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Norwich appeal to support church project in Novi Sad

An appeal has been made for Norwich churches and Christians to re-establish support to the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation based in Norwich’s twin city of Novi Sad, Serbia. 

Diana Beckley, Vice-Chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association is appealing to Norwich Christians and churches to re-establish support for the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation of Novi Sad, which has died out due to an ageing membership.

In 1993 Peter and Diana Beckley from Rockland St Mary were visiting Novi Sad on a humanitarian visit when they met with members of the recently established Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation, an interdenominational project working to support people thrown into poverty by hyperinflation and the civil war across the Serbian province of Vojvodina.  
Through this meeting Peter and Diana agreed to explore whether it might be possible to establish some kind of support for the project from Norwich churches.  An invitation went out to Central Norwich Churches Together and 10 or 12 churches volunteered to support the initiative.

Diana explains: “Over the 15-20 years that this group functioned there was a series of visits each way always with a fact-finding and educational emphasis.”

The arrangements for these visits were made by the Norwich Churches Committee who organised meetings, provided accommodation and contributed to the cost of airfares and visas, which were disproportionally large in relation to Serbian salaries.

Talking about these exchange visits Diana said: “An example is the Red Line scheme. Two Christians from Norwich with a good knowledge of the help needed by people with HIV/AIDS went to Novi Sad for a fortnight and ran a course of training sessions.

"At the end of this course a number of people were equipped with enough knowledge to run a telephone helpline and drop-in centre for help and information. This was set up a bit later after further medical training for the people involved.”

A small group also came from Novi Sad to explore approaches to volunteering, as there had not been a tradition of volunteering in Serbia. The group visited Voluntary Norfolk and also the Mancroft project among other places.

Diana said: “A second visit here looked at the help available to cancer patients and the work of the Big C. This was a very successful visit and led to the development of support for people with cancer in Vojvodina.”

Diana explains: “Unfortunately, the members of the Norwich Churches Committee have gradually moved away, retired, died or had to give up and the committee has ceased to function. It is felt that this is a pity as the work that they did was much appreciated and felt to be really useful.”

Early in February 2017, Peter and Diana Beckley were back in Novi Sad and went for a meeting with representatives from EHO.

Diana said: “This was a cordial meeting between old friends and we were able to discuss the possibilities of Norwich again providing help and training for EHO. It would be wonderful if some sort of organisation could be re-established in Norwich to work with EHO.

Robert Bu [the Executive Director of EHO] is particularly interested in getting some fresh input into the scheme for providing support for cancer patients such as that provided by Big C and Macmillan Nurses. Two or three people coming to Norwich to look at the work of these organisations and such things as palliative care and fundraising would be a great help to them.”

If you are interested in providing support to EHO and would like to talk to Peter and Diana Beckley please contact them on or call 01508 480262.

Photo taken from the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation website

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