Interns

Interns Abroad: Serbian Organic Farm Project

We told you all about our adventures with Lana and Bojan around Serbia, but we haven’t exactly told you why. When Stone & Compass first partnered with the Catics, the organization was blown away by their vision to build a sustainable hazelnut farm. A small donation from S&C was provided with the hopes of incentivizing the couple to create their project from the ground up. Three years later, as we walked through the three hectares of farmland, we saw that they did exactly this, pouring more heart and passion into the project than we could have imagined. The Serbian hazelnut farm is the perfect example of S&C’ sustainable partnership model. Their vision turned to reality because S&C believed in them and encouraged the use of effort, patience, and love to create the outcome. They had to work for the results; nothing was simply handed to them. The love that the Catics put into their farm was overwhelmingly beautiful. Bojan spoke about the unexpected impact the farm has had on his family. In a unique way, it brought them closer together. The collective hard work has strengthened their bonds and instilled hope for a beautiful future sharing the farm with their children, grand children, and great grandchildren.

Lana and Bojan have inspiring plans for their farm. Not only will the farm provide a sustainable lifestyle for the family, but the surplus will be sold for a profit and the revenue will be directed straight back to the community. Bojan suggested various directions that the funds could be pointed to, such as renovating the village’s run down school, repainting town buildings, or landscaping the sidewalks and parks. Furthermore, the couple is in the process of building a large structure behind their house to host U.S. students during service learning trips. These trips will enrich students in more ways than one. Students will be immersed in Serbian culture visiting the beautiful countryside and historical cities while providing service to improve the local community. S&C believes that intercultural immersion for youth is key in building youth’s confidence and capacity to become global-minded change agents inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. The selflessness that Lana and Bojan embody exemplifies exactly what S&C strives for.

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We feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see the progress that Lana and Bojan have made the short time that we have been partnered with them. More than this, we feel inspired. The days that we spent with Lana and Bojan rejuvenated our faith in the process of connecting, educating, and inspiring one another to create tangible, positive changes in the lives of others.

Interns Abroad: Exploring Serbia

Cardboard signs lined the village street, each pointing towards the house with a phrase like “Roosters here” or “Buy strawberries here.” The community members relied on each other in a unique way. They produced what they could on their farms and traded for whatever else they needed. For example, two families might trade 5 watermelons for a chicken. They truly have everything they need, and this simple and interdependent lifestyle establishes a familial bond among all the residents.

At Obedska Bara national reserve

At Obedska Bara national reserve

This was our first time in Serbia, and we were lucky enough to experience the country as guests of Lana and Bojan Catic in the beautiful northern region of the country.  S&C has partnered with the Catic’s to build an organic farm to support local populations, stimulate the economy, and also protect natural resources. Each meal we ate at home was crafted by Bojan’s mother, one of the sweetest people we’ve ever met, with ingredients from the backyard, the farm, or friends down the street. Daily adventures entailed traveling to local spots in the Obedska Bara national reserve or to nearby cities - Belgrade and Novi Sad. Bojan was an incredibly knowledgeable tour guide providing in depth historical context and cultural tidbits at every stop.

Basement of the Church of Saint Sava

Basement of the Church of Saint Sava

On our first full day in Serbia, we explored a pond within the national park. A relaxing boat ride revealed the diverse wildlife and greenery. We continued the day by visiting a breathtaking Christian Orthodox monastery and filling our bellies with an authentic Serbian dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Each location was within 10-20 minutes from home, but these short, scenic trips revealed the hidden wonders right next door.

On day two we headed to the capital, Belgrade. A beautiful walk  through the Belgrade Fortressbrought us to a small cafe that revealed a stunning view of the city. A walk across the street led to the cobblestone pedestrian streets that overtook almost all of Stari Grad or the old city of Belgrade; parks appeared around almost every corner and trees with vibrant flowers lined almost every street. We walked 10.5 miles around the city that day! We also stopped at the Church of Saint Sava. While the upstairs was still under construction, then basement was amazing to walk around in. Icons covered each wall, brightly lit up by the gold chandeliers that hung from the ceiling. We proceeded to the Belgrade Waterfront, a newly developed area of the city right along the Sava river.  

Petrovaradin Fortress

Petrovaradin Fortress

On day three we headed to Novi Sad, the third largest city in Serbia. Also known as University City, Novi Sad is lively and beautiful, with cobblestone pedestrian roads similar to those in Belgrade. Here we strolled down the streets, peeking into many monasteries along the way. We also stopped in two museums; the first, the Gallery of Matica Srpska, was a museum of paintings by famous Serbian artists, and the second, the Museum of Vojvodina, was a historical museum containing artifacts dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. Our journey through Novi Sad ended at Petrovaradin Fortress along the Danube river that revealed a 360 view of the entire city with the surrounding countryside. It was absolutely incredible. After a 7.5 mile walk, we headed back home for our last  delicious dinner and some ice cream under the stars.

On our final day we had the chance to walk around the Hazelnut farm before heading to the airport. We were blown away by the progress and plans the family had for the farm. They want to build a small lake and little house right in the middle of the farm, creating a completely serene life. Approximately one hundred fruit trees of all kinds lined the outside  of the farm. Some of the trees include pears, blueberries, goji berries, peaches, cherries, plums, Japanese apples, and blackberries. Bojan explained the farm’s potential and how the current status of it suggests a successful future that could essentially provide the family with everything they need. Talk about sustainable living!!

A short ride to the airport concluded our incredible first glimpse at Serbia. We are eternally grateful to Lana, Bojan, and Bojan’s parents for hosting us and showing us their lifestyle. We are confident that this partnership has the potential to change lives and create a more efficient, sustainable, and positive world.

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