2017 – Serbia

This year’s mission was to supply five fully equipped fire engines and an ambulance to Serbia. Alongside the vital operational training for the Serbian Firefighters my main roll within the S.ER.A organisation is to roll out, where possible, a fire safety/prevention programme in the local schools and colleges.

After an eventful journey starting in Edinburgh on Thursday morning we finally arrived at Kragujevac, our host city on Sunday morning – tired and emotional!

Our week there involved a full programme of visits to schools and colleges, accompanied  by a wonderful translator – Slavica Stergiou.  Although most of the young people had a very high standard of English (mostly self-taught from watching YouTube!), my Scottish accent caused great amusement!!!.

I attended the Politechnica  Skola Kragujevac  ,Prua Technica Skola and Prua Kragujevacka Gimnaziya – three of the oldest Educational establishments in the region, with the number of pupils registering ranged from 1400 to 1700.

Like all the schools I visited, there is no fire detection or safe means of escape in the building itself which would be unheard of and illegal in the U.K. None of the young people or their teachers had any smoke detection at home either!!!  This is the reason we in S.E.R.A. place as much emphasis on the education of the young people in each country we visit, as we do on the hands on operational training.

However, the same problems regarding carelessness with mobile phones, hair straighteners etc. exist in Serbia just as they do back home. So the fire safety advice went well and the young people understood that to change the habits of mums and dads aunts and uncles, starts with a few simple changes.

The visits to the schools were very well received by the children and staff alike – although some of the young people were disappointed I wasn’t wearing a kilt!!!

After each session we would recap the information given and hand out some smoke detectors, the enthusiasm of the young people to learn was extremely heartening. There is a wee mantra we have in SERA – “MAKING A DIFFERENCE ONE STEP AT A TIME“.  As an organisation we realise these changes won’t take place overnight but it’s very reassuring that the young people we have spoken to, will make it happen sooner rather than later.