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Volume 7, No. 1SPRING 2004

NBA star player, IOCC team up
to give children 'winning' season

“My room used to be full of toys,” Stefan said of his life before war. He now resides in a refugee shelter in Krnjaca, Serbia, near Belgrade. IOCC and the Peja Stojakovic Children’s Foundation recently delivered winter clothing sets to hundreds of children living in refugee shelters in Serbia. Photo courtesy of Ana Adamovic

Baltimore (IOCC) — Whether it’s a winter coat or a radio program with up-to-date information, IOCC continues to address the desperate plight of refugees and displaced persons in Serbia and Montenegro.

Largely forgotten by the world, more than 500,000 people displaced by the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia continue to reside in Serbia — some in refugee shelters, but most in private homes and apartments. While many refugees are returning to Bosnia-Herzegovina, few of those displaced by the 1999 conflict in Kosovo have been able to return out of fear for their safety.

Through an extensive network of local partners, IOCC provides legal assistance, impartial information and vocational training to displaced people, many of whom have spent years away from their pre-war homes. For those who cannot return, the main challenge is daily survival in Serbia. Vocational training gives them the skills they need to support themselves and their families in their new home.

IOCC coordinates an information lifeline through its collaboration with UNION and other organizations that advocate on behalf of displaced persons living in Serbia and Montenegro. UNION, a coalition of seven refugee associations, sponsors a radio program titled “Crossroads of Life.”

“The radio program is another tool to disseminate information to displaced people in Serbia regarding the situation in Kosovo and elsewhere,” said Yorgos Daskalakis, head of office for IOCC-Belgrade. “There is a great need for accurate information that can help people make informed decisions about their future. IOCC’s role is to build the capacity of organizations that do this work.”

For refugees from Bosnia, IOCC works to facilitate their return through its offices in that country by repairing war-damaged homes, restoring public utilities, and supplying returnees with transportation, tools, appliances, food parcels and other items.

Of the refugees and displaced persons living in Serbia, an estimated 45,000 still reside in refugee shelters. Shelters are often converted public buildings like schools or barracks not designed for long-term family housing.

While focusing on lasting solutions to assist refugees in assimilating to their new surroundings or returning to their pre-war homes, IOCC is also doing what it can to help alleviate the hardship of refugees still residing in shelters. Recently, in partnership with Sacramento Kings basketball player Peja Stojakovic, IOCC provided winter clothing to children living in the shelters.

Children residing in refugee shelters in Belgrade and Nis, Serbia received winter clothing sets, including wool socks, hats, coats and scarves, thanks to the partnership between the Peja Stojakovic Children’s Foundation and IOCC.

Since 1992, IOCC has provided more than $57 million in humanitarian assistance in Serbia and Montenegro, including vocational training, agricultural programs, shelter repairs, social services, job creation, small-business loans, and dental hygiene.

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