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The grandmother in running shoes

13 Feb 2015

Portrait of Danica.Right at the end of last year, Danica Šmic, a long serving Red Cross of Serbia volunteer received an accolade in recognition for her humanitarian work from Hello Magazine.

The event attracted a host of well-known Serbian celebrities, as well as the grandmother nicknamed Dana; wearing her running shoes.

But who is Danica Šmic? She is a 77-year-old retired lecturer of physics and mathematics. She is a person who knows everyone in her neighbourhood, who recognises and tries to meet everyone’s needs.

Danica is a woman who frequently visits her grandchildren in Canada and the United States. Her running shoes have walked the pavement alongside Niagara Falls, but that mileage pales in comparison with her mileage in Belgrade, where she visits and helps so many older people.

Volunteer, leader, ambassador

Danica is our volunteer, a leader of her self-help group, an ambassador of the Red Cross who assists older people and fights for their rights. Danica never lets a problem remain unsolved, whether it’s asking medical professionals to visit older people in their homes, or convincing local centres to support the poorest older people in her municipality.

Dana knows every house and almost every person in her neighbourhood. For more than 30 years she has been a devoted Red Cross of Serbia volunteer and she is not slowing down now. She visits and supports anyone who needs assistance – poor Roma families and their children, children living in an orphanage near her home and older people living alone.

She encourages these people to be active and get involved in Red Cross events and activities. Often, she’ll help older people see a play or art exhibition or she will organise a picnic or a boat ride on the Danube, bringing people together, making them feel good about being active and part of a community.

Powerful protector of older people's rights

You would think this would take up most of her time, energy and enthusiasm, but you would be wrong! Danica also campaigns in her community about noise from the railway passing too close to people’s houses. Dana is also active in the Age Demands Action campaign, giving her voice to those whose voices can’t be heard.

Ask her why she does it and she’ll tell you it’s what makes her happy. What brings her pleasure is dancing to her own beat, making friends, learning from people, helping those who have very little experience the warmth and care of another human being.

How inspiring that there are still people who wear their pride to be volunteers and humanitarians on their sleeves. Older people in Belgrade and Serbia have a powerful protector of human rights on their side and for us, professionals working on ageing – we have a role model to learn from.

Find out more about how HelpAge protects the rights of older people.

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Author profile

Natasa Todorovic
Country: Serbia
Job title: Health and Care Program Manager

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.