Aid to the needy

A 2009 project 

Throughout 2009

Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 

We delivered various items of humanitarian aid to needy families in the area of Karlovac (namely, Vojnic, Krnjak and Karlovac), Rijeka (Marinici, Cavle, Red cross, Soup kitchen), and Sarajevo, and visited around 30 families in Mostar (Bosnia) where our full-time volunteer Paolo used to live and help out during the war. At the same time of visiting these needy families, we spent time counseling and comforting them, singing with them, cheering them up and praying together.

Here is a list of the items and amounts distributed:

  • Food – 455 kg
  • Clothes/shoes/linen – 208 boxes
  • Arts&crafts/school supplies – 11 boxes
  • Kitchen items – 6 boxes
  • Other items – 30 handbags, 10 backpacks, 15 blankets, 5 schoolbags, 20 plastic folding chairs, 1 wheelchair
  • Baby items – 1 bed, 1 car seat, 1 bouncing chair, 1 playpen, 1 walker and 1 stroller
  • Main highlights of the project:

    On the first two days of the year we visited families in the refugee area of Karlovac and Vojnic.

    In March we donated 5 items of gym equipment to Dom za odgoj (institution for delinquent minors in Rijeka), provided by well-meaning friends in Italy.

    In May, and during the summer months of July and August, we traveled to the area of Karlovac a few times to visit families, deliver aid there and help with physical labor.

    Apart from that, we regularly visited families around Rijeka who need material help on an ongoing basis, and delivered aid to the Red Cross.

    Now, quite a few years after the war in ex-Yugoslavia has ended, many still ask us: “How are things going now?” For some it’s going better, in a way that they have managed to rebuild their lives somewhat; for many others, it’s still a day-by-day struggle to survive, and to recover from the trauma of difficult memories. For years now we have “adopted” various families and individual refugees, and have noticed that those who forgave are those who were able to move on with their lives and get back on their feet. Those families all have a common denominator: simplicity and humility gained by deep suffering; meek and understanding smiles; incredible and disarming openness and hospitality.
    This summer alone, together with the stream of part-time volunteers who flowed through our community, we were able to visit and directly help 13 households in need in the area of Karlovac and Vojnic. We distributed 360 kg of clothes, 120 kg of food, 15 kg of school supplies, and 40 kg of kitchen items. We also helped with physical labor, picking fruit and cutting wood in preparation for the winter, and shared a lot of joy through youthful laughter, singing, praying together and “free hugs”. And let’s not forget that the help offered, both physical and spiritual, doesn’t stop with those we visited directly – some families in Vojnic are like our outposts in faraway land, distributing further the material help we give, and sharing the joy of God’s spirit which has a ripple effect on many others!

    Institution improvement

Project Duration: throughout 2009

    Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 700

    One of our favorite projects is helping to improve the living and working conditions of institutions here in Croatia, many of which do not manage to cover such jobs through the state budget they receive. Following are the main thrusts of this project we were able to accomplish throughout this year:

    • We spent the first few days of January painting walls and improving the living conditions in the rooms of “Dom za odgoj” (institution for delinquent minors in Rijeka).
    • In March we cleared up an inner courtyard in the Psychiatric hospital Kampor (Rab) of bushes and rubble, and painted a “What everybody needs is love” mural on its main wall. The place became a pleasant outside area for older Alzheimer’s patients in the hospital who cannot freely go in the main yard or they would get lost.
    • In July we did our first “table mural” in Dom Turnic (institution for mentally ill senior citizens in Rijeka) – a real long table where the old people gather, which now resembles underwater world.
    • In August, we cleared up the garden area in Dom za odgoj of grass, wild growing bushes and litter, to prepare the ground for the birth of a new and improved garden and environment for the minors living there (nobody had tackled the job in 20 years).
    • Again in Dom za odgoj we painted murals on cupboards and hallway walls.
    • In Udruga “Koraci”, Rijeka (association which offers creative ways of using children’s and senior citizens’ free time), we painted the bathroom and one of the rooms used for workshops, and decorated the children’s room by completing the mural we had started a couple of years ago.
    • Psychiatric Colors

      In the beginning of March this year we worked on a mural project on the island of Rab, for the well known psychiatric hospital. We spent two nights and three days in the hospital, slept in the ward for “addictions”, and got a look at what life is like for so many people there. Some lost their businesses, were homeless and got mentally ill, others suffered from drug and alcohol addictions, yet others were war veterans – all put together in a ward with 73 others… and five of us.

      The mural project location was a court yard in the ward for the elderly – those who cannot wander the property as they are either too old, have Alzheimer’s or are too medicated to find their way back to the right building. Their court yard consisted of a closed in concrete area between two buildings for them to stroll in for a little fresh air. And now they can also see a bright, cheery meaningful picture – “What everybody needs is love”.
      We talked to many of the patients in our “addictions” ward and were able to provide them with a little company and encouragement. Some even helped with the painting of the mural, and their friendship and stories we will never forget. In the evenings we spent time with the patients in their TV salon, singing songs, getting to know them better, lending a listening ear and encouraging them that there is hope for the future, and that they too can be of help to someone.

      Many thanks to the staff for their care, and to Andrea – a hydro engineer from Italy who volunteered half of his holiday time to join in this project with us, and went beyond to make sure the garden was cleared of thorns, branches and rubble. We could not have done things as well without his help, ingenuity, humor and friendship during these busy days. We hope that the mural leaves behind a little bit of our concern for the dear patients and staff of this institution and stands to show what a little love and cooperation can do to help others.

      Building a bridge 
A 2009 project

Project Duration: 
October 2008, September 2009


Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 271

Last year in October, Anna and Lidija (AM, president of udruga “Koraci”) traveled to Rovereto to organize 4-day workshops for both patients and staff in the Senior Citizens’ Home there. The same venture was repeated this year for 5 days.

      On another occasion, we participated in the Volunteer festival in Verona by presenting our association’s work in Croatia to interested citizens and Italian associations.

From Sept. 20 till Sept. 24, Lidija from Udruga “Koraci” and Anna from The FI – Rijeka will be working together on a project named “A bridge to reach beyond”, in the day-center of the Senior Citizens’ Home in Rovereto, with whom we have had successful cooperation for many years. The project showed optimal results already last year, and this year the planning and preparation have been even better. A series of 8 workshops, various meetings and activities will take place, aiming at professional and human growth for the personnel of the institution.

      “Festa del volontariato” in Verona on Sept. 6th was a day of presentation of our humanitarian work in Croatia, and a day to revive summer memories! A group of 14 young people from Cloz (Trentino, Italy), the activists in one of our summer camps, came to the stand and stayed with us all day – a chance to express how much they valued their time in Croatia, and how much they missed us…! Guglielmina too, our summer camp kitchen chef, came to help with this high profile yearly presentation event, in which 70 associations participated. We met many old and new friends, and made contact with other associations, to cooperate on projects in the future.

      Our project was featured in Italian newspaper “L’Adige”, on November 4th 2008, with an approximate readership of 30 000.

The building project

Project Duration: June – September 2009

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 730 so far


This year we decided to undertake the project of rebuilding the roof and improving the living conditions in the house of the mother of one of our full-time volunteers, who lives in the north of Croatia. This particular woman has raised 7 children single-handedly, lives on her own with a minimal pension, no electricity, and no running water, and receives almost no help from her grown-up children who live in the same area. The project is a long-term undertaking, and is not yet completed – but we are at a good point, hoping to put up the roof and have the house livable by the time winter rolls around.

      A building project is also on the horizon, with the summer months kicking in! In these few months we are working to reconstruct the roof, and improve the living conditions in the house of Mrs. A. in the north of Croatia, our dear friend who has not been able to receive the care she has needed from her family. We have devoted many man-hours to this project, with 5 of our volunteers being involved full-time or part-time, and other part-time volunteers helping out as well. Though still in progress, the work is going well and we expect to have it completed before cold weather kicks in.

      It’s hard to express our heart-felt thankfulness towards all of you who lent a hand in accomplishing all of these – volunteers, sponsors and supporters! We look forward to working with all of you again in the future!

      Dismantling the old.

      Smile Therapy

      Clown therapy and entertainment with a meaning!

Duration: throughout 2009

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 545

      This year, although our regular “clown therapy” project suffered a bit from the absence of our main clown and its establisher Andrea (Clown Pingui), we were able to pull off altogether 40 shows/clown therapy events throughout the year for a combined audience of 5800. The main events were:

      • 8 “Change the world” shows in kinder gardens, schools and senior citizens’ homes
      • Summer animation and clown therapy for 3 senior citizens’ homes, 1 handicapped center and 1 hospital
      • Participation of our show troupe and clown animation at the opening of the beach for the disabled in Rijeka
      • Clown animation at “Festa dei disabili” in Brescia, Italy
      • 20 summer street performances of “The box” – entertainment, magic and message
      • 2 shows for the poor at the soup kitchen run by Catholic nuns in Rijeka

      Our mid-year show “Change the World” is a puppet play about a young traveler and an old shepherd. The 20-year-old adventurer wanders off into a desert land: no trees, no animals, no life, no people. Only an old shepherd and his hut stand off in the distance, and the young man finds refuge there for the night. He spends the next day watching the shepherd plant trees, while grazing his sheep. “But you will never see those trees grow!” exclaims the young man. “Well, I may not, but others will, and this whole region will change!” So the old man continues planting day after day, year after year. Twenty years later, the young man, now not so young any more, decides to pay a visit to that deserted province, and to the old shepherd. What a shock, when he sees that a young forest is growing, and that animals and people have returned! The old shepherd is still alive, still planting. All has changed, by the foresight and effort of one man determined to change his part of the world.

      This story, complimented by a few lively songs and games, was met with enthusiasm in schools and kindergartens; and, you should have been there to hear the squeals of excitement, as the puppet-shepherd came out to talk with the children at the end of the play! Teachers and caretakers have repeatedly thanked us for bringing a positive message of selfless giving in this modern world where selfishness prevails.

      Our shows, as always, are not only for the young. We also performed in senior citizens’ homes and several prisons. And we’re only half-way through performing season, with many more shows to go in schools, centers for the handicapped, orphanages and hospitals.

      Summer happenings

      Clown therapy and shows

      In joint partnership with our part-time volunteers, this summer we were able to realize 7 shows/clown therapy events for the beneficiaries of 5 institutions in Rijeka and the region:
      Rab Psychiatric Hospital, Dom Turnic, Handicapped Day Center Brascine, Senior Citizens’ Home Volosko, and Senior Citizens’ Home Veli Losinj. The joy and love transmitted from visitors to patients and vice versa made both sides very happy!

      Street performance

      Our traveling show group, consisting of 4 of our young full-time volunteers, was a tourist attraction with the new show they put together – “The Box”. “The Box” was designed as a magic/mime street performance, with the goal of giving a message to as many as possible, helping them find the way to real freedom. The troupe performed 20 times at resorts on the Croatian and Italian coast, receiving positive feedback – people were deeply moved by the message and prayer the performers shared with the audience.

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

Project Duration: December 2008, May 2009

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 113

Two times this year we performed meaningful programs for the inmates in 3 prisons (two in Pula and one in Rijeka) – shortly before Christmas in December, on a Christmas theme, and a “Spring program” in May 2009, for a combined audience of 130 inmates.

      Two times this year we performed meaningful programs for the inmates in 3 prisons (two in Pula and one in Rijeka) – shortly before Christmas in December, on a Christmas theme, and in May 2009. One of the prisons is “open”, meaning that the inmates are free to move around within the jail grounds, and to come to shows and functions, and the two other ones are “closed” prisons, which means that the inmates are usually closed in their cells, and only a select few can come out to see the program. The “closed” jails hold roughly 200 inmates each, but only 25 in one, and 35 in the other were allowed to watch the show. In the “open” jail in Pula in May we were not the only performers: our previous visits had inspired the inmates themselves to show their talents and participate in the show. They had formed a band of sorts, which performed on stage after us, and another inmate played classical music on harmonica, all wildly applauded by the audience of their fellow inmates. It helped us to see that the little we can do (which many times may seem insufficient) can start a chain reaction of encouragement and motivation, to make a notable difference.

      Rijeka Jail - Anti-drug show, November 2009

      Jeff performs the Box Skit

      The Doctor skit

      Spiritual Support

      Bible seminars and changed lives!

Project Duration: throughout 2009, a few times each week 

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 854

We held 2 one-full-day spiritual retreats, in June 2009, for an overall of 20 attendees. Our Bible training courses, which normally take place several times a week, are attended by roughly 20 students. We organize these gatherings in different locations both in Croatia and in Italy.

      Following are impressions of one of our Bible students, Massimiliano in Italy, who regularly offers us his house as a place to hold Bible seminars.

      “After the first time I offered a couple of the volunteers a place to stay, my house, which has always been my refuge, my place to spend time with friends but mostly alone, became a hubbub of activity. So, goodbye loneliness! Once a month Paolo and Anna come to visit me, and I eagerly await their visits. I started and finished the Bible course “12 Foundation Stones”. Often when my brethren from the Family come, other friends come to visit as well because they would like to see them. A group of sorts has formed with whom we meet monthly, and invite others who need an evening with friends, united prayer, counsel or a hug.
      Our group tries to reach out to those in need, so here I’ll tell you of one touching experience that has happened to me. Patrizia lives by herself in the building above my furniture shop. In the past, I would often see her through the window, walking hand-in-hand with another woman. Obviously, she needed help – she couldn’t see well. One day I found out that she needed a strong chair with arms and wheels. When I went to her home to show her the catalogue so she could choose, Patrizia could see almost nothing. As the years went by her state had worsened, and I didn’t know about it. Now I go regularly to visit her: she spends her days listening to books, praying, and whenever she gets the inspiration, writing beautiful poems. In spite of her serious physical handicaps, she has great faith, hope and a gift of spreading peace and joy to whoever comes to visit her.

      I wanted to share a message that I read in “Activated”, and relate it to the opening of my house to many new friends. I hope it will serve as a lesson to someone else as well. The title? “Build bridges, not walls”:

      “People often feel lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. Most people tend to be a little selfish. It’s part of human nature to put ourselves and our own needs first. But when you begin to build bridges, opening yourself up to others, though you might have some additional problems or complications, it will be worth it, because your life will be enriched by friendship, love and many other blessings.”

      Youth Counselling

      Reaching out to the youth

Duration: throughout 2009

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 490

The main highlights of this project were:

      • organizing “Free hugs” (5 times) together with young people from Rijeka, and spending time counseling them throughout the year. 3-6 young people participated in the event every time;
      • attending the EXIT rock festival in Novi Sad July 9-12th (4 of our volunteers traveled to Novi Sad and participated in the youth gatherings, counseling, free hugs, and singing);
      • our band “Hole truth” performed for youth 3 times in Rijeka and the surroundings: In Lokve, Stereo hall and Club Teta Roza in Rijeka, for a combined audience of around 500.

      Music with a message

      Our band “Hole truth”, through music and songs written by its members, strives to answer the many questions youth nowadays have: about drugs, war, loneliness, meaning of life etc. Most of all, we would like to give a message of hope, and encourage young people to keep holding on until they come to that light that always awaits us at the end of the tunnel. After every concert, we give the young audience an opportunity to come and participate in events organized by us, like “Free Hugs”. The first time we organized an event of this type, we had a wonderful success. It showed those young people that even a little love manifested in a practical way can bring marvelous results. It was raining, so our cardboard signs got a little messed up, but the rain didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

      Another initiative in which the young people participated was the repair and painting of a couple of rooms in Dom za odgoj (Home for delinquent minors in Rijeka), which helped them realize that there are needy situations even close to their homes.

      Reaction of a young person who participated in “Free hugs”:

      “I wanted to say thanks for everything…
Since I’ve met u guys things have gone much easier than before in my life. Well, actually most of the things,  but I believe that those things are just a part of a grander plan that will come true in HIS way! Jesus is in my heart now even more than before because meeting u guys was a whole new experience in which i learned that JESUS IS THE ONE to whom I give my heart and my soul. Through every hug and trough every smile you guys and girls give me, i see HIM… I love and cherish every single moment that I’ve spent with you and I know there will be many many more! Free hugs was one of the greatest experiences in my life and thanks for letting me be a part of it even as small and short as I am!
See u guys soon…
love ya all,
      Ana, Rijeka”

      Exit 2009

      From July 9th till 12th this year, just like every other summer in recent years, 40 volunteers from various communities of The Family International (including ours), offered their presence at EXIT youth festival in Novi Sad, Serbia.

      Each day at the festival they performed two shows, sang many songs, gave “free hugs”, talked and lent a listening ear to countless needy young people. Many stopped at our camp to receive the message of truth and love, and say a prayer to receive Jesus in their hearts as their best Friend.

      Summer camps & visits of young volunteers

Duration: July and August 2009

      Approximate Man-Hours Spent on this Project: 5040

We held 2 volunteer training camps this summer for a total of 24 attendees, while a stream of willing part-time volunteers flowed through our community from the end of June till the end of August – around 50 in total. The first camp lasted 10 days, the second one – 6, and the individual visits ranged from 1 or 2 days, to 10 days in duration. Throughout this summer volunteering period the trainees took part in the following projects:

      • family visitations and humanitarian aid, coupled with physical work
      • clown therapy and shows
      • institution improvement

      We also read the Bible together, prayed and sang together, and had many meaningful discussions and lives changed as a result.

A summer report… 2009!

Summer time is a time of giving: having a little bit more time because of their holidays, some people choose to give of themselves, helping others in need! A steady stream of part-time volunteers flowed through our community during the months of July and August – all together 50 in number. Their time and willingness, combined with the efforts of our full-time volunteers, made the following possible:

Family visitations and humanitarian aid
      13 households in need in the area of Karlovac and Rijeka benefited directly from our visits in more than one way: we distributed aid, helped with physical labor, and shared a lot of joy by singing, praying together and “free hugs”.

Clown therapy and shows

This summer we were able to realize 7 shows/clown therapy events for the beneficiaries of 5 institutions in Rijeka and the region: 3 Senior Citizens’ Homes, 1 Center for the Handicapped, and 1 hospital. 

Institution improvement

      This summer our focus was on three active service-giving institutions, all in Rijeka: “Dom za odgoj djece i mladezi”, Dom Turnic and Udruga “Koraci”, where we cleaned, painted, and renovated with wonderful results. More on this under the project “Institution improvement!”

And here is a letter from one of our summer camp attendees, Maria (18):

“We came back to Cloz (Trentino, Italy) safe and sound! On our faces you can still see a little sadness – too bad that we had to say goodbye. In the eyes of everyone in the group though, I see a special light, an inner strength that this time with you has given us. It’s difficult to keep the tears from falling, because you gave us so much, and we’ll continue to thank you and the Lord for making our paths cross. The magic scenes of these days of heaven scroll before my eyes: your smiles, your good-night hugs, the happy dinners together… the smiles of the boys in Dom za odgoj while trying to help me understand what they were saying; their willingness to help with the work. And here, between scenes, the tears flow… then, the clown therapy in the seniors’ home, I hear Mike singing, I see the sweet smiles of the old people, the simplicity of those little acts of love that transform people… then I see Djurdja (in Vojnic) and her family who received us as if we were their own flesh children, the joy of dancing in the evening, of just being together, the songs we learned and wrote… I hear the voice of an old woman who wanted to sing for us in spite of her sadness. A heart pang, then right away a smile steals across my face, as I remember the funny jokes and games. Then, I see the stars turning on one by one on those magical nights, their light of hope, and the light of Eternal Love radiating from you to us… handshakes, beach fun, prayers and more smiles and laughter. Then another scene, here are the widows we visited, their hospitality, their smiles… the pictures keep scrolling, and the further I get, the more I realize that these days were a gift, bestowed on us to help us understand the power of Love, the power of giving, and just being together. Thank you once more for everything, you’re all so special, and we can’t wait to see you again… lots of warm hugs!” (Maria, Cloz – Italy)

      Our project was featured in Italian newspaper “Vita trentina” on June 21st 2009, with an approximate readership of 30 000.