It all started with a few raised eyebrows, a couple of emails, and finally responding to the call for volunteers of the Foundation for Human Rights and Solidarity: ‘SOLIDARNA’. At the first meeting, Ivan, as the secretary of the Foundation, introduced us to the goals and the idea behind SOLIDARNA and suggested ways to get involved. We could be actively involved in any of the foundation’s programs and in solving the technical part of the foundation’s construction process. It is important to emphasize that a dozen of us after this informative PowerPoint ended up in a cafe where we started talking about everything that is distressing in this society. We soon accepted Ivan as one our own, and could be seen in the office of the Foundation, at Ban Jelačić Square 15, more and more often.
There are six Solidarna volunteers and some of us are employed, others unemployed, and students. We come from different stories, professions, and backgrounds. There are lawyers, sociologists, political scientists, and social workers among us, and most of us are in our twenties. But whether we were born in Yugoslavia or Croatia, our commitment to fighting for human rights and social change is equally strong. The different experiences, skills, and knowledge that we have are incredibly complementary and each of us contributes what they know, can, and as much as they want. Some of us volunteer a couple of hours a week, some a few hours a day – depending on opportunities, needs and commitments. There are those of us for whom this is the first volunteering experience, and there are veterans, but in Solidarna there is no hierarchy or bossing others around, so we all learn from each other.
The volunteer work we do is diverse and can include creative, logistical, and analytical tasks. We deal with social networks, communication with citizens, partners, financial records of donations, merchandise distribution (T-shirts), organizing public events, quizzes, and even parties. Each of us has at least once carried boxes of T-shirts and we strive to make the division of labor fair and in line with everyone’s wishes and capabilities. In our small office, we work with Ivan and Marina, the manager of the Foundation, and part of the motivation certainly comes from the opportunity to learn from this well-established and hard-working duo. They encourage us to step out of our comfort zones, to learn and do something new, and thus gain new skills that will benefit us in our personal and professional lives.
So far, we have mostly been engaged in the campaign The Other Out Loud, which aims to raise public awareness about the discriminatory public discourse about women, and through the use of a little bit irony and humorous inscriptions on T-shirts, collects donations to support local women’s initiatives in Croatia. We promoted the campaign through the engagement of celebrities, television appearances, social networks, and a live event on Cvjetni Square, and support was expressed at the Solidarity March organized by the Antifascist Network of Zagreb. With the foundation, we also participating in this year’s Human Rights Film Festival at the Europa Cinema with films about the business sector and human rights called “Bitter Wage” and “Real Price”. Several volunteers had the opportunity to participate in the organization of a round table at the Human Rights Film Festival “Bottom to Top: Business Sector and Human Rights in the 21st Century” where the ethics and economics of global supply chains were discussed, as well as the responsibility and power of individuals.
Volunteering in Solidarna is not a mere execution of tasks that no one else wants to do – our opinion is sought, the ideas we present are equal and are respected. For example, we designed and organized the video recording of support for the campaign ”The Other Out Loud”. Also, some of us had the opportunity to participate in the organization of the Good Hosts campaign organized jointly by the SOLIDARNA Foundation, Refugee Support Initiative Welcome!, Are you Syrious, Coalition Solidarity Split, and the band Kries, the goal of which was to raise funds for young homeless creatives to allow them to express themselves through art. Numerous decisions were made at creative meetings on how to organize and implement the campaign, and we were the ones who had the opportunity to co-author a campaign pamphlet with their ideas.
Through volunteering, we have worked a lot, learned a lot, had the opportunity to participate in many processes of building a foundation, met many people and, importantly, made new friends and associates and became part of the fight to preserve human rights using this new platform, the first of its kind in Croatia, SOLIDARNA – Foundation for Human Rights and Solidarity.
Petra Mađerčić i Sandra Rozman