Belgrade, 23 April 2020 – Owing to the national “Be a Volunteer” platform (Budi volonter), which was initiated on 24th March, over 7,000 people from 27 cities and municipalities have participated in providing assistance to their elderly fellow citizens on a voluntary basis. The volunteers are active throughout Serbia, most of them being located in Belgrade (24%) and Novi Sad (15%). As regards other cities and towns, the greatest number of volunteers has been registered in Zrenjanin (7%), Subotica (6%), Kikinda and Leskovac (5%), followed by Pančevo, Niš and Novi Pazar (4%). Most volunteers are between 20 and 40 years of age (70%), and some are below 20 years of age (7%).
In Zrenjanin and the surrounding smaller rural settlements, for example, more than 600 volunteers have been engaged, a number sufficient to deal with over 3,600 calls for help, which were received following the imposition of the state of emergency from fellow citizens requiring assistance. Of the overall number of volunteers in Zrenjanin, 220 of them are members of the Volunteer Firemen’s Association, trained for work in emergency situations, so that, in addition to supplying foodstuffs to elderly fellow citizens, they have also participated in disinfecting public spaces.
“The ‘Be a Volunteer’ platform facilitates the work of the Emergency Situations Headquarters, for we have data on all the volunteers on the territory of Zrenjanin gathered in one place, which makes it easier for us to contact them and send them to a particular address. From the moment we receive a call from citizens in need of assistance, in Zrenjanin, it takes volunteers an hour and a half at the most to reach the place where they live, whereas in the smaller settlements in the surroundings of Zrenjanin volunteers manage to arrive at the addresses given in a matter of minutes”, explains Zvonko Rakić, a member of the Emergency Situations Headquarters in Zrenjanin and a member of the City Firemen’s Association.
“Owing to the ‘Be a Volunteer’ platform, a safe and secure volunteer support network has been established for providing assistance to citizens over 65 years of age, who are subject to the obligatory isolation measure, and also to other citizens who need this kind of assistance”, points out Mihailo Jovanović, the Director of the Office for Information Technologies and eGovernment. The applications submitted by those interested in helping their fellow citizens as volunteers are thoroughly checked with a view to preventing any possibility of abuse. “When the authorised services approve an application, the data on volunteers are forwarded to the local governments, so that the city and municipal centres could contact them and link them with the citizens in need of assistance”, Jovanović adds.
Francine Pickup, the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Serbia, has pointed out that linking this platform to the telephone call centre enables the submission of applications and the inclusion of those volunteers who do not possess digital know-how and skills, such as those who have no Internet access and elderly citizens.
All citizens interested in volunteering can still apply by filling in the application form at the website https://budivolonter.gov.rs/, or by contacting the COVID-19 Call Centre by dialling 19819 free of charge every day from 8 to 22 o’clock.
The national “Be a Volunteer” platform, intended for receiving applications from prospective volunteers, has been realised by the Emergency Situations Sector of the Ministry of the Interior and the Office for Information Technologies and eGovernment (ITE), in cooperation with the “Serbia Creates” platform, with the support of United Kingdom Good Governance Fund (GGF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).