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Rising up after the flood and building the future in Belgrade

In the spring of 2014, the heaviest rain recorded in 120 years caused flooding and landslides in Southeast Europe. 90% of Obrenovac, a municipality of Belgrade, was submerged and 30 000 people had to be evacuated. 30 bridges were destroyed, health and education facilities were severely damaged, such as the school which Kenneth and Susann visited. Listening to the stories of those who were affected, they realised the enormous damage flooding can cause – as well as the importance to get help during and after the event, to rebuild, but also to prevent potential future disasters.

Obrenovac

The European Union was among the first to send in rescue teams and humanitarian assistance. In the years since the EU has spent over 100 million euros on flood relief, rehabilitation and flood protection in Serbia, with 11 million going to Obrenovac. Susann and Kenneth learned from the town’s representatives how this money has helped not only to repair damages but also to improve the lives of residents.The school in Obrenovac is not only looking great again, children now also have access to better equipment and the conditions for them to learn have improved.

Visiting Obrenovac

A forward looking education for the youth in Serbia was also at the core of Kenneth and Susann’s next encounter, in the Belgrade Open School. Partly funded by the EU, the Open School is a non-profit organisation founded in 1993 that offers “Future Studies”, a year-long multidisciplinary programme. It aims to nurture critical thinking and to enable exchanges between university students from completely different backgrounds. “Take a philosophy student an IT student, one who studies Biological Engineering and another one studying law, put them together and have them debate on the future of DNA”, explained Mijat who teaches at the Open School by way of an example. This approach inspired Kenneth and Susann. “We need that in our countries”, they commented.

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