Аssistance for Кosovo and Мetohiја

The ultimate goal of this combined program of International Orthodox Christian Charities-IOCC and with the blessings of His Grace Bishop Irinej, the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia and New Zealand, is to contribute to the process of reconciliation and stabilization in Kosovo and Metohija, and to foster an environment that creates sustainable opportunities for improved livelihoods and economic development of the targeted areas. To achieve the program's ultimate goal, IOCC, Inc. will provide support and assistance to the Visoki Dečani and Patriarchate of Peć monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija.

IOCC designed this project to continue to capitalize on the assistance provided to date to the population residing in isolated enclaves throughout Kosovo and Metohija. This project has enabled IOCC to expand its outreach to Kosovo where it has been assisting needy impoverished communities since 1993.

IOCC's main partner in Kosovo is the Serbian Orthodox Monastery, Cesarean Laura Visoki Dečani. Built in the 14th century, the monastery is protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site. It has escaped the present conflict without significant damage, but remains under full‐time KFOR protection from the continuing threat of vandalism, hooliganism, and attacks that are more serious.

The brotherhood of the monastery does not yet enjoy the freedom to move about outside the monastery's walls unescorted. The brotherhood of about 30 monks and novices are very active, with workshops for carpentry and woodcarving, iconography, publishing, candle making, honey production, cheese and yogurt making, etc. The monastery produces much of its own food supply, including wheat, fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy products, etc. The monastery's vineyards in Velika Hoča are being recovered and expanded, and its winery there is operational. The brothers also raise a variety of livestock.

The Patriarchate of Peć is located at the very entrance of the gorge near Peć. The complex of the Patriarchate churches is the spiritual seat and mausoleum of Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs. Today, the monastery is still one of the most important Serbian Orthodox centres in the region, with a sisterhood of 24 nuns. After the fire, which was set by Albanian extremists in 1981, new residential quarters were erected and after the conflict in 1998 ‐1999, the monastery became an important centre for the remaining Serbs in the area. The nuns, together with the support of Visoki Dečani brotherhood, live in an everyday struggle to preserve this holy site and provide necessary humanitarian assistance to the neighbouring Serbs.

Due to its "special" position in Kosovo, the Visoki Dečani monastery is in title of tax‐free importation for a variety of products and materials. Consequently, the monastery has decided to buy a pre‐owned truck to transport commodities for their own needs (e.g. for religious art‐craft works, winery production, beekeeping, etc.). The truck will also be used to transport assistance to the minority population in Metohija region.

IOCC secured private funding for this component of the project, and during October 2009, a grant agreement was signed between the IOCC Montenegro office and Cesarean Laura Visoki Dečani. As contracted, IOCC provided the financial assistance to procure the pre‐owned 22.5‐metric ton capacity truck and trailer "MERCEDES ‐ ACTROS 2546."

For this component of the project, IOCC donated the total amount of 9,850.00 EUROs to the monastery in order to purchase the above‐mentioned truck. The truck was purchased directly by the monastery and registered locally in Kosovo. With this registration, the truck can freely move throughout Kosovo and within the region. To operate within central Serbia, the monastery has obtained temporary number plates issued by Serbia's authorities.

Looking forward, transporting humanitarian assistance will be approximately 66% cheaper than contracting out transportation companies for the needed services. It is expected that the truck will be repaid very quickly, and in addition, will directly benefit all future humanitarian programmes carried out by the Serbian Orthodox Church and IOCC.

The immediate objective of this component of the project is to ensure the survival and future expansion of the livestock by purchasing and distributing concentrated animal feed to VisokiDečani and Patriarchate of Peć monasteries, and through them, to the most vulnerable small scale farmers in Metohija region. In addition, the project will support the monastic's program of distributing sheep and pregnant heifers to farmers in Metohija region (implemented by Visoki Dečani monastery and funded by the Norwegian government). These livestock are usually held at the monastery for up to 30 days before being distributed.

Presently, both targeted monasteries have significant cattle funds, and with the products they produce, they are able to extend support to the populations that gravitate to these monasteries. The monasteries own the following:

- The Visoki Dečani Monastery: 24 cows, over 100 sheep and goats and over 200 poultry.

- The Patriarchate of Peć: 15 cows, 60 egg laying hens and one fishpond (presently with about 800 kg of fish for consumption).

On 9 November 2009, IOCC received a total amount of EURO 8,150.00 from the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia and New Zealand, courtesy of the St. George Cathedral in Cabramatta, as the first instalment for this project valued at USD 41,600.00.

Upon receiving this first instalment of funds, IOCC prepared and signed a grant agreement with the Visoki Dečani Monastery. According to the signed grant agreement, the monastery is responsible for identifying a corn supplier and purchasing/transporting the required quantities of animal feed. In addition, the Visoki Dečani monastery has accepted the responsibility for providing support and assistance to the Patriarchate of Peć, in all segments of this project.

With these initial funds, 24,000 kg of corn was purchased for the Visoki Dečani monastery. The corn was purchased in central Serbia and transported by the new truck.

Source: www.soc.org.au