The Stories of Our Volunteers: Mina Velimirovic
It was a love for her own community that prompted Mina to select several non-profit organizations to volunteer for during her time at university. The Novak Djokovic Foundation was one of her choices.
She’s interested in so many things: music, poetry, drama, and dance. In her mind, it all points to her greatest interest of all- the one that makes her blood rush with curiosity and fascination- the pursuit of understanding why we are who we are, of listening closely for the silent rhythms that make us tick. The decision to study Psychology at the university in Novi Sad was as natural to Mina as knowing instinctively what questions to ask when a situation calls for authentic communication over superficial chatter. Real connection and meaningful dialogue are as necessary to her as air, and she is quick to champion the value of genuine relationships in all of our lives, the very real benefit to our well-being when we feel a sense of community and inclusion.
It was a love for her own community that prompted Mina to select several non-profit organizations to volunteer for during her time at university. Luckily for us, the Novak Djokovic Foundation was one of her choices.
I was attracted to the idea of making a positive change in our society and what could be more powerful or make more of a lasting impact than helping children?
When I read about the NDF’s mission to help children in Serbia fulfill their dreams, I thought to myself, finally, someone has made this a priority. And I knew I had to get involved, Mina’s eyes brighten with a fiery determination.
And she did – in a big way. Mina volunteered her time for six full days at our third annual Friendship Games camp, a yearly retreat specifically designed for children from disadvantaged communities. Participants spend several days playing games, learning new and valuable skills, enjoying outdoor activities, taking excursions to see local sites, and forging new friendships. It is an incredible and unique experience for these kids, and is a powerful and tangible reminder to them throughout the year that they are important and special. That they are valued by society. A part of a community that welcomes them and is made better by their presence.
But Mina sees her time at the Friendship Games not only as a gift to the children she spent time with – though it surely is, in our view, and in theirs – but as a symbiotic experience wherein she received more than she gave.
My memories of those six days are still so vivid and heart-warming. I met some amazing people. The volunteers, the staff- but above all, these incredible kids. Children can teach us so many wonderful things. Kindness, generosity, the value of play: it’s all so essential and natural to children, and it can be to adults too, if we let it.
When asked how her time spent with the Novak Djokovic Foundation has enhanced both her academic experience and her goals as a soon to be new professional, Mina is quick with her reply.
As a psychology student, we acquire a great deal of theoretical knowledge. And it’s valuable, absolutely. But… theory doesn’t always teach us how. How to develop strong relationships, and maintain those relationships. My time with the NDF has shown me how to integrate theoretical knowledge into the practical approach of implementing what I’ve learned. How best to support those in need. How to connect with kids in ways that really matter. It’s so important to me, reaching out to our country’s youth and helping them reach for the stars, showing them they can do anything they set their minds and hearts to. We all belong to the same community. My future is their future, too. It belongs to all of us, so shouldn’t we all work together to make it as beautiful as possible?
Mina thinks for a moment and continues:
Honestly, the Friendship Games did that for me. Blended both the theory and the practice of helping others in a way that really worked. We brought together children, their teachers, volunteers, and NDF staff. And we really made a difference in one another’s lives.” She smiles, and adds decisively, “I can’t wait to go back.