“By spreading goodness, we consolidate it within ourselves“

“Battle for the Babies” was launched on June 1st, 2012, also in Bosnia-Herzegovina. B92 Fund’s partner in this campaign is M:tel BiH which is the first donor (donating one incubator for the Children’s hospitals located in Banjaluka and Sarajevo, respectively, while via humanitarian mobile phone number, funds are already collected for the acquistion of three incubators).

Veran Matić
Veran Matić

M:tel BiH had also donated the whole infrastructure for the campaign. For a short period of time, funds for 24 incubators were provided, for the hospistals in Banjaluka, Sarajevo, Derventa, Prijedor, Mrkonjic Grad, Eastern Sarajevo, Tuzla, Trebinje and Mostar.

Among first donors, apart from M:tel, are the following: Milan Popović, Milorad Dodik, the President of the Republic of Srpska, Komercijalna Banka ad Belgrade, the Building Directorate of Serbia (BDS), as well as companies Draeger Medical, Fructal and Ibis Instruments.

Here’s the interview that Veran Matić, president of B92 Fund Board of Directors, had given pertaining to this campaign, who also leads the campaign in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

What motivated you to design the campaign Battle for the Babies?

VERAN MATIĆ: Every year, B92 Fund organizes one major campaign. We have created campaign "77 women in 7 days“ for the prevention of breast cancer when we purchased digitial movable mammography unit which up till now made medical checks on over 100.000 women all over Serbia, thus saving lots of lives with early detection of breast cancer, in the same time contributing to educating women, so in Serbia today there is small number of women that are not aware of the significance of regular medical check ups.

The following year, we have launched a big campaign against domestic violence and we constructed five safe houses for women and children, victims of family violence. We are building another one.

We have also organized campaign entitled Food for All, intended to help soup kitchens, collecting food in the value of over EUR 2 million.

Motives for the campaigns are founded in our programs, shows, news, investigative journalism. Then we decide what to do, bearing in mind the complexity of the problem, and the level of danger to which those in need are exposed. When we saw news feature on the state of the incubators in the Institute for Neonatology, where the most vulnerable babies are kept, the babies weighing only a pound, we simply couldn’t believe it. I’ve visited the Institute to check it for myself and I realized how big the problem is, and I have for the first time in my life experienced something like this great battle, realizing that the system totally neglected this field. We have continued with media coverage of this issue, expecting that the Ministry of Health will urgently resolve these problems. However, when we realized that only five incubators were acquired, whereas we needed over 200, we have decided to launch the campaign in order to gather funds for at least 100 incubators, with the help of citizens of Serbia, companies and NGOs. We cooperate for several years now with the agency Saatchi & Saatchi which carries out one free of charge campaign for us on annual basis.

Their team had also encountered with this problem as one of their associates gave birth to a baby that needed to spend some time in the incubator, so they gathered all necessary information immediately about the drama that goes on in 10% of newborn cases, as well as in 8% of cases where the baby born on term needs incubator due to breathing problems or some other problems. Knowing how difficult this media task is, we have been preparing the campaign for more than two months, and only when we established clear strategy, along with launching web site, Facebook profile, agree on media support, went through negotiation process with the biggest donors, did we launch the campaign, so this thorough preparation period brought good results. Therefore, for the first 50 days we have reached our goal, 100 incubators (around EUR million collected), so we decided to continue with it to cover all the needs. Up till now, we have gathered funds for over 200 incubators, meaning that we have collected almost EUR 2.5 million. Along with resolving the issue of incubator deficiency, we have also solved the problem of reconstructing intensive care unit and elevator facility in the Institute of Neonatology.

Pregnancy and giving birth is one of the most powerful and most sublime moment in the life of every woman, and her biggest biological accomplishment! So, I believe that conditions for giving birth should be adjusted to the significance of such an accomplishment, leaving behind all traumatic experience and concern whether there would be minimal conditions for it, so that the whole event could be carried out without humiliation, etc. Moreover, this is one of the most important moments in the life of a newborn baby, full with various risks, so it is up to us to try to reduce related risks to the maximum. Every week of premature birth doubles those risks, so we felt that we must do something to try to reduce those risks, helping both the baby and the parents, lessening their concern, and allowing them to spend as much time as possible with their baby. Of course, we also wanted to help the doctors and other medical staff to be able to offer the best possible and adequate care to the babies.

What is the goal of launching campaign in BiH and what are current results?

VERAN MATIĆ: In the course of the campaign in Serbia, Battle for the Babies had become an independent brand, recognized both regionally and internationally, so Parent Association of the prematurely born babies from Croatia "Palcici“ had contacted us, inquiring whether we could help them in designing the campaign in Croatia, as they are facing with similar problems. As B92 is quite known and recognizable brand in Croatia, and since I am in journalism for thirty years now, so I know most of editors and directors in the media of former Yugoslavia, it was easy for me to gain media support. I have also contacted President Josipovic, asking for the meeting with the Association's representatives, so we have got president's patronage for this campaign on that meeting. Then, we launched it. I had an idea that presidents Josipovic and Tadic should meet in the hospital in Vukovar during equipment delivery, but the election campaign in Serbia had just started and this plan was postponed. Afterwards, we were informed that BiH faces with similar problems, so we have contacted Ministry of Health of the Republic of Srpska, but also medical institutions, as well as Ministry of Health of the Federation, and we have soon gathered info that they need at least 70 incubators.

Very soon, M:tel offered to be our partner in this campaign, which we gladly accepted upon reviewing the ideas of this company. This was a winning combination - M:tel, due to its credibility, organized the support of all leading media very promptly, so the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina is very well covered. Not only that this company organized production of commercials, but it also showed leadership in corporate social responsibility, buying an incubator for the medical institutions in Banjaluka and Sarajevo, respectively. The results speak for themselves: for the first two weeks, we have resolved needs of the Clinic for Children Diseases in Banjaluka, while only one incubator is needed in the Pediatric Department in Sarajveo, and soon we will acquire optimal number of incubators in the maternity wards in Kasindol, Trebinje... The first incubator will soon reach Prijedor... I believe that till the end of the year, we will succeed in providing all the necessary number of incubators for the whole territory of BiH.

The campaign Battle for the Babies had won many prestigious advertising and PR awards. What seems to be crucial, according to your opinion, that this campaign touched so many hearts?

VERAN MATIĆ:
First of all, the subject must be touching for those who organize the campaign. And it must touch their hearts until we solve the problem. I believe that this job is, when it comes to efficiency, the same as the hardest job in any company. This is even harder. Warren Buffett, one of the leading and most successful managers and philanthropists, used to say "Philanthropy, unlike how it is commonly perceived, is a lot harder than business. In business, you look for the easy things to do. In philanthropy, you take on important problems, and it is a tougher game."

In BiH, nothing would be possible if it weren’t for the individual commitment of general director of M:tel, Predrag Culibrk, along with Milenko Cvijanovic, Aleksandra Sobic, Aida Halilovic, Bozana Cvijanovic and others. Personal devotion is the strongest guarantee that it will be massively accepted. After that, it is important to implement the same principles of the professional promotion, advertising, as well as news reporting. What is very interesting here is the fact that media are being massively commercialized, so they neglect basic journalistic principles, and ethics... So, with reporting on the problems and trying to resolve them, we directly oppose this trend of distancing from the basic postulates of our profession, in the same time criticizing the attitude of the authorities, those who are in charge, the elite, etc, as we assume the role of constructive criticism, showing that it is possible to find solution for all the problems. We have transformed into a very cruel society, devoted only to profitability, without any sense for the needs of the society, and the damage we are causing with such rules. Our insisting on the basic principles of solidarity, placed through professional presentation, resulted in successful effects. The fact that the same campaign gets international recognitions both for social responsibility and for top quality presentation, while media house gets recognition for determining and solving the problems, speaks for itself that this project is quite unique.

Battle for the Babies has encompassed all of these and presented it to the public, and this is the key to our success. We simply want to convince all the companies and social segments in the following Voltaire’s thought: ”The only way to compel men to speak good of us is to do it“, and this simple rule applies for humanitarian organizations, but also for the companies and every individual.

If there is a single key to success of every humanitarian campaign, what this could be?

“Encouraging others to do good is better than doing good“, Confucius

VERAN MATIĆ: You must do everything in your power to help, and you must do it in a clear and transparent way. Life is often cruel and unfair, and sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. I will give one example from this campaign: One of the first donated incubators reached Children’s Hospital in Novi Sad. The prematurely born baby was placed inside it that weighed only 580 grams, and the next day, baby’s weight reduced to 480 grams and, unfortunately, baby’s chances to survive were rather small despite the fact that the baby got new incubator and the best possible care... I have followed developments with this hero for the next few days. This unfair battle lasted for fifteen days. On the occasion of our gathering funds for 100 incubators, the mother of this baby hero that lost his battle wrote on Facebook, saying that this incubator, despite tragic end, gave her opportunity to spend two weeks with her baby.

I have read this quote in the National Parliament and the mother had noticed it, giving public testimony about her experience. This is a type of heroism we are talking about. We experienced tragic result in the end, but the parents recognized that all in charge of their baby have done everything in their power to save their baby, but failed. So, that’s it: we always have to do everything in our power to protect the weak and endangered. This is being recognized instantly. This is great sacrifice and devotion for all involved, but there is no greater pleasure than to be aware that you’ve done all that was possible, thus making considerable breakthroughs.

What are future plans of B92 Fund in your CSR and humanitarian mission?

VERAN MATIĆ:
The campaign Battle for the Babies will expand further in the region. We intend to launch it first in Macedonia, and then in Montenegro. We got invitations from some very distant African and Asian countries to come and share our experience with them, so that they could launch similar campaigns in their respective countries. In Serbia we are going to launch another campaign entitled Battle for Maternity Wards, as we witnessed that they are facing with disastrous situation, with too old birth tables, with the lack of bedclothes, torn clothing for the pregnant women, with horrible toilet facilities. Moreover, maternity wards are also deficient in other equipment such as: reanimation tables, respirators, and other significant equipment.

The campaign will be even bigger than The Battle for the Babies, but we should get things done in order to bring back dignity to parents, by giving the best possible conditions to the babies, but also to the midwifes and doctors that do such crucial job. I am confident that we will be successsful in this campaign as well, more so due to the fact that it is really a large gap between declarative social principles of the authorities and the elite that our birth rate should be improved on the one hand, and the real state of affairs that speaks about the fact that the society and the elite is not interesting in solving the problem, on the other. This hypocrisy presents bigger problem than the lack of funds. As we have shown with the campaign Battle for the Babies, if we set right priorities and if we work on their implementation, the money presents the smallest problem. So, we should work on involving this positive energy for the best, so that massive solidarity becomes a common place for every member of society.

As a conclusion, yet another quote: “By spreading goodness, we consolidate it within ourselves“ - Arne Garborg.