Backpacking for Good in Serbia

Last Summer, I found myself backpacking around Serbia.  My travel plans to Serbia happened to coincide with the massive wave of refugees who were fleeing war and persecution in places like Syria and Afghanistan.  They were camping out in the parks in Belgrade.  You couldn’t miss them.

I kept asking myself, “Why doesn’t anyone DO SOMETHING?”

Then I realized that I COULD DO SOMETHING.  So I changed my plans and spent my last few weeks of vacation volunteering and delivering food and other aid items to these refugees.

At first, I just planned on filling my backpack up a few times a day and handing them out in the park where most of the refugees were camped.  But, once the word spread to my friends and family at home, donations started to pour in.  By the end of two weeks, $5,203 had been sent to me via PayPal, Venmo and Bank of America transfers. 

I am still blown away by the generosity of the folks I know and the willingness to help.

Thanks to all of the money sent, we were able to make a much larger impact than I initially anticipated. I met other volunteers and we partnered up.  Instead of filling my backpack up every day, we were filling entire TRUCKS full of food and supplies. Trips to the grocery store were really fun because we got to walk in and say give me ALL of your Milk, ALL of your Tuna and ALL of your toothpaste etc…

Soup Kitchen set up in the Belgrade Park by volunteers from around the world.
Soup Kitchen set up in the Belgrade Park by volunteers from around the world.
Hummer full of food to deliver!
Hummer full of food to deliver!

This was an amazing experience and, at the end of the 2 weeks, I couldn’t help but wish I could do more. 

So I am. 

Before I return to the working world in San Francisco, I am going to put the backpack on one more time and head to Serbia to help.  

I will be in Belgrade again on October 13th and this trip will be a bit different than the last because I have a better idea of what is needed.  I will also be partnering with organizations  and individual volunteers from around the world (shout out to Team Sweden!). Our efforts will be focused on strategically delivering aid where it is needed. At the moment Belgrade has more NGOs providing support than last time I was there. Where the support is really needed is the borders of Macedonia, Croatia and Hungary. We will plan trips to these borders with palettes of food, toiletries and other supplies needed.

I am going to spend 1 month and $1,000 of my own money to purchase supplies.  This will go far in Serbia, but not far enough. Many of my friends have already helped so much supporting this cause and I am hoping we can do even more this time. 

Want to help?

I have set up a donation site here and am able to accept donations with PayPal and Bank of America with my email ID michelynn84@gmail.com or Venmo with my username Michelle-Bennett-2 as well. If anyone missed the opportunity to contribute before here is your second chance. The last time in Serbia I was able to raise over $5,000 in donations and this time I am aiming higher. Not sure if it’s a crazy goal but I am hoping to reach $10,000 this time. Shoot for the moon end up in the stars right? Really any amount helps and I guarantee 100% of what I collect will go directly to the hands and mouths of refugees. I will be documenting what the money is spent on so contributors can see what they have purchased.

Happy kids who just received food and clothes from the donation center in Belgrade
Happy kids who just received food and clothes from the donation center in Belgrade
Volunteers from all over delivering aid at the Hungarian Border
Volunteers from all over delivering aid at the Hungarian Border