Nevia Elezovic’s life changed about a year ago, when on a Sunday like most others, she found an article on Facebook “about a thousand boys barefoot in the icy winter of Belgrade at -25 degrees”. Volunteering in some way has always been part of my life. At the sight of that very long line of barefooted young people waiting for a ration of food, something definitely clicked… “I couldn’t stay with my hands folded any longer, and I didn’t intend to join an NGO either: I had to move as quickly as possible, those barefooted boys needed shoes to withstand the cold now, not tomorrow,” she explains. She buys a plane ticket, puts a video on Facebook in which she explains the urgent need for funds, to be used in buying a thousand pairs of shoes, and in less than 4 days, she collects more than 5,000 francs. On the other side, Nevia meets Hell: an enormous historic bus station, with large side openings that allow for frost, barely serving as a roof for thousands of migrants. They had come from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and where here, trying to survive. They opted against stopping in the camps in the hope of being able to reach Europe faster.
It is evening, and nothing can be seen, because in order not to die of cold, tyres and similar items are burned, releasing a very dense smoke. “What do they need?”, Nevia asked, “Everything”, was the answer. “There were no NGOs present, only Doctors Without Borders who have no hesitation and fear of anything, and who go where they are most needed,” adds Nevia. “It was hell for them, they had to live there, but to see their happiness when someone was interested in them, if only to exchange two words, was very strong”. Nevia stays there for four days. With the help of local people, she buys and distributes more than 300 pairs of shoes, warm clothes and other basic necessities. “It’s not something I did, it’s something we did, from the person who paid 10 francs to those who joined me in Belgrade, to the family friends who opened the doors of their homes for me, and the adorable orders from the shoe store that helped me in a thousand ways. It has been a virtuous circle in which everyone has contributed”. This was followed by another trip with three vans, full of clothes and helpful items, which had been accumulated in Nevia’s house. A trip in which other people from Ticino took part.
Recently, Nevia – who in the meantime is doing a Master in Humanitarian Operations in Emergencies – launched NO Borders Photography, which through her work as a photographer and that of her brother acquired Israr (an Afghan refugee), she also offers photography services. “Half of the proceeds goes to support the humanitarian aid missions of MAN, the organization Ma anche noi, which I created this spring with my family,” adds Nevia, who shines with that deep light that only those with so much experience have. The shoe, remains as a symbol of dignity, combined with being able to continue on the journey, and finally reaching a new place to call home. A volunteer is a person who knows the value of time, and it is for this reason that he devotes part of his time to making the world a little better. He/she is someone who believes in the power of a smile, of a giving hand that asks nothing in return. A volunteer is heroic, not because he/she is special, but because he is fully human. And you, can of course be a volunteer as well.