A Red Cross bakery in Serbia feeding vulnerable migrants

Publié: 22 septembre 2015 18:27 CET

By Tommaso Della Longa , IFRC

From the outside, it appears as nothing out of the ordinary, a simple bakery in southern Serbia. But step across the threshold and you will find a hub of activity as 21 Red Cross employees and 70 trained volunteers work almost around the clock, seven days a week, providing bread for those most in need. “Four hours baking, two and a half hours waiting the bread to cool down, and then the plastic bag process to respect hygienic standards. This bread could last for at least 5-7 days,” explains one Red Cross worker.

It is this bakery which has been at the heart of Red Cross operations in Bujanovac since 2002, producing bread for school snacks, kindergartens, and mini markets. “We are not imposing a market price, but we have decided to also sell externally. This allows us to provide free bread and snacks to the most vulnerable children in our community,” says Bratislav Lazarevic, secretary of the Bujanovac branch of the Red Cross of Serbia. “The bakery project benefits many. It allows us to increase our social activities, employ people from the local community, while also teaching job skills.”

And now, with the large influx of migrants in search of a better life in Europe crossing into Serbia, demand on the bakery has grown. Staff and volunteers are now also providing bread for the food parcels which are being distributed to migrants at the nearby Presevo reception centre. They are churning out 7,000 pieces of bread daily. “The bakery is an icon of how our Fundamental Principles can become reality, helping people in need regardless of their nationality or status,” explains Lazarevic.

The local Red Cross branch has been providing support to refugees as far back as the 1990s when people were fleeing the Balkan war. The past 15 years has seen the local poverty rate skyrocket, resulting in the Red Cross expanding their social programmes for those in need, including operating a daily soup kitchen for 1,200 people. “This is sometimes the only hot meal they will get,” says Lazarevic. Volunteers helped put food on the table three times a day for refugees coming from Bosnia and Croatia, and target 800 families on the outskirts of the city with food and hygiene kit distributions twice a year. Now, that support has extended to the newest influx of families, arriving from the Middle East and Africa. “We are facing many different social needs in this municipality,” laments Lazarevic.

And with the stream of migrants continuing, it appears the bakery will be kept in business for many months to come.