By Eliot Elzinga, Siddha Page, Suzanne Schaefer, Sarah Schumacher, and Jason Smith
A nondescript building on a quiet street in Niksic, Montenegro, serves as a haven for women and children affected by domestic violence. Run by the non-governmental organization SOS Telefon Niksic, the shelter offers accommodation, social services, and legal aid for its residents. As part of its grounds, the shelter has a large playground, initially donated by the Polish Council. Over the years, the playground has fallen into disrepair, as the shelter was forced to prioritize more urgent needs. As a result, children uprooted by violence lacked a functional and safe play space.
A group of first and second tour officers at Embassy Podgorica decided to help. To secure funding, they successfully applied for a J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust grant, which offers small funding amounts for projects ranging from education to healthcare. In close collaboration with the shelter, and joined by several embassy volunteers, they conducted surveys, purchased lumber, repaired all faulty equipment, installed new play pieces, put down new gravel and sand, and repainted the playground.
Due to cost savings during the project, and with the permission of the J. Kirby Simon Trust, they were also able to give just over $2,200 to the shelter for its operations, in addition to diapers, toys, clothes, and household goods donated by the embassy community. The result was a newly refurbished, safe space for children to play.
Eliot Elzinga is the assistant regional security officer; Siddha Page was the political officer; Suzanne Schaefer is the deputy public affairs officer; Sarah Schumacher is the vice consul; and Jason Smith is the Bureau of Overseas Building Management attaché at Embassy Podgorica.