The community visits program is designed to alleviate much of the loneliness and isolation of many elderly individuals and families in the area, to provide basic medical advice, home repairs, as well as to introduce them to new ideas and differences. The nationalities of the beneficiaries is approximately 50% Serbian and 50% Croatian at this time. The majority of the beneficiaries are elderly without regular contact with relatives or friends, while 20% are younger people with children (many are young mothers who need basic prenatal and postnatal training). The visits are mostly conducted by our Community Visit Program Director, Zdenka Grlica, but our short term and long term volunteers also participate on a regular basis.
It is helpful to all of our Communtiy Visit Program goals that we now have Zdenka Grlica as our Program Director. As she is a local Serbian woman with ties in the community, she is instrumental in influencing attitudes and gently challenging nationalist attitudes and hatreds. It is this intimate contact for the Croatian people that helps in their view that not all Serbians are the enemy and it also reinforces her credibility that she does not exclusively visit Serbian individuals. And, because of her ties to the Serbian community and the work she does within that sphere, her words and ideas regarding the Croatians have gained credibility.
In addition to her extensive interpersonal skills, Zdenka Grlica is a trained nurse. Though this is not the emphasis of our program, this allows her to offer medical support to the beneficiaries of the Community Visits Program. In some cases this medical care is too expensive or too difficult to receive here in Pakrac. In many cases it is very basic advice that reassures the anxieties of the beneficiaries and in others it is very important training for young mothers who would otherwise not have useful information on how to effectively care for their infants.
The following is an excerpt written by Zdenka Grlica to offer a view
into the work that she does on a daily basis:
My name is Zdenka Grlica and I am director of the Community Visits Program for the Volunteer Project Pakrac. I've been visiting families in this capacity since May of this year and as of right now am conducting 16 regular visits, most of which are with elderly individuals. I am visiting single people once a week, more often if they need it and the rest I visit every 14 days.
I am visiting M. and I. N., an elderly Croatian couple that live in Pakrac, once a week. M. is paralyzed and it is solely up to her husband to direct the care for her. M. depends on my visits as they live alone. They have always enjoyed having company and talking but now it is more difficult due to M.'s condition. So my visits are very important for them both. They have requested that I come more often.
I am presently also visiting N. S. who is one of the few Serbian people living in the middle of Pakrac. N. is seriously disabled and walks slowly only with the aid of crutches. At the present time I am taking care of his contacts with the police station and arranging his Domovnica (identification and citizenship documentation). In addition the short term volunteers are translating and writing about three letters a week for him. He keeps in devoted contact with former volunteers and would not be able to maintain this contact without the help of the volunteers.
In Pakrac I visit M. M. and her newborn son Z. I was visiting them everyday until recently. I am a trained nurse and so I spent a great deal of time showing M. everything about feeding, bathing, and other issues of concern to a young mother. I am regularly checking the baby's weight and length. He is around 2 months old now.
B. M. is another person with whom I visit regularly. She lives on the Serbian side of Pakrac and I visit her once a week. B. is 38 years old but it is difficult for her to move due to muscular dystrophy. I spent a great deal of time talking with her as well as helping her to bathe. In addition, I take care of her affairs with the unempoyment office and the Center For Social Work.
I don't have any problems in my work with the Community Visits program. People wish for me to talk with them, to understand them and to treat them as individuals. The beneficiaries seem to be very happy with the services that I offer as they have almost unanimously requested that I try to visit more often.
Community Visits Sub Project