GYSD Drives are Biggest Ever for MAYAA and Food Bank Montenegro

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By Ivan Vuksanovic, Alumni Coordinator for Montenegro, ‘07

For Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), members of MAYAA, (Montenegrin American Youth Alumni Association), comprised of alumni from the A-SMYLE and UGRAD programs, collaborated with Food Bank of Montenegro and chain of supermarkets Delhaize MNE – Maxi to organize drive to collect food and hygienic products for those families in need in the towns of Podgorica and Herceg Novi.

The actions took place in two Maxi stores, one in Podogrica and the other in Herceg Novi, and lasted from 9am to 9pm. Alumni packed the stores and spoke to store patrons about the project.  Alumni encouraged citizens to donate recommended products necessary for everyday life, such as rice or shampoo.  The Maxi stores had discounted such products and placed them in central locations in the stores especially for this day.  We also put together packages that store patrons could buy for a family that included flour, sugar, oil, pasta, rice, and washing soap. The goal was to collect 191 packages for the municipalities of Podgorica and Golubovci and 150 packages for the municipality of Herceg Novi.

This action was initiated by MAYAA, which provided volunteers for the day-of event and who promoted the humanitarian action in the weeks leading up to GYSD.  Food Bank Montenegro negotiated sponsorship, and of course the Maxi chain of stores contributed by lowering the prices of basic necessities.  By cooperating, we achieved all that we had hoped and much, much more. In the end, we collected almost 7 tons (6 tons and 890 kilograms) of food and hygienic products!

The food was distributed two days after the action to families in need who receive social help from the government. This time, we focused specifically on families who have children, but no male member of the household able to work or contribute to the household budget, due to either age or illness.

Nina Loncarevic, A-SMYLE alumna, ’12, who participated in both the planning and execution of this project said, “This cooperation with the Food Bank of Montenegro is just one of many showing we have a great cooperation with them. Hopefully, this is just a start to a wonderful tradition. This experience was great because we collected so much food and hygiene products, and it’s what makes us happy. It was also well organized, and we had good media coverage – guest appearances, promotions etc. My goal was to explain to people the level of poverty in Montenegro and how a little to someone can mean a lot to a poor person. I’m looking forward to our future cooperation!”

A-SMYLE alumna Ksenija Popovic, ’07, also participated in the action and had this to say: “Six hours flew by as volunteers joined their enthusiasm and decided that this is going to be the day when we will do something for someone outside our friends and family circle. When I came home later that day, I realized that every day needs to start with that decision.”

Mina Radonjic, alumna of the ‘12 generation, added, “Volunteering in actions like this one is always a unique experience. There is a lot of work but knowing the cause and the goal of what you’re doing makes everything easier. Before we started volunteering at similar events, I didn’t even know there were so many people in need in Montenegro. Living in the capital city makes people oblivious of what’s going on around their community. Luckily, actions like this connect us, especially young people, for a good cause.”

Stefan Ivanovic, an alumnus of the ’12 generation and who was a coordinator of this action in Herceg Novi, said, “I’m so glad I got to participate in this year’s GYSD! The look on [people’s] faces when you are about to give them their food package is one of the biggest reasons I do this. Seeing how grateful those people are just makes my heart warm and proud. I’m looking forward to next year’s action!”

GYSD is a very important day for volunteers, and it gathers people from all around the world to do good deeds and help people in need in order to contribute to their communities. It started in the U.S. and soon became popular word wide. With this action and other activities we are doing in 2013, MAYAA joined more than 100 countries from around the globe to celebrate it.

This action was realized with the help of Montenegrin citizens and a number of socially responsible companies who also donated: Telekom, Cikom, Delta city, Montemlin, Klikovac, Hotel Maestral, Hipotekarna Bank, Hemko, and Habitat. We also devoted time to promoting this action through guest appearances on TV, social media, and local newspapers. You can find photo albums of the Food Bank Montenegro drives in Podgorica here and Herceg Novi here, and food being distributed in three different locations here, here, and here.