Serbian Basketball Stars Visit Children in Kosovo
Belgrade, Serbia (September 12, 2008) — His Grace Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan hosted Serb basketball stars Vlade Divac and Dragan Tarlac on a two-day visit to Kosovo September 8-9, 2008. The delegation visited children as they began the new school year and provided shirts, hats and basketballs donated by Adidas through the Peja Stojakovic Children’s Foundation. The trip to Kosovo was organized by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in cooperation with His Grace Bishop Teodosije and included the participation of IOCC Executive Director & CEO Constantine M. Triantafilou.
The delegation made stops in Serb enclaves in Kosovo, including Banje, Osojane, Gorazdevac and Velika Hoca villages where they also viewed projects that have been implemented by IOCC and the Visoki Decani Monastery with the support of the basketball players and donors from the United States.
“This is the greatest thing that could happen for these children,” said Miroslav Kovacevic, the Director of the Elementary School in Banje. “This visit will encourage the children in the coming months and years. Sports help the children to forget about the situation they are living in.”
Banje, a small village in a remote part of the Srbica Municipality, is home to about 400 Serbs. Through support from Vlade Divac, IOCC provided a computer center and generator for the children of the elementary school.
In Gorazdevac, hundreds of children were on hand at the elementary school to receive gifts and autographs from the basketball players. The school has undergone renovations including installation of new windows for the ground floor. During the visit, IOCC also committed to completing the remaining windows on the first floor, while the Visoki Decani Monastery will replace the flooring throughout the school.
“It is amazing to see the smiles of the children who are living under such difficult circumstances,” said Vlade Divac. “The work that is being done by Bishop Teodosije and IOCC is critical for the survival of these people.”
In the village of Velika Hoca in southwestern Kosovo, the group toured a community center that was completed by IOCC, a monastic winery that has recently been expanded with the support of Dragan Tarlac and the local elementary school where IOCC has also installed a new computer center and repaired the floors, doors, roof and wall around the schoolyard.
“The strong will shown by the people who have chosen to remain in Kosovo and to have their kids go to school there is an inspiring thing to see,” reflected Dragan Tarlac, who has visited Kosovo numerous times over the past couple of years. “The positive thinking that they display in facing the challenges in Kosovo always makes me happy.”
In addition to the clothing that was distributed during the visit, Peja Stojakovic has also provided a 40 foot container of food to assist the people of Kosovo. The container is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.
The trip began with a visit to the Studenica Monastery in Serbia, and included visits to the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in Pec and the Visoki Decani Monastery.
Recently, IOCC announced an initiative to provide half a million dollars in assistance to Kosovo for the expansion of agricultural projects that provide employment and foster inter-ethnic cooperation. The initiative will also provide assistance to schools and create educational and recreational programs. The John G. Rangos Sr. Family Charitable Foundation and His Grace Irinej (Dobrijevic), Bishop of Australia and New Zealand of the Serbian Orthodox Church have committed to match each dollar raised up to $100,000 for the projects.
To help in providing assistance to families in Kosovo and the Balkans, visit www.iocc.org, call IOCC toll free at 1-877-803-4622, or mail a check or money order payable to “IOCC” and write “Kosovo” in the memo line to: IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, Md. 21297-0429.
IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $275 million in relief and development programs in 33 countries around the world.