CANCER INFO (Serbia) During its First Year of Functioning
The Cancer Information and Support Center was established on 7 May 2004 in Novi Sad, Serbia by the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization and the Institute of oncology in Sremska Kamenica, as the first institution of the kind in the country. It was opened as a response to the urgent need for providing cancer information and emotional support for cancer those affected by cancer, as there is no such service available at cancer centers and hospitals in Vojvodina (Serbia). Its goals include education of the population by printing and providing booklets/leaflets on cancer prevention and early detection. It has been designed to be a volunteer-based self-sustaining service center providing help for the users free of charge, by operating a telephone help line, as well as through personal visits by users to the Center.
- A phone help line (calls charged to the callers)
- Personal visits of users to the center
- Answering email messages and letters
- Reach to Recovery for different types of cancer
- The Telefriend prevention program
- Printing and distributing educational booklets/leaflets to the public
- Distributing wigs to the underprivileged users
- Distributing external silicone breast prostheses to women after mastectomy
- Distributing stoma bags to ostomy patients
- During its first year the Cancer Info Center made efforts concerning its publicizing through distributing printed leaflets and posters to the public (at health centers, hospitals, pharmacies, etc), media appearances by the coordinator and volunteers (TV and radio interviews, newspaper and magazine articles) as well as through giving personal information on the opening of the support center to people in volunteers’ surroundings.
- The Cancer Info Center was facing difficulties, such as moving place and changing telephone number, after 5 months of functioning, due to high costs of the former premises. It threw back the work of the whole Center to the very beginning and its consequences can still be noticed.
- The new temporary premises are far from adequate, the telephone has no voice mail possibilities, which creates additional problems, hindering thus the functioning of the Center. Moving to the new Ecumenical center under construction, the definite location of the Cancer Information Center, is eagerly looked forward to.
- Fundraising in Serbia is extremely difficult, as the majority of the population still struggles with poverty, and those who could afford donating funds do not have any kind of charity awareness.
In spite the difficulties the the Cancer Information Center:
- received about 300 phone calls
- had about 80 personal visits by patients to the Center
- answered 27 email messages
- established valuable contacts with different organizations inside as well as outside the country, and in November 2004 in Dublin it became a full member of the International Cancer Information Services Group (ICISG)
- managed to provide funds for employing a full time assistant coordinator, (as the expanding activities cannot be performed only by the coordinator on voluntary basis), providing so help to the users throughout the day
- managed to recruit and train a second group of volunteers (14)
- managed to maintain services for users in Serbian and Hungarian, and from 1 September 2005 the Center has provided services in the Slovakian language
- managed to sustain funds sufficient for basic functioning
- organized a charity concert
- received donations and help from individuals and organizations in the USA (Sharing America’s Resources Abroad from Ohio) and in Europe (Germany)
- managed to organize three large scale fundraising events, two of them first of the kind in the country: Daffodils for Life and Walk for Life
- In October 2004 a charity concert of Hungarian folk music was organized, with participants from the country and Hungary. The total income of the event was donated to the Cancer Information Center.
- Daffodils for Life, a large scale unique public charity event was carried out from 4-10 April 2005 in Novi Sad, for the first time in Serbia. It was organized by the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization (EHO) and the Institute of oncology in Sremska Kamenica (the founders of the Cancer Information and Support Center for cancer patients), as the first large public action in the streets of Novi Sad.
The goals of the event were not only fundraising, but also publicizing the Cancer Information Center and raising people’s awareness about the importance of cancer prevention, also emphasizing the necessity of supporting cancer patients.
For 7 days, in the afternoon hours, EHO volunteers, wearing a green scarf specially designed for the occasion, were standing on 7 popular locations in the streets of Novi Sad, next to large stands advertising the event and a charity collection box with the poster of the Cancer Information Center on it. A live daffodil was awarded to any passerby donating charity, along with a printed leaflet containing the basics of the event. Cancer Information Center leaflets were also offered and handed out to the public. Some of the people were also asked questions important for the evaluation of the event.
The event was sponsored by a large private company, Mega market Rodic MB. It was the first time that an EHO event was sponsored by a local private company.
The large scale media coverage prior to and during the action included interviews broadcast by 6 TV stations, 7 radio stations and numerous articles in 5 major newspapers in Serbian and Hungarian.
According to the evaluation summary about 9000 people responded to the event by giving charity, that being the number of daffodils given out, and charity worth about 2900 euros was collected. The whole event was evaluated as very successful, having been welcomed and praised by the public.
Walk for Life, a large scale unique public event, the first of its kind in Serbia, was held on 14 May 2005 in Novi Sad, in the Liman city park, organized by the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization in Novi Sad (EHO) and the Institute of oncology in Sremska Kamenica (the founders of the «Cancer Info» Information and support center for cancer patients).
Apart from fundraising, the goals of the event included publicizing the Cancer Information Center and raising people’s awareness about the importance of cancer prevention, also emphasizing the necessity of speaking about cancer publicly and supporting cancer patients.
Walk for Life was advertised through the media (renowned TV and radio stations and newspapers, leaflets handed out to the public in the street of Novi Sad, posters put up on public places etc.) two weeks prior to the event, and had an even broader media coverage during the event itself. The coverage included interviews with the organizers, live broadcast, newspaper articles and photos etc. The members of the registered teams purchased green T-shirts with the logo of the event on it (sponsored by a largest private company, the Mega market Rodic MB, prior to the action and on the spot.
The walkers gathered and started out from the park and covered a 6 km distance, walking along the quay by the Danube, through 2 bridges across the river and after about 2 hours returned to the park. The walk was followed by an entertainment program including bands, schoolchildren’s groups and individuals singing, dancing, reciting, playing musical instruments and giving autographs. Any contribution made to the charity box was awarded by cookies, a donation of a private sweet shop. The closing of the event included the highly emotional luminaria, when candles were lit from burning torches and placed on a designated place in front of the stage, in memory of those who lost the battle with cancer.
Evaluation forms were filled in and interviews were conducted by EHO volunteers during the event. The facts show that over 250 people of all ages took part in the stroll and over 500 people appeared on the spot of the event. A considerable number of people, who were not able to participate but wanted to support the event, contributed to it by purchasing T-shirts and donating charity. A fund worth about 1600 euros was raised, about 500 booklets and 400 leaflets on cancer prevention were handed out to the public, along with about 400 «Cancer Info» leaflets, and valuable contacts were established. The whole event was welcomed with enthusiasm and supported by the public, as an action that should become a tradition in Serbia.