The Red Cross of Macedonia and other nations in the region work to feed the nation's less-fortunate.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 29/11/12
The Red Cross plays a key role across the region in helping needy families. [AFP]
The Red Cross of Skopje is rallying the support of Macedonia's business community to collect 1,000 to 2,000 food packages for needy families before winter. The efforts are well-appreciated in the community, where some families have difficulty making it through the cold weather months without assistance.
"The Red Cross never forgets us," Skopje resident Risto Ivanovski, a father of three who said his family struggles to make ends meet, told SETimes. "Now they bring us food to pass the winter. We thank all the good people who gave us something. For my three children, this is more than necessary."
The campaign in Macedonia is part of an international effort being implemented in 189 countries. The Okta oil refinery, mobile phone provider One, Studio Moderna, Ramstor Mall and the Vero and Tinex supermarkets are among the corporate entities participating.
Suzana Tuneva Paunovska, secretary of the Red Cross of the city Skopje, told SETimes that the organisation is committed to humanitarian work that helps those most in need.
The programme seeks food and monetary donations from corporations and collects food items from donors at stores and malls. Schools also are involved, targeting assistance for children from poor families and raising funds by selling vouchers.
The Red Cross will seek donations from companies in Macedonia. In Skopje, 150 volunteer workers are part of the project.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have been instrumental in facilitating co-operation between countries to help those most at risk. With Red Cross assistance, volunteers from the region exchange ideas and training and implement regional projects, including one aimed at improving homecare for elderly people.
The Macedonian Red Cross has signed several protocols for co-operation with countries including Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, Germany, Spain, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
The Red Cross of Kosovo (RCK) this year launched a project called Solidarity In Action that involved donations from municipalities to assist less-fortunate families during the winter months.
"The project was effective as we obtained assistance in [clothes], foods, blankets and financial assistance," Antigona Sopjani, RCK co-ordinator for social welfare, told SETimes.
RCK is drafting a plan for distributing more than 1,800 food packages, more than 900 pairs of shoes and nearly 6,000 euros that were donated.
The Red Cross of Serbia has no similar programme, but every day provides free hot meals to 31,000 people in 72 public kitchens. The kitchens in smaller towns sometimes struggle to pay for cooks and other workers.
"We have only two workers who prepare 950 meals a day," Milomir Nikolic, the Red Cross secretary in Kursumlija, told SETimes.
The public kitchens are mostly visited by pensioners, because more than 1 million retired people in Serbia live on less than 230 euros per month, and 91,000 families live on social assistance.
In Romania, the Red Cross launched a food bank programme three years ago as a direct result of the economic crisis.
"The programme, which aims at collecting hard-perishable food donated by the population and its distribution to vulnerable people, started in 20 of the country's 47 Red Cross branches and has in time expanded to 30 of them," Nadia Lazar, communication co-ordinator of Red Cross, told SETimes.
In its three years, Romania's programme has reached more than 81,000 families and has received more than 553,000 kilos of food donations. More than 11,000 volunteers collected the food and distributed it to the needy
The Red Cross mobilized ample resources last winter after vast streches of land were covered in snow drifts and thouands of people were left stranded in seven counties. About 90 tonnes of food were collected and distributed to those who could not leave their homes.
SETimes correspondent Paul Ciocoiu from Bucharest contributed to this report.