26 November 2020 | Belgrade, Serbia [Rachel Cabose]During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Serbia found multiple ways to serve the most vulnerable members of society.
Adventist young adults, ages 18-26, with financial and logistical support from their local churches and ADRA, shopped for food and other supplies and then delivered much-needed parcels to church members who are elderly or disabled. Dragan Grujičić, president of the South-East European Union Conference, joined these young Adventists as they delivered food to people who could not leave their homes during the COVID-19 lockdown.
But ADRA’s work went far beyond assisting church members. ADRA intensified its efforts to boost the physical and emotional well-being of key groups it was already serving.
“Our three target groups became additionally vulnerable in this period: the homeless, children from the Roma community, and women and girls from the refugee and migrant communities,” says Igor Mitrović, country director for ADRA in Serbia. “ADRA adapted its ongoing programmes to respond to the new needs in these communities—or, to put it more accurately, to the old needs made even more urgent.”
Helping the Homeless
Homelessness is a significant problem in Serbia. There are 5,000 to 10,000 people without homes in the capital of Belgrade, according to local authorities. “The official social and health system is not able to effectively prevent homelessness or meet the needs of homeless people,” says Mitrović.
This inadequacy became painfully visible during the first weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown in March. The entire city of Belgrade had only one homeless shelter with a capacity of 114 people, according to Mitrović.
ADRA’s response was immediate. Volunteers from local Seventh-day Adventist churches packed and distributed parcels of food and other essential items to 1,000 homeless individuals. In addition, ADRA continued its ongoing services to the homeless, which became even more crucial during the pandemic.