serbia, supporting public campaigns, lobbying and advocacy actions, networking as well the strengthening relationships with national and local government. Nowdays Caritas Serbia is an important stakeholder in the Mental health sector, being a best practice for Institutional Advocacy in the Caritas network.
During three days of Study visit participants were introduced with the history and a background for the Mental health, with challenges and opportunities created as well several meetings were organized with Caritas Serbia staff and President, in Ministry of health, in the EU Delegation, with Caritas Valjevo and representative of local government as well with the beneficiary association Zracak.
The President of Caritas Serbia Mons. Hocevar is a great supporter to Caritas actions and his role as President in the Mental Health projects had a great impact. His lobbing and promotion with the key stakeholder opened a door to the negotiation and activity implementation. Mons Hocevar was generously explaining to the participants of the study visit, what role Caritas should play in the frame of helping the people in need. Synergy in meeting people builds and gives successful results only if people understand their role in creating a path in dialogue and understanding. Caritas has a role to show to the world that is possible to solve any problem despite the complexity. Caritas must open tunnels where there is no path, and a Love of our God will give us the strength to persist and succeed. With God’s blessing, we can do impossible things.
In the Ministry of the health of Republic Serbia was an opportunity to discuss about lessons learned with Ministry advisor for EU integration Ms Urosevic and Mr Stanojkovic, director of Gornja Toponica Psychiatric hospital. Caritas Serbia and the Ministry of health are successfully collaborating for 20 years and this will be the focus of both institutions in the future.
Caritas Valjevo is a branch of Caritas Arch-Diocese Belgrade who is presenting extraordinary results in collaboration with local government, which is confirmed by the Ms. Bojicic from the City of Valjevo. Ms Bojicic presented that local government is investing 6% of the budget to the social sector, and in the year 2019 they invested 82.000 EUR for Caritas Valjevo programs. Caritas Valjevo and Government in Valjevo are applying together to EU tenders with projects and it is visible that their collaboration is open and with clear partnership goals. Beneficiary association Zracak in Valjevo was first beneficiary association registered in Serbia for mental health with great support of Caritas expertize and finances. The association is gathering people with mental health problems who are deinstitutionalized, and supported with training, psychological counseling and strengthened for everyday life. The beneficiaries are meeting, learning and enjoying normal life and socialization, and most important is that they are not anymore in the institution. They learned how to cook and serve food, that was presented in mountain house Crna reka where their praxis is in place twice a week. Ms Vesna who has a great understanding for people in need donates the house for use in the village. Zracak activities are promoted in Valjevo and they are hoping one day to act as a sustainable NGO. The food beneficiaries cooked and served with the assistance of trainers and psychologist was delicious.
Meeting with the EU delegation in Belgrade proved that Caritas Serbia, national and diocesan level, has an active partnership with Delegation. The open discussion with Ms Pajer and Ms Milenic about activities of EU delegation, collaboration with Caritas and their interest how Caritas in other countries is collaborating with EU institutions, gave a special light towards this stakeholder pillar for Institutional Advocacy. Every Caritas could and should closely collaborate with EU institution in its country using different tools (reports, consultations, meetings, tenders etc).
The study visit concluded a workshop in Caritas Serbia, where all representatives were discussing on lessons learned, evaluating visit as well discussing possible actions in Institutional Advocacy field. All recommendation will be listed in the Manual on IA that Caritas Europa Action Group on Institutional Advocacy is preparing in next year. This study visit was very productive and one big Bravo was shared to Caritas Serbia success, strategic and partnership orientation as well as dedication to the Institutional Advocacy success.