Veran Matic: HEALTH AND EDUCATION PRESENT OUR PRIORITIES
B92 Fund was recognized again in 2015 as one of the most important initiatives when it comes to CSR activities.Source: B92
For the sixth year in a row, Business Info Group published an Edition “CSR Leaders“ in which companies, organizations and individuals represent the activities and campaigns they had conducted for the benefit of their community. B92 Fund was recognized again in 2015 as one of the most important initiatives when it comes to CSR activities.
Edition: CRS Leaders for 2015
Veran Matic, B92 News Editor in Chief
Our long term idea is to create much more extensive solidarity campaigns in our society, to develop charity and philanthropy, to broaden our frontlines, but also to unite our efforts. We would also like to open an Academy for Charity, for philanthropy, where we could educate individuals, but also representatives of diverse companies and social organizations for socially responsible activities
Most famous campaigns of B92 Fund that marked 10th anniversary last year are the following: “Battle for the Babies“, “Movement 65+“, “Safe house“, “Food for all“. It is announced that you will soon launch campaign “Battle for Schools“.
“One society can be best judged by its health and educational systems. Unfortunately, we are at the bottom of European and world charts. Therefore, B92 Fund regards those two fields as priority in our work”, Veran Matic, B92 news editor in chief states. This is one of our long-term campaigns as the needs are huge, and it can unite the widest social layers – starting with individuals, via the companies, foundations, local self-governance, etc., Matic added, in his capacity as President of B92 Fund’s Board of Directors.
When did you launch campaign “Battle for Schools“ and which schools need urgent reconstruction?
Couple of years ago, when I passed by my elementary school which I attended from fifth to eight grade, situated at Debrc, only 50 kilometers away from Belgrade in the direction of Sabac, I noticed that they still have a field toilet that was constructed when I was a boy, with smashed door. I had enquired with schoolchildren and they mostly say that they refrain from going to the bathroom until they reach home. I had asked school director to enclose a pro forma invoice for the works on toilet facilities, and upon getting initial estimates, I had commenced with gathering funds. For only several weeks, I had managed to collect necessary sum amounting to EUR 30.000, so sanitary facilities were constructed. Cleanliness is next to godliness, washing hands prevents numerous illnesses. Restraining from going to the bathroom produces other difficulties and causes diseases. Those are not good conditions for upbringing and education. While making further inquiries, I had found out that large number of schools in Serbia face with similar problems. Therefore, we had decided to launch broader campaign “Battle for Schools“. In June 2015, UNICEF informed me that there is a big problem in the elementary school “St. Sava“ based in the local community Bare, with the outpost in Vrbnica. When I looked on the map, I’ve realized that this is “the end of the world” and that this could be our priority. We sent B92 correspondent from Sjenica to make a startling reportage on field toilets, and on the drummers, where children’s clothes got damaged during winter season while drying (the nature is so cruel there, almost six month period on 1300 meters altitude), the windows that are so cracked that they make cold rather than keep it from entering inside. So, we had launched campaign and within no time (thanks to the donations of the companies BIC and Nordeus), we had gathered funds amounting to around EUR 25.000, we had selected contractors and reconstructed classrooms, as well as sanitary facilities within the building, we had introduced heating, replaced worn-out windows and doors, we constructed sports gym for winter season, and equipped the school with modern instruments for learning process. We have done all that for a month and a half, finishing all for the start of new school season. We would also like to be able to assist in forcing local authorities to make road as one of the burning problems for the local community Bare is the road. This regional road is being considered as paved, but the circumstances on the ground are quite different. Out of total 54 kilometers of road from Sjenica to the border with Montenegro and Monastery Kumanica, that is being called Serbian Ostrog, only 17 kilometers is paved, while the other part is gravel road. This is one of the reasons why people from this local community kept moving for years to Kragujevac, Kraljevo and other cities within Serbia and former Yugoslavia. We continue with this campaign, and we had already gathered funds for another school, while another one is being reconstructed. So, this campaign inspires solutions for other problems and unresolved issues.
Maternity wards, schools, old population, it seems that humanitarian assistance is necessary everywhere. Which vulnerable groups will in future be in the focus of B92 Fund’s activities?
For the time being, Fund directed all its attention to the refugees, as it is something which is happening currently, and a kind of decisive moment that launches other numerous issues. We are primarily focused on giving them first aid, which is necessary on the checkpoints where refugees gather. I am certain that our activities and the activities of our fellow citizens contributed to our being proud of the overall relationship of our state towards refugees. After the first impulsive reaction, we prepare for the next months that will be much more complicated, mainly through establishing info checkpoints in the park near bus station, intended to link them (via information on all relevant languages – Arab, Urdu, Pashtu, English) with all the institutions and their activities, to assist them as soon as possible to get information they need, we want to help primarily children and women, and of course, entire population, all those that are ill or have other restrictions. It is very important to offer them maps, to provide them with Internet connection free of charge, which we have already done on one location in cooperation with Telenor. Now we are working on mobile application and for all that use wi fi, but for others as well, we should provide basic information, checkpoint for charging their cell phones, offering them used mobile devices that will be available to those who do not have cells, so that they could contact their families, etc.
To what extent are companies in Serbia ready to take part in humanitarian campaigns?
I believe that it is very important how the activists and volunteers as well as organizations dealing with refugees will work and in what ways they will perform their activities. Back in 1996, rallies were marked with the slogan «Belgrade is the world». I would like that we use current events and turn them into a new brand of Serbia: Serbia je humane, Serbia is the world, its better part. I would like that all our volunteers that assist refugees wear T-shirts and badges with the following slogan «Welcome to Serbia» in all languages. I would also like to see on those T-shirts what seems to be heard often from the refugees «Thank you, Serbia, thank you the citizens of Serbia, we do not threaten you, we only want to get away from the war zone, to save the lives of our family members and our children...» I am certain that we should strengthen this kind of communication. Of course, it is also needed to give more information on where they could get a job in Serbia, which skills and handcrafts we lack (which will not mean taking someone’s job), there are IT technicians among the refugees that are needed in our IT industry which grows in order to replace those who leave every day. Belgrade was the world when it had large number of students from Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world. It is nice to foster the diversity of cultures. Our companies, as they successfully turned to the burning issue of floods, now they should additionally focus on the refugee problem and assist them and our country in the same time, in order to make everything that a humane society should do under such circumstances. It is of utmost importance to develop and advance our positive attitude towards refugees.
How many maternity wards got renovated and do you have additional plans for the campaign of maternity wards’ reconstruction?
Up till now, we had fully equipped 25 maternity wards in Serbia and those will not have major needs for modern technical equipment for the next decade until the guarantee period expires. We still have to provide equipment for 25 maternity wards. Of course, last year fundraising activities was slowed down as 90 percent of funds was directed towards resolving natural disasters, floods. Still, we have our favorite donors. When the helicopter that transferred a newborn from the maternity ward in Novi Pazar crashed, our biggest donor in this campaign Milan Popovic called me and asked for the list of all the needs of this maternity ward in order to reduce the need for such risky activities. We had soon prepared complete list of the needs, so one of these days, equipment EUR 90.000 worth was handed over to this maternity ward, fully financed by him. We often motivate other organizations to join us in this campaign, so this particular maternity ward got funds for the reconstruction and installation replacement, which is currently being performed, so along with new and restored premises, they will get new equipment. We will also tend to motivate relevant authorities to provide personnel strengthening, especially in neonatology unit, as I had witnessed that the road from Kragujevac (where the headquarters of neonatology that covers Novi Pazar is situated) is in a rather poor state and it is a two and a half hour ride, which can present hindrance that prematurely born baby weighing around one kilogram cannot stand and cannot reach the first point where it can get help. In order to reduce death rate of the newborns, it is necessary to strengthen this expert service immediately on the ground.
What are current results within campaign “Battle for Maternity Wards” and “Battle for the Babies” in this respect?
Reconstruction of maternity wards gives obvious results, through the reduction of newborns’ death rate, through better health care and attention in order to reduce the problems and damages in the risky pregnancies, childbirths. Medical staff works better when it is fully equipped and when it doesn’t have to improvise, etc. We had also introduced regular equipment maintenance in order to extend the life of the equipment. I am under impression that we had managed to motivate other organizations to deal with those issues from different perspectives, and I am confident that in several years, we will have healthy zero position when it comes to the technological arrangement of maternity wards. I believe that this would be followed by the overall development of health service, etc.
What are long term goals of B92 Fund?
All those campaigns are long term in nature. As you can see, with dealing with family violence, we managed to construct seven safe houses and when we build another two (one in Sremska Mitrovica in the final stage of construction), we will have an adequate network of such institutions on the whole territory of Serbia, thus placing this issue as a priority in the country. Violence towards children and women represents real cancer of the society, and it is necessary to work more intensely on the prevention, implementing more rigorous and more efficient legal protection, removing despot from the house, immediately upon reporting violence, etc. We work on the projects of empowering women victims of domestic violence, so that they could become economically independent and in order to fully eliminate the need to return to their violent husbands. We implement this experimental project in cooperation with UN Trust Fund and UN Women in the Sombor Safe house, through education for growing organic vegetables, but also for performing a series of craftworks that would help them in launching a business of their own. Recently, we had agreed regular meetings of the female managers of Direct Media with women and children accommodated in Belgrade Safe houses, they cook together once a week, they bring hairdressers and chiropodists to them, entertaining artists for children, they hang out together, listening to each other problems. This resulted in Direct Media company resolution to reconstruct three safe houses that are decrepit due to high fluctuation. Numerous problems of women and children are being dealt with and resolved in this direct communication. This is role model for other companies to take up socially responsible activities, entrepreneurship… This is higher level than a “cold” budget planning and offering funds to someone. In this way we are directly involved, and we enrich ourselves in this process.
Do you have support of state institutions when it comes to those activities?
Moreover, in cooperation with AVON and the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, we mark so-called Pink Day, directing attention of the public to the problems women with breast cancer face, assisting organizations all over Serbia to show their activities and the values they fight for. This is a sequel of our former campaign of providing digital transportable mammography unit that will be functional soon. We deal with the problems of children and youth through a series of actions and projects – starting from cooperation with the Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Telecommunication and Ministry of Education on the safe use of Internet, via “Battle for the Babies and Maternity Wards“ that public is familiar with, to the “Free Zone Junior“ and „Re-Generation“ through which we offer to young population and their teachers knowledge and instruments for using alternative methods in learning, but also in making young people active in CSR activities towards themselves and towards community on the whole. „Battle for Schools“ represents natural sequence of B92 Fund’s efforts over the years.
Our long term idea is to create much more extensive solidarity campaigns in our society, to develop charity and philanthropy, to broaden our frontlines, but also to unite our efforts, to educate people for doing good deeds. We would also like to open an Academy for Charity, for philanthropy, where we could educate individuals, but also representatives of diverse companies and social organizations for socially responsible work, to create a kind of philanthropic nurseries.
Apart from humanitarian socially responsible campaigns, you chair the Commission for investigating the killings of journalists. Court of Appeal had confirmed indictment for the killing of journalist Slavko Curuvija. How much has been done so far pertaining to other cases that the Commission covers, and is there new evidence?
This is also a form of socially responsible engagement. As journalist, I couldn’t stand being inactive, looking how investigations fail. It was obvious that something needs to change, that it is necessary to include other dedicated people in resolving those cases, so I suggested establishment of the Commission. As you can see, we have accomplished something that was unthinkable in the past, the Curuvija case resulted in court epilogue. I am confident that the case of Milan Pantic will also end up in court. Super expertise in case of Dada Vujasinovic commenced in Netherlands Forensic Institute in Hague, and funds are provided for this purpose. So, we will devote our efforts in future to the most complicated case of the RTS media staffers that got killed during air raids.
What are the biggest problems you face with during the investigations?
The biggest problem is time lapse, too much time had passed by and the obstructions were too strong, compromising evidence, planting false clues and wrong directions, etc. Secondly, there is fragmented documentation that is hard to gather in its authentic form. Moreover, the witnesses had died, some of them are unavailable, while others are exposed to serious threats. Of course, the biggest problem stands in judicial inertia, in the lack of ambitious, vigilant and enthusiastic prosecutors, brave and uncompromising judges, and strong defenders of the rule of law in general.