Project Name:Aid to the needy

Project Duration: 
Throughout 2008

Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 

We delivered various items of humanitarian aid (food, shoes, clothes) to refugee families we have known for years in the area of Karlovac (namely, Vojnic, Krnjak and Karlovac), and in the area of Rijeka (Hreljin, Cavle). At the same time of visiting these needy families, we spent time counseling and comforting them, singing with them and cheering them up.

The main thrusts of this project were: on the first day of the year, along with an animation at the soup kitchen in Rijeka we delivered boxes of aid for the beneficiaries of the kitchen; in November 2007 and April 2008 we painted and made improvements in the house of a poor single mom with two children in Hreljin; in May, where we traveled to Vojnic and the surroundings in cooperation with volunteers from C.R.I.E.D., Canada; and during the summer months – in cooperation with young volunteers who came for two summer camps.

 We have been visiting Karlovac and its surroundings (a needy refugee area affected by the war in former Yugoslavia), since 1998. There are many needy families in the area, and we have “adopted” some of them for regular visitation, help and encouragement. During this year we continued to visit and offer comfort and counseling, as well as humanitarian aid whenever possible to those families. On a few occasions throughout the year we brought vanloads of aid from Italy (from concerned individuals who wish to help the poor in a neighboring country).

This year in April we also took a trip to Bosnia, to reconnect with 40 families who some of our volunteers had helped during for two year duration of the ex-Yugoslavian civil war. This was a memorable trip, which left us feeling inspired and rewarded, knowing that the people we helped had not forgotten about us, even if our memory fell short. When word went around that our volunteers were back in Mostar, many invitations to dinner started coming… there weren’t nearly enough evenings to fulfill them all. “Knowing that my family had food to eat while I was fighting on the front lines meant a lot,” one father said. Drugs and unemployment have destroyed many lives in Bosnia, though we still hold to the principle that while there’s life there’s hope! It’s time for us to plan more regular visits!

Project Name: “Coloring the world!”

Project Duration: throughout 2008

Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 828

During this last year, together with part-time volunteers from Croatia and Italy, we worked and completed wall murals in the following places:

  • the prison in Rijeka (in January)
  • the Home for mentally impaired senior citizens, Dom Turnic in Rijeka (in February)
  • the children’s hospital “Kantrida”, Rijeka (in March)
  • Dom za odgoj – delinquent center for minors in Rijeka (we worked on this project two times – in April and again in July)
  • Youth clubs in Cloz (TN, Italy) and Trento, Oratorio S. Antonio (in May and June respectively)
  • A central playground in the town of Pozega, north of Croatia (in September)
  • The murals transformed the living and working space of these institutions, and made it much more lively and cheerful. Not only is this project effective because of the end result of the work, but many part-time volunteers are eager to get involved in the painting, and thus they experience the thrill of working for a greater purpose than their own pursuit of pleasure. As a result, many lives of those younger and older have been changed forever!
    Our project was featured in local newspaper “Novi list”, December 6th 2007, reaching an estimated audience of 80 000.

    Years ago we started a project of painting murals of all kinds. Many tell us that one day as they were traveling along, all of a sudden our mural of peace appeared on the side of the road, with the inscription “What everybody needs is love”.

    Yesterday, while passing by Mostar, we looked out the window to admire the first mural ever painted (in 1996): even if a bit faded, it’s still alive and real, to proclaim this fundamental but often forgotten principle of love.

    To this day we keep on coloring the gray world around with brush strokes of love; only in the last 4 months we completed 4 murals in 4 different institutions: in the children’s hospital “Kantrida”, the prison of Rijeka, The Home for senior citizens Dom Turnic and Dom za odgoj (delinquent center for minors in Rijeka). It almost seems like a miracle that every time the simple gray walls are transformed into a feast of color, transmitting optimism, love and joy, and changing the atmosphere entirely. And one more positive factor: in these projects we involve young people and local volunteers, giving them an opportunity to discover a new world of volunteering and to participate in this unforgettable team effort.
    See you soon – maybe one in your town will be next!

    Project Name:
Building a bridge


Project Duration: 
Throughout 2008, mainly in June and September


Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 

Our friends from Senior Citizens’ Home in Rovereto came to attend the main event in Dom Turnic (similar institution in Rijeka) – contest of song organized by the Dom for beneficiaries of such Homes from all over Croatia. This was a solidarity meeting, whereby directors, social workers and animators from two different worlds (rich Northern Italy and post-war, post-communist Croatia) were able to unite, establish new friendships, help one another, and make plans for future meetings.
    We also brought items of humanitarian aid from Italy at least 8 times, to distribute to needy families in Croatia, making known the needs of our “adopted” families to those who often have a lot materially, but need a “cause” to support in order to be complete.

For over 10 years we have been the mediators of a friendship between Udruga “Koraci” in Rijeka (an association geared to organizing creative workshops for children and older adults) and the Home for senior citizens in Rovereto, Italy. After we introduced the two institutions one to another in 1996, a friendship ensued, of exchanging correspondence, gifts and occasional visits, all through us, their common friends, who often travel to Italy and speak both languages. This year the friendship was expanded by adding on a senior citizens’ Home in Rijeka we cooperate with, Dom Turnic. Dom Turnic had its “happening of the year” on June 6th – a contest of song, among similar institutions from all over Croatia, which the Dom in Rijeka was chosen to host. Our friends from Rovereto took the time to travel to the event, attend and build new friendships, and have already invited the social workers and the director of Dom Turnic, together with members of Udruga “Koraci” and “The Family International” in Rijeka, for a two-day solidarity meeting in their home town in October.

    The “bridge”, though, does not stop there – we keep building it continually, as we bring the needs of our poorer friends in Croatia before concerned individuals in Italy, who are happy to extend a helping hand and find more satisfaction than only a life lived for themselves could afford. Many times this year we have taken trips to Italy, collected items of humanitarian aid, and have brought them to our “adopted” families in Croatia. This “bridge” has a two-fold positive effect: those who do not have enough are helped, and the richer ones find fulfillment in life by helping those less fortunate.

Project Name: “Life as a house”

Project Duration: September 2007 to June 2008

Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 1440

 A few of our volunteers rebuilt the burned wooden cottage of our neighbor, which was devastated in a fire at the end of 2006, thus helping our neighbor get back on his feet emotionally, and returning his faith in life and people.

In November 2006 the wooden cottage of our neighbor burned out, as a result of a fire started by strange circumstances. It is believed that the fire was lit by one of our visitors (former heroin addict) trying to commit suicide, whom we were doing our best to help by accepting him into our community for a time. Though our visitor was absolved of all charges by the police, we felt it our duty to rebuild the neighbor’s cottage. This was no easy task; it took many hours of cleaning burned wood, cutting, sorting, supplying material and building, and it proved to be a worthy cause. The 61-year-old owner of the cottage was left in complete despair over the ruins of the cottage, after having had many other disappointments in life. He went through depression and even spent a few months in jail over this incident. The burning of the cottage was the last straw that broke the camel’s back; he had no faith left in life or people, nor any hope for his future. “You gave me back my hope for life, and my faith in people,” said he, upon seeing our willingness to help, and the end result – a beautiful new cottage.

    Smile Therapy

    Project Name: Clown therapy and entertainment with a meaning!

Project Duration: throughout 2008

    Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 316

Every week in October 2007 and from February till July 2008 we held “clown therapy” shows & animations in various institutions – Dom Turnic, Children’s hospital “Kantrida”, Dom Sv. Ana, Klub “Srce”, and Centar za odgoj I obrazovanje “Baredice” – Zamet. This project also helps us motivate young people who would like to experience volunteering, to come with us and taste what it feels like to make someone else happy. (Pls see our Projects 2007 for a more detailed explanation).

    We also performed meaningful and entertaining programs for the beneficiaries of the soup kitchen in Rijeka, for the inmates of 3 prisons, in 2 psychiatric hospitals, 5 senior citizens’ homes and 1 handicapped center. Those were actual performances, by a show troupe, and do not include regular clown therapy and animation. Our clowns also performed at the opening of the handicapped beach in Rijeka, where an official program takes place every year in the month of June. There were over 1000 attendees of our programs.

    Our project was featured in local newspaper “Novi list”, December 6th 2007, reaching an estimated audience of 80 000.

    Throughout the year we perform for various occasions, and without any particular occasion, upon request of a particular institution. Since we’re well-known in the area, directors and animators of institutions often call us to request our presence. All of our shows, adapted to the occasion, have a meaning, and give the message of God’s love, and of helping others in need instead of concentrating on one’s only misfortunes in life. We don’t just “put up a show” and leave, but remain with the attendees (whether they be patients, students or old people) for a good while after the show, in order to meet them personally and spend time talking, comforting and encouraging them. After that we often stay in contact with the institution or individuals and try to find ways to help them further. Here is an article about our cooperation with one such institution, with which we have been in contact for many years now:

    “Our patients love your visits, and make progress every time you come!” tell us the social workers and nurses of the psychiatric hospital in Rab, one of the largest of institutions of this kind in Croatia. We established contact in 1999, through a referral from our dear friends in Dom Turnic – a similar institution in Rijeka, and since then have been visiting at every opportunity, with every new show, or every trip we take to the island. It’s a long history of happenings; one year, after a simple childish show, but full of smiles and love-sharing, a depressed patient smiled for the first time in 2 years, and a few days later was out of the hospital, completely cured! “He came back to the hospital 100 times, to thank me for organizing the show!” said Dragica Cerovski, the only social assistant of the hospital at the time. On another occasion, a lady who hadn’t been communicating with anyone for a few years, came out of her room and with a smiley face began interacting with one of our volunteers! Yet on another occasion, we organized music and acting workshops with 15 patients, and at the end of our 3 day stay they dressed up (something they hadn’t done in months or years), and performed a show for doctors, nurses, therapists, orderlies and other patients of the hospital, 150 in all. In July this year we also performed one of our funny clown shows, with a lot of interaction from the audience, and have planned our next project for early autumn: murals on the walls!

    A little love does go a long long way… and believe us, the greatest reward and happiness is seeing that what little we can do, the love that we can give, can bring color into many a hum-drum life, can change them for the better, and even rescue some from darkness, death or self-destruction.

    Project Name: “I was in prison, and you visited Me!” (Matthew 25:36)

Project Duration: December 2007, January 2008, April 2008

    Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 156


This year we performed meaningful programs for the inmates in 3 prisons (two in Pula and one in Rijeka) The two closed prisons hold roughly 200 inmates each, and they cannot all come to watch the show because most of them are still waiting for their court trial. Twenty-three inmates, carefully selected by the staff, were the audience to watch our show in Rijeka, and the rest heard our performance through their cell doors. In the closed jail in Pula instead, 40 inmates were allowed to come out and watch, and some even participated in the performance by singing and playing instruments in front of everyone! In the open jail in Pula (a prison of a different kind), all of the prisoners (roughly 100) were allowed to attend. In January this year we also painted a mural and set up a children’s corner inside the Rijeka jail – the colors transformed completely the gray and depressing reality of the premises, and the warm picture of Jesus hugging two children that we painted emanates love to this day for those who need it so desperately.

    «I was in jail, and you visited Me…» (Matthew 25:36)

    On a busy December day about two-and-a-half years ago, the postman came to our door with a blue, official-looking envelope. I grabbed and ripped it open: it was our very first permission to enter the local prison and perform for the inmates! I waved the letter over my head and jumped up and down shouting «Thank God! We’re going to the jail!», much to the wonder of those around me, who still comment about the strange sound of someone’s joy over going to jail…

    Jesus’ words to the faithful of Matthew 25 ring so true – I would love to be counted as one of the faithful when the day of judgment comes. But that is not the sole reason for our jail visits… it is the driving motivation of the Apostle, «The love of Christ compels me» that brings us to such obscure places most of the world strives to avoid at all costs. As of today, two-and-a-half years after our first encounter of this kind, we have visited three prisons in Croatia, and performed for the inmates numerous times. Once in a while we get a glimpse of the difference we are making by our visitations, performing and mural painting in those gray and gloomy spaces behind bars and massive stone walls. As one dear mother of a convict exclaimed, after seeing a few photos of the recent mural we painted in the Rijeka county jail: «You totally changed the atmosphere in this place!» This mother had visited her son in prison many times, but it was a first for her to see lively, happy colors and images in this type of institution: for a good part of five minutes she couldn’t take her eyes off those few photos of the event, and the end result of the painting.

    In the first trimester of this year, besides painting and arranging a children’s corner in the Rijeka jail (see photo on the back page), we performed for prisoners three times – once in Rijeka, and two times in the surroundings of Pula (the two other prisons we cooperate with). «The love of Christ compels us» to expand more into the future, making it a point to bring color and life, and Jesus’ love to those furthest away from society, and those who are most unlovely. Why not cheer up and share some of our joy with those who have so little? Thank you again for your support in this mission! We appreciate your prayers as well as sponsorship towards our budding prison ministry!

Spiritual Support

    Project Name: Bible seminars and changed lives!


Project Duration: throughout 2008, a few times each week 

    Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 684


We held Christian leadership training courses and Bible classes attended by approximately 30 students. We also organize a weekly “friends” day every Sunday, where people are welcome to our house to talk, share their hearts, receive counsel and prayer, and find a spiritual retreat and renewal from their daily struggles. This weekly gathering is usually attended by 3-10 people. During our trips and visits to Italy, we organize similar classes and gatherings, roughly once a month.

Every Sunday afternoon, since September 2005, our house is open for visitors – those who want to spend some time away from their daily routine, who want to enjoy some fellowship with fellow-believers, and learn more about the basics of the Bible, and how to apply its principles to every day life. Apart from that, each weak we spend time studying the Bible with individuals, and counseling them through the various difficult situations where they find themselves. Many of those who attend our seminars and gatherings later on also join us in humanitarian projects, or organize their own. Others of our students join us in “clown therapy”, or are simply motivated to help transform their families and surroundings in a positive way. We’re including a story of a person whose life was changed for the better by taking these Bible courses and taking part in volunteer activities:


    I’m only a regular sinner. No, I’m a great sinner. But I know that God has always loved me, even when I hated myself, even when I was on the brink of self-destruction. Looking at it from a human point of view, I lived through three major tragedies in a very short time, was left alone and jobless, while my family continued to ignore me. During this time of pain I distanced myself from God, and I have to confess that at times I even hated Him. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me, or why, and so I found myself tuning my antenna to the wrong channel. The Lord didn’t let me succeed in taking my own life, because He had a plan for me. But in order to understand, in my imperfection, all the numerous gifts that He had given me, I had to touch bottom and the threshold of pain and desperation. And when you are at the bottom, there are only two possibilities: you either stay there and die, or you fight and slowly lift yourself out of the hole.

    I began to respond to the Lord’s touches of love when He sent Rasim (a man who, in the presence of his wife, came to give me a kiss when I was down on the first Valentine without my husband). I confirmed my intention to rise out of the hole when two “angels” (a poor mother and child) came to visit me, and I shared what little I had with them (see “The Renewal Exam” reflection). I gave from my heart to Him, and He in His love helped me find a job by a miracle. I, a math teacher, became a reporter. About a year later, I was sent to cover a conference on voluntary work. You probably already guessed that this is how I met The Family. Our meetings were never “by chance” – they always happened at the right time, and brought light to my gray daily struggle. All until I got invited to come to their Home, start Bible classes, dive into His Word and swim with joy in the depth of His love. I still don’t understand many of the events of my past and present, but now, there is no more ugly question mark after the word “why”!

    Jesus did numerous miracles for me: He let me grow up in pain and fear, without love; He gave me a wonderful marriage and let me watch my husband die in my arms; He gave me an illness which forces me to stop and meditate on the mistakes I have made and on Him, in order to draw ever closer to Him; He let my own flesh family forsake me, but He didn’t let me succeed in taking my life. And you think that’s all? This is only the beginning of my story. From the time when “The Family” (whom I consider my family) opened their arms wide to embrace me, and to teach me the Bible, my life turned around 360 degrees.

    I received the Lord for what He truly is, love (1 John 4:8), and stopped asking “Why?”, replacing it by “Thank you!” From my former personality I kept the will to help others, giving all of myself to help them feel better, to help them experience real love. Only now I do it with more satisfaction, because I know that Jesus is right here next to me and that 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 will come to life day after day, for me and others.

    As far as my earthly life is concerned, in spite of helping me go on during moments of crisis, Jesus healed me from cancer through united prayer. The next day the surgeon didn’t know how to explain where that lump went, that he had found in my right breast. I admit that I came to The Family mainly to ask them for help during my period of convalescence after the mastectomy, and I didn’t believe in the power of prayer for healing. So at the check-up on the day after the prayer, I was just as confused as the doctor! That’s how I began to thank God from the very bottom of my heart. Only then did I realize how many miracles He was ready to do for me, in many ways and situations.

    I’m learning to be humble and patient, mastering the art of thanking Jesus for the good, and for that which doesn’t seem so good, for the sadness and the joy, for every meal, for the bus which brings me where I need to go, for things small and big throughout my life. I’m learning to put my faith into action and expect the miracle I asked before it comes. (Matthew 7:7)

    Jesus didn’t say we wouldn’t have problems, but He promised to help us solve them. He promised to always be by our side (Hebrews 13:5) and to give us the strength we need (Philippians 4:13). It’s normal for bad things to happen, and for us to have problems. At one time I would get down in despair because of the problems. Now I have learned that all of them serve a good purpose (Romans 8:28). I have learned to stop (Psalm 46:10) and thank Him for all the blessings He has given me: I can see, hear, speak, move self-sufficiently, reason with my mind; I have a roof over my head, a bed, a meal, dear friends and a man who loves me. And, most of all, I have His love. What more could I ask out of life? All I have to do is let His light shine through me.

    Project Name: Spiritual retreats

Project Duration: 2-4th November 2007, 2-4th May 2008, 21st September 2008

    Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 1064

    We held spiritual retreats over the weekend three times in the past year, for all together 50 attendees – in the time-frames mentioned above. The themes were as follows:

    “Resting in the Lord” in November, “Prayer and praise – our link to Heaven” in May, and “Ye are the light of the world” in September. The two first retreats began on Friday evening with dinner together and an evening activity, two 3-hour classes and an evening activity on Saturday, and a 3-hour class and afternoon meeting on Sunday. The attendees’ children had their own separate workshops and classes. The retreat in September lasted only one full day – from 9 in the morning till 9 in the evening, with two main classes and an evening activity.

    RESTING IN HIS LOVE (Matthew 11:28-30)

    Our first retreat in Croatia – by Erika

    The first retreat of the Family International here in Croatia was one more proof of God’s miraculous works: when we do what we can, He will do all the rest. The small hotel in Platak where we stayed is in the midst of a forest; nature’s tender sounds offered a peaceful atmosphere to our ears, otherwise so accustomed to hearing the noise of the city. In spite of the winter wind, rain and sharp fall in the temperature, we could see and feel Jesus’ love, His warmth and the joy He was about to pour into us: peace in the midst of a storm. The songs we sang before the classes prepared our hearts and minds to receive the healing balm of His word. The classes, presented in PowerPoint form, led us to sit at His feet, and relax in His arms, where we found rest and renewal. Around 30 adults and 10 children from Croatia and Slovenia sang lively songs with enthusiasm: we all enjoyed His presence, and praised Him from the bottom of our hearts. Nobody thought it important whether one could sing on key, or had lost their voice for the moment – Jesus was in our midst, and the song came out as the spirit led, like rivers of living water from our souls. Many and varied were the attendees of the first Croatian retreat of the FI: some regular workers, some school professors, some – nurses and doctors, cooks or reporters. In everyday secular life those people would have probably never even met, much less become friends, but at our gathering background, age, profession or social status didn’t matter. We were all His children, all of our hearts praised Him, and to each one He gave gifts tailor-made for them. Here are a few comments from the attendees:

    “Everyone filled me up in their own way. This is something completely new for me, done in an original way. The way I feel today is indescribable, and this feeling will affect each day I live on and each day at my work. The sparks of light I got here give me new ideas and motivation for the new. Today I received something, and I will share it with others.”

    “I came here to take a break from all my responsibilities. I came, and the Lord gave me rest, just like He gives rest to all of us who are weary and heavy-laden. I found inner peace and the Lord’s strength returned inside of me.”

    “I would like to say, about this retreat, that I would like to paint this day. On one side of the painting will be the day I came: the darkness of my past inside my heart; on the other side, instead, the way I feel now as I’m going home: there is light shining everywhere! The sun is here. Jesus is here.”

    Youth Counselling

    Project Name: Reaching out to the youth


Project Duration: throughout 2008

    Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 860

    The main thrusts of this project were:

    • organizing of “Free hugs” together with young people (who are not a part of our community, but like to devote part of their time to such initiatives);
    • counseling young people in need of help, such as at EXIT rock festival in Serbia which took place in Novi Sad July 10-14th (6 of our volunteers traveled to Novi Sad and participated in the youth counseling there)
    • and starting a band which has already provided some opportunities for reaching out to the youth with a message of hope through music.
    • This project consists of not only performing for young people, but also going out among those who are lost and need help and counseling, and offering them a listening ear, a helping hand, a friendly advice, or just letting them know that somebody cares for them. Going out “into the highways and the by-ways”, as Jesus said, has been one of our projects since the beginning. Here is a summary of our counseling time at EXIT festival this year:
      EXIT festival takes place in Novi Sad, Serbia, every summer in mid-July – it’s one of the largest gatherings/rock festivals in Eastern Europe. Many bands come to perform, and thousands of young people from neighboring countries, and farther away, gather to camp out for 4 days, to attend the nightly concerts (usually until 6 am), and to search for some freedom and answers to their quests, or simply, to try to have a good time “tripping”. What an opportunity to reach them with a message, and offer them some hope for a better future! 75 volunteers from “The Family International” came from Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, the Ukraine and Serbia, to bring some real joy to the participants in EXIT 2008. We had guitarists, singers, actors, “free huggers” and counselors among us, and countless young people came to hear, to watch the skits, to share their hearts, to find some real love and friendship in us, and in Jesus. Many prayed to receive Him as their personal Friend, and we established more permanent contact by exchanging addresses and emails for further communication. EXIT 2008 was a blast!

Project Name: Summer camps & visits of young volunteers


Project Duration: June, July, August and the first week of September 2008

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 2780


We held 2 volunteer training camps for 16 attendees during the summer months, and received young willing volunteers as visitors all summer long – over 100 in total. Each of the camps lasted one week, and the individual visits ranged from 1 or 2 day visits, to 2 and 3 week-long ones. This was a time of training for all who came (those who visited in time for a camp or not). We dressed as clowns to visit institutions, helped refugees with physical work, painted the walls in Dom za odgoj (a center for delinquent youngsters in Rijeka), read the Bible together, and had many meaningful discussions and lives changed as a result.

      We also organized two 3-day mural camps for all together 60 young people in Italy, Trentino region. During those camps we painted wall murals of peace in their youth clubs, and organized meetings and counseling for them.

Every summer during the last 7 years the doors of our center have been open to anyone who wants to learn more about volunteer work or living in a Christian community. We’ve had visits from many young and older people, about 100 or more throughout each summer. They come to have an “alternative vacation” – willing to combine their yearly holiday with donating their energies to a worthy cause.

      Here are a few of the reactions of those who came this summer, to the time spent in our community and helping others:

      Giamba (16): “I pray to Jesus for you and for me, that He will help me to always remember this incredible vacation. Thank you for the love you gave me, and for the love you helped me share with others.”

      Federica (16): “I don’t have words to describe this experience! It has given me so much! Thank you, all of you, you’re all wonderful people and I miss you a lot. You taught me to enjoy the little things that at first glance seem trivial, but are in fact the most beautiful and true. From all the activities we did I learned how important it is to help others, to give even just a smile. Thank you!

      Elena and Chiara (20): “This is already the 8th summer in a row that we come, and every time, at departure, the tears just keep flowing! We hope to be able to come back soon.”