By Vesna Baur, Rotary Club of Čačak, Serbia
There are times when events in the world leave you speechless. As I watched the news from Turkey and Syria following the devastating earthquakes there, I found myself in disbelief and despair as, day after day, the number of casualties and missing grew. I have friends who live very close to the epicenter, and I have not heard from them. I hold out hope that I will.
My friendships go back decades to when we were teenagers, living in Paris, and our parents were working in France as expatriates. After our parents decided to return to our countries of origin, we stayed in contact loosely through phone and mail.
Through these infrequent contacts, we discovered we still had a common interest in our business pursuits. In Serbia, we use leftover organic agricultural produce and convert it into energy. In their countries, they grow plantations of almonds and other nuts whose shells have a high caloric value. Their fruit factories represent potential organic waste for converting.
During business trips that also served as reunions, I had the opportunity to stay with families in Malatya, Adıyaman and Gaziantep. In 2018, I lived in their houses and learned about their traditions. My hosts held fruit from their plantations and proudly gave me more than I could carry. Those same friendly hands prepared and shared food. We ate lunch on the floor, as is the custom in these remote areas, but we had a roof over our heads. I am filled with anxiety wondering if those roofs are still there. I want to believe that the generously sharing hands are still OK, even if the roofs are gone.
Nikola Božić, governor of District 2483 (Serbia & Montenegro), made an appeal to clubs in our district to give to The Rotary Foundation’s Disaster Response Fund. Our club is also working with other clubs to create a mobile clinic, and many of us are planning cultural events in the upcoming year to raise money for those affected by the earthquakes.
The Serbian Government has chosen our city of Čačak to be the “First Capital of Culture in Serbia in 2023,”and many cultural programs will be sponsored and held here. As an entrepreneur and president of the Association of Business Women, I am helping organize cultural activities for various special days. On one of these days, we will screen a film about Mileva Marić, Albert Einstein’s wife and the mother of his two sons. Simultaneously, one of our female artists, Marina Bukvicki, will perform pantomime and paint three large pictures on stage. We will later auction her artworks to benefit earthquake survivors.
In addition, we will hold a symposium for women entrepreneurs on the topics of mental health and empowering girls and women, in collaboration with the Association of Business Women, the Committee for Mental Health, and the Committee for the Empowerment of Girls and Women in District 2483.
The natural disasters in Turkey and Syria leave us numb. I hope to hear from my friends soon. But we, as Rotary members, can all stand in solidarity with these communities as they seek to recover. Please consider how you can contribute to the many relief efforts being organized by Rotary members or clubs, and consider a gift to the Rotary Foundation Disaster Response Fund.
I have just spent 3 days in Antakya, Samandağ and Hatay, on my way home now. It will take decades to repair the damage, we must help in every way possible.
Ray DGE D1120
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