Photo essay – 13 December 2018

‘A window to the rest of the world’

SOS computer centres offer refugees in Serbia the opportunity to learn, develop their skills and connect to their families

On a recent day at the Obrenovac refugee centre, Zalmai* was queuing up to use one of the computers provided by SOS Children’s Villages. 

The young man goes online routinely to talk with his parents in Afghanistan and to read the news from home. Also important for Zalmai, along with many of the other visitors to the SOS Children’s Villages Information Communication Technology (ICT) corner, are the lessons in computer skills that are available. 

“I like learning the basics of computers because I knew nothing about them before,” says Zalmai, 18, one of the estimated 1,000 men who live at the refugee centre located on the south-west edge of Belgrade.

SOS Children’s Villages Serbia operates ICT corners at three other refugee centre in the north of the country - Adaševci, Kikinda, and Principovac. As Zalmai’s experience shows, these corners offer a way to stay in touch with loved ones and learn a skill.

“The ICT corners are like a window to the rest of the world,” says Vesna Mraković-Jokanović, the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Serbia. “The children stay connected to their families and give people who are in a new place, with a new language, a connection to something familiar. Technology provides a universal language, especially for the younger generation, which is very important when you are dealing with so many languages.” 

The ICT corners “are not there just so people can play games or surf social networks,” Ms Mraković-Jokanović adds. “In the 21st century if you do not have this kind of literacy, you will have a harder time finding a job or moving on in education. We provide computer training, workshops and other educational support so young people learn a skill and are better prepared for independent life.”

SOS Children’s Villages Serbia has provided care and support for refugee children, young people and families since August 2015. Besides ICT corners, the organisation provides child-friendly spaces, youth corners, quiet spaces for mothers to nurse babies, and mental health care for refugees and migrants in the country.
 
ICT corners offer the chance for refugees to stay in touch with family and other loved ones. “We can see that this means a lot to these young people,” explains Toljen Petrović [right], who works at the ICT Corner at Obrenovac.
 
Bojana Drljić, a social worker for the SOS Children’s Villages Serbia refugee programme since 2017, says ICT corners “motivate the young people to use online language programmes and to talk to their families. This is very important for their mental health and self-esteem.”
 
Computer and technology classes are offered to refugee centre residents and they receive a certificate for completing workshops to help improve their job prospects. “It is important for them to learn something that they can use in the future,” explains Uroš Jeutić [left], who works at the ICT Corner at Obrenovac.
 
The SOS Children’s Villages youth centre and ICT corner share space at Obrenovac. Young people can attend skills-development classes as well as learn languages.
 
The SOS Children’s Villages youth centre and ICT corner share spaŽeljka Zeljković from SOS Children’s Villages Serbia helps girls with their mathematics lessons one afternoon at the Principovac refugee centre’s combined ICT and youth corner that has been used by more than 340 children and parents in the past six months. “Education is so important. The children are so happy when they are in school and when they come here from school,” Ms Zeljković says.e at Obrenovac. Young people can attend skills-development classes as well as learn languages.
 
Bojan Savić says after-school homework support and language lessons offered at the Principovac ICT and youth corner help children do better in Serbian schools and encourage them to be a part of the community. “I don’t want to think about what will happen to these young people if SOS Children’s Villages is no longer here,” he says.

 

Photos by Katerina Ilievska

 
More about our emergency response in Serbia

SOS Children’s Villages Serbia has helped nearly 125,000 children, young people and parents since the start of its refugee emergency response in August 2015.

We work in four refugee centres in northern Serbia - Adaševci, Kikinda, Obrenovac and Principovac - providing regular support for around 900 children, young people and adults. We work with partners to ensure the care and protection of children and support for families. Key services include:

  • Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) offering educational and recreational activities, homework support, language lessons as well as psychological and emotional care for younger children
  • Child protection officers working to prevent neglect, abuse and exploitation. They also help those who have experienced such events to recover
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Youth Corners outfitted with computers and tablets where users can contact their loved ones and friends, plus learn computer and programming skills. The Youth Corners also offer educational, vocational and recreational activities for older children
  • Providing health, nutritional and early child development support through Mother and Baby Corners, where mothers can receive support and feed their babies in a quiet and protected space
  • Training and capacity building for government agencies in the areas of donations for playground, smaller reconstructions, IT equipment, supplies, materials, and hygiene items

SOS Children’s Villages Serbia works with international and local partners, as well as the government, to ensure comprehensive support to children and their families.

 

Learn more about our work with refugees