A quick look at the month of August in Kosovo reveals that this is a month filled with festivals and youth activities.   Undoubtedly, many such cultural events are made possible by the youngsters that volunteer their time to support these events.

A quick look at the month of August in Kosovo reveals that this is a month filled with festivals and youth activities.   Undoubtedly, many such cultural events are made possible by the youngsters that volunteer their time to support these events.

Simultaneously, this month coincides with the campaign launched by the EUICC, EU is about Youth Empowerment, which involves a number of activities with a special focus on youth and their role in society.

The following pictures capture these youth volunteers participating in various activities, supporting the staff in making these events a success, presenting the best of Kosovo to attendees.

DokuFest 2016

“These people, some of which have worked tirelessly for months, are those responsible for making Dokufest happen”! – DokuFest Facebook

DokuFest2016 opened on August 5, 2016, continuing until August 13, welcoming filmmakers and festival attendees from around the world. Artists, filmmakers, and musicians of all kinds gathered to view local and international films, participate in panels and enjoy Dokunights while taking in the local energy. The topic of this year’s edition of DokuFest was corruption, a topic that raised great interest from the public to address this negative phenomenon plaguing many societies around the world.

The following images showcase the tireless work  of volunteers in DokuFest2016

The Summit Fest 2016‬

A festival, now in its second year, brought fans, electronic DJs, from Kosovo and beyond. The creativity seen during the laser show, paired with the music, would not be possible without the support of young volunteers coming with new ideas.

“The Summit celebrates its second birthday, thanks to your positive energy and the work of all of you, together! Thank you to the volunteers, our team, and sponsors, for their continued and sincere support”. – Leart Zeqa Summit Fest Organizer

The Ideas Partnership

This local NGO focused on empowering minority communities is powered by volunteers. Whether it be teaching in classrooms, transporting material, fundraising or helping the women’s economic empowerment groups, a volunteer is always present. “Most of our ideas have come from volunteers.” – The Ideas Partnership

In this photo, a young volunteer delivers a literacy courses for a group of youngsters from the Roma community in Kosovo.

Let’s Do It Kosova!

The civic initiative “Let’s Do It Kosova” organizes activities to preserve and protect the environment in Kosovo. To address the environmental problems, many volunteers take part in clean-up actions, all over Kosovo. In the photos below, volunteers join the initiative “Let’s Clean Up Kosovo”.

The Let’s do it Kosova Coordinator, Luan Hasanaj, expressed his happiness with the clean-up of this location, which he says was largely used by children, who apart from waste itself, were endangered by snake bites.

“These actions will continue further, not only in eliminating illegal waste dumps, but also in raising awareness of the citizens and institutions on their responsibility to the environment”. – Let’s Do It Kosova Webpage

“Let’s do it Kosova has spread throughout all municipalities of Kosovo, there are volunteer groups in each municipality, actively involved in addressing environmental issues, and organizing clean-up actions for illegal waste dumps”. – Let’s do it Kosova

Volunteers for the EUICC

In August, volunteers supported the EU Information and Cultural Center to spread information for the current EU Development Shorts Film Competition, where the best short film highlighting an EU funded project has a chance to win a prize. The EUICC engaged volunteers to distribute leaflets informing the public about the competition during the DokuFest events.


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Local volunteer Zlatan Kovacevic says that the situation in Bosnia is slowly going from bad to worse, as helpers begin to encounter corpses and growing violence against migrants. Children are particularly at risk, according to Save the Children.

Local volunteer Zlatan Kovacevic says that the situation in Bosnia is slowly going from bad to worse, as helpers begin to encounter corpses and growing violence against migrants. Children are particularly at risk, according to Save the Children.

The German KNA news agency spoke in great length with Zlatan Kovacevic, founder of the “SOS Bihac” charity. According to KNA, the 43-year-old has been working “day and night” alongside a number of volunteers in a bid to provide clothing, food and emergency medical treatment to migrant and refugees in dire need.

The Bosnian national highlighted various details about the plight of many migrants and refugees hiding out in the forests surrounding the town in the northwest of Bosnia-Herzegovina:

“Some people have been bitten by dogs, others have broken legs or arms. Some have also had teeth knocked out or wounds inflicted on their heads by Croatian police officers,” Kovacevic told KNA before adding that he and his co-workers had also found corpses and human bones around the area. Other groups have also previously stated that bodies had been found around Bihac.

From the Bosnian war to the refugee crisis

Kovacevic has a rather personal reason for helping migrants: He lost a leg in the war in Bosnian almost 30 years ago; a doctor in Zagreb saved his life, even though it was forbidden at the time for Croats to help Muslim Bosniaks. 

Zlatan Kovacecic now wants to pay that kindness of a stranger forward and assist those escaping from similar hardship and suffering: “Thanks to the help of others, I survived. Now I just can’t watch these people suffer,” he said. “We have to look at migrants as human beings. And every human being is loved by God.”

Zlatan Kovacecic’s personal story helped him overcome seeing differences in people | Screenshot: DW

But he has also had to listen to a great deal of criticism for helping migrants and refugees; the local population around Bihac was initially against his cause. Nowadays he even receives passive support, for example by locals living in the nearby mountains; they alert SOS Bihac when they spot new migrants hiding out in the forests, so his organization can help them.

Many of them have been victims of pushbacks in the past, during which authorities in Croatia and even Slovenia reportedly stole their shoes and jackets in order to make future attempts less bearable.

While there is more acceptance for his work today, Kovacevic told KNA that “there are still people who hate us. But that’s only a minority.”

100 years of ‘nothing’ for locals

Despite growing understanding for his work, Kovacevic still fails to attract active support by authorities both local and remote: “The EU has created this crisis situation, and is not offering reasonable solutions,” he said, adding that the 90 million euros in aid to Bosnia’s migrant situation had been “squandered by authorities and organizations that fail to provide people with reasonable living conditions.”

“You must know that the people of Bihac have received nothing from the state government in Sarajevo for the last 100 years — except for a fast train that brings 200 refugees here every day. The problem is simply shifted from the capital to another canton,” he stressed.

“Between 100 to 200 refugees arrive here each day who seek to enter the EU. Some manage to eventually cross the border between Bosnia and Croatia, while others are forcibly returned by the police to the region around Bihac,” Kovacevic explained, adding that this trend had continued in this form for the past three years.

Read more: Worse than Lesbos? Migrants in Bosnia in need of help

Children particularly at risk

Meanwhile, the Save the Children charity has urged the international community in a statement to show more support for refugee and migrant children stuck in Bosnia on the Balkan route into the EU. The statement read that solutions needed to be found to provide safe and appropriate accommodation for the roughly 500 minors in the area, who in many cases were unaccompanied.

The children’s charity also stressed that nearly 100 children were either homeless or housed in inadequate accommodations, such as places that were shared with adult men. As a result, they ran the risk of becoming victims of violence and abuse.

Save the Children also highlighted the fact that there had recently been slight improvements for migrant children; for example, they had been granted opportunities to take part in school lessons with local children. 

For Zlatan Kovacevic, however, there’s no end in sight to the dramatic situation: “Let me put it sarcastically: The EU should not give Bosnia any more money, but rather invest everything in its border protection agency Frontex, so that no one at all has the chance to cross over. At least that would be honest.”


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The Kashmir floods

The Kashmir floods

The recent floods in Kashmir have been the biggest and most ferocious in a century leaving hundreds dead and many hundred thousand stranded. The administration was clearly overwhelmed, and many people took things into their own hands. One of them was Kran Kowshik.

Kashmir is a complicated place that has a burdensome history and until today carries a lot of baggage. Being the northernmost region of India, it falls on a disputed border with Pakistan, and according to estimates, more than 300,000 Indian Army troops are stationed there. For years, India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris themselves have fought over the state, even gone to war. On the night of September 4th, 2014 it began to rain. In less than an hour, it rained more than it usually does in a year, and the Jhelum River broke its banks. The capital city of Srinagar flooded immediately. In a few hours, the city was inundated, with a few patches of dry land dotting the landscape.

The recent floods in Kashmir have been the biggest and most ferocious in a century, and they have hit both the Pakistani and the Indian administered parts of the valley, leaving hundreds dead and many hundred thousand stranded. The administration was clearly overwhelmed, and many Kashmiris took things into their own hands, by setting up relief camps and organizing rescue missions.

One of them was my former boss, a veteran journalist from Kashmir. On 7th September, I got a message from him. “Can you come now?”, he asked. “We need you immediately!” I gathered a group of mountaineer friends and flew into Srinagar the next day. Two of my team members already had extensive experience from the Uttarakhand Floods in 2013.

Chaos in the city

When we landed in Srinagar, we realized soon why we were needed. Policemen who saw our ropes at the airport greeted us enthusiastically, saying, “Your help is needed in the city”. Fortunately, the airport was on high ground, but we could only travel for five kilometers in any direction. When we left the airport what we saw shocked us: Poor migrant laborers, mostly from Bihar, were camped outside the airport, waiting to get out. The Central Reserve Police Force, whose function is to guard against militancy, had set up a few relief camps near the airport. But in the main city, there was chaos.

The next morning, I connected with my friend. He directed us to a school in Hyderpora, outside Srinagar’s city center. There, about ten young Kashmiris, who were setting up a rescue and relief camp, met us. We quickly divided responsibilities. Three students from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University took over the general administration. They formed a team called “Kashmir Volunteers in Delhi: Flood Relief” (short KVDFR) and it was their job to organize the relief material in liaison with their team in Delhi, who collected donations in the capital. New requirement lists were sent out every day, and updates were posted on Facebook and Twitter to attract more donations.

I took over the rescue department, which involved organizing the rescue missions by boat. We also formed a food department, a medical department, which eventually became a clinic too, and a transport department. At this point, we had only about a hundred kilograms of relief material and one boat. Without any way other than to carry this food, we tied two foam mattresses together and floated them on the water. We pushed this makeshift raft through the flooded streets, handing out dry food and water to people who were stranded on the roofs of their houses.

Chest deep in water

The water was chest-deep, often very cold and always filthy.  After a couple of days, we had accustomed to pushing animal carcasses out of the way. The fear of catching diseases was high.

On more than a few days, I woke up at 4 am and was in the filthy water by 5.30. On one of my first rescues, I evacuated a baby, just a month old, from a house in Alluchi Bagh. Another day, we evacuated a woman and her husband; she was two days away from delivering a child. When I wasn’t running evacuation jobs like this I was with a team of 20 young men, delivering relief to villages far away from Srinagar. These relief runs, too, were physically exhausting. We started with makeshift rafts and one boat, piled with supplies. With no place for rowers, we pushed these boats through narrow, flooded roads to reach the villages.

In about five days, the organization had grown at an astounding pace. KVDFR now had grown to over 100 volunteers in Srinagar, 6 boats, and several tonnes of relief material, including clothes, blankets, water, medicine, food, baby food, diapers, and sanitary napkins. Every day, volunteers turned up, asking to help. The fitter amongst them, I drafted into the rescue teams. I gave them the most basic of rescue knowledge, issued them a boat if they needed one, gave them relief material, and sent them out.

Just good PR

In flooded Srinagar, there was no government. On the ground, I never saw any police, the National Disaster Management Agency’s teams were impotent and useless, and the Army, it looked to me like they chose to only follow orders; rescues were only carried out on special request, relief supplies were dropped into the water, and relief trucks threw food overboard, forcing people to scramble and fight for food.

While the Army was welcomed in the first few days – rare in Srinagar where the Army is often called “the oppressor” or “the occupier” – it soon was mainly focused on getting good PR. Visiting journalists were whisked up and taken n helicopter rides, and only shown what the army was doing.

Every night, people would gather around the few working TV sets, and watch stories of the ‘Army’s bravery’. One news channel even ran a story about their reporter taking part in rescue ops and showed footage of her pushing food out of a helicopter. I could clearly see that everything she pushed out fell into the water, and was unusable. Soon, the locals began to resent the Army again.

It had fallen to young men and women, whose own houses had been destroyed too, to help the city. These did a great job. They worked together, they toiled all day, shed sweat, shed blood, and helped everybody they came across, in whatever way they could. They worked to exhaustion and were back to work the next day. Every day, I would hear of daring rescues or difficult evacuations. Some of them chose to go door to door, giving people the emergency supplies they needed, focusing on medicine. Between us, the team at KVDFR’s Hyderpora camp, I estimate we reached out to around 2500 people in ten days.

There were many other casual organizations like this, run by Sikh Communities in Gurudwaras, by mosques, and by independent civilians. Many of them didn’t have boats and made their own rafts with large drums, logs and foam mattresses and other junk.

To be honest, we never felt satisfied with what we did. We never thought, “Hey, we did a great job today”. The only thought I had before going to bed was, “We could have done so much more.” We didn’t do what needed to be done; we only did what we could. Every time we were out on the boat, people called for help from houses. They all needed something: food, water or rescuing.

Everybody who asked for help, at least in the first few days, was desperate. But we often went out on the boat and found that we couldn’t locate the family, or that people we went to rescue weren’t in dire need. And what really is a ‘dire need’ in a city where everybody has a dire need. We realized we had to make our own parameters for the words ‘dire need’.

The changed face of the city

These were the parameters we decided for SOS calls: We only went out on emergency calls for Young children, the very old and those with medical emergencies. We also set another, more important criterion: We only went out when we knew we could pinpoint the house, or, if we had a guide who could take us straight there.

This might seem like an unreasonable demand, but it wasn’t. The face of the city had changed, complete neighborhoods had been inundated, and houses had fallen like cards. It wasn’t easy to get around. We had to row through streets, not drive. One day, we took a father to rescue his baby, and he couldn’t locate his own house. That’s how hard it was.

On the boat, we only responded to calls that absolutely needed us. One evacuation that made me feel happy was of an old, blind man whose family called out to us as we passed.

Having to say “no” to many who were asking for help often meant that we had to face anger and disbelief from desperate people. And it began to break our hearts. But we didn’t have the time, or the strength, to ponder our decisions. By day four on the boat, we began ignoring most people who called from houses – there was no way we could help, even if we wanted to. We only answered to the neediest, like a man in his late 50s, who was obviously mentally disturbed. So we decided to just do what we could. To help whom we could. Sometimes, it was too hard, like when we saw two dead bodies. We were told that they had asked for help but didn’t get it.

After the first ten days of the flood, much of the city was still inundated. There was no way for the water to leave. Slowly, the city began to limp back, as much as it could. We began to see government officials around, but they couldn’t do much. Ten days after the flood, my job as a first responder was done, and I decided to fly out. But most of the rescue volunteers went back to their flooded houses. The need for the city has changed. The city now needs to be rebuilt. With winter coming in, people can’t live in tent camps anymore. The leaders of KVDFR decided to suspend their college commitments and continue with relief work for the next year. It’s going to be another long and difficult struggle for Kashmir.


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Balkans flooding: ICRC helps National Societies respond to floods

Balkans flooding: ICRC helps National Societies respond to floods

Unprecedented rainfall has triggered the region’s worst disaster in over a century. Between 13 and 16 May 2014 torrential rainfall brought floods that swept away roads and bridges, flooding entire towns in minutes.

The floods have directly affected close to a million people, a quarter of the country’s population.


The Red Cross Society of Bosnia-Herzegovina is hard at work helping the victims of the flooding, and the International Committee of the Red Cross is providing the National Society with logistical support.

Eastern and central areas of the country experienced 300 litres of rain per square metre in a very short period, with the waters submerging entire cities. The floods have directly affected close to a million people, a quarter of the country’s population. Homes, agriculture, industry and infrastructure have sustained heavy damage.

While water levels are starting to fall in certain areas, the water is moving downstream, endangering other regions. The flooding has claimed 24 lives so far, with thousands more having to flee their homes. 


The Red Cross Society of Bosnia-Herzegovina is helping the victims of the flooding. with logistical support from the ICRC.

The ICRC is supporting the Red Cross Society of Bosnia-Herzegovina as it helps people affected by the floods:

  • We are providing logistical support to the National Society, helping them deliver emergency aid.
  • Flooding and landslides have swept away mine warning signs and have displaced mines and unexploded munitions left over from the conflicts of the 1990s. The ICRC is working with the Mine Action Centre to help the National Society warn people of the danger.
  • The tracing service of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Red Cross is assessing the need to help people get back in touch with relatives, and the ICRC is supporting them in this area.
  • Finally, we are helping the National Society mobilize support for its humanitarian action and publish accurate information on what aid is needed and what is being done.


The Red Cross of Serbia (RCS) immediately sent disaster response teams to endangered regions of Serbia. Working with emergency teams from Serbia and abroad, the RCS evacuated dozens of people and delivered food and water to hundreds of others cut off by the raging waters. 

Belgrade, Serbia.
Personnel of the Red Cross of Serbia register flood evacuees at a temporary shelter in Belgrade’s Pionir sports hall.

A flood … of volunteers

At the same time, RCS volunteers were pouring in (pun intended!) to staff reception centres and shelters. They registered the evacuees, provided them with food, water, clothes, hygiene items and words of sympathy and consolation. They organized accommodation for people who had no friends or family to stay with. The response from volunteers was so overwhelming that at one point the Belgrade Branch of the Red Cross had to ask people to save their energy for later!

As the waters start to recede and people begin to return to their ravaged homes, the RCS has begun to pump out muddy water and sanitize houses, some of which may have been contaminated by sewage. At the same time, the Society continues to provide food and other basics. Some areas still almost completely cut-off due to the destruction of roads. Others are still without water or electricity. To make matters worse, a number of RCS branch offices have suffered heavy damage.

Restoring contact between families

As well as saving lives and delivering aid, the RCS has activated its tracing service, enabling people to enquire about family members missing in the floods. As of 22 May, the RCS had received 166 such enquiries. The Society has located 107 of these persons and forwarded the remaining 59 requests to the police, as per the established procedure.

The ICRC delegation in Belgrade offered its support to the RCS right from the first day of the emergency. We have put three vehicles and three members of staff at the disposal of the RCS, plus an RFL specialist. So far, we have focused on restoring family links. We have acquired mobile phones, SIM cards and extension cables, and the ICRC/RCS team has been going from one shelter to another offering free phone calls and, in several cases, transporting vulnerable people from one shelter to another so they could rejoin their families.

Solidarity from near and far

The one positive aspect of this unprecedented disaster has been the outstanding show of solidarity. As soon as the scope of the catastrophe became apparent, support poured in from all quarters: individuals, companies, organisations and governments. And, as expected, help has arrived from the Red Cross/Red Crescent family – from the National Societies of the region and elsewhere in Europe, from the Turkish Red Crescent and from the National Societies of countries as far away as Iran and Japan.


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Volunteers distributing beds in Petrinja-Sisak following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit, December 2020.

Volunteers distributing beds in Petrinja-Sisak following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit, December 2020.

Croatia earthquake: EU Member States offer further assistance

© European Union, 2020 (photographer: Lisa Hastert)

Following the initial offers of assistance to Croatia – most of it dispatched in the first 24 hours after the devastating earthquake of 29 December 2020 – EU Member States are offering further in-kind assistance.

Sleeping bags, housing containers, lighting systems and mattresses, provided by Germany, France and Austria, are on their way to Croatia or will be in the coming days. Slovenia delivered supplementary housing containers to Croatia on 11 January 2021.

“Once more, I would like to thank all EU Member States for their prompt response to the earthquake. The overwhelming response of 15 EU Member States and 1 Participating State helping the Croatian people in times of need is a tangible example of EU solidarity”, said Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič.

In 2020 alone, the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinated more than 100 times assistance to countries in Europe and worldwide due to crises.


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