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From Unemployed Single Mother to a Worker Who Helps Others Find Jobs…


The story of Ms. Sarajka Sejdović from Podgorica, until just two years ago an unemployed single mother of five children, with little education and almost illiterate, barely surviving on social care assistance (MOP) – now a regularly employed woman helping others to find jobs and breaks boundaries in a good way, is one of those stories that serve as a proof that offering a helping hand to someone, joining efforts and changing what seems very difficult task, actually is it possible and worth the effort.

This is the story of a determined woman – motivated to help herself and her children,  and about a well-conceived and carefully executed project in just six months, whose long-term results we are presenting below:

Thanks to the financial support of UNDP Montenegro, Help implemented the project “Work Activation for Social Welfare Beneficiaries” in 2022. The project focused on supporting the activation of unemployed youth in Podgorica, Tuzi, Golubovci, Nikšić, Plužine, Šavnik, Bijelo Polje, Ulcinj, Bar, and Rožaje. The project was conducted in collaboration with the offices of the Employment Agency and the Centers for Social Work in the mentioned municipalities.

The overall goal of the project was to contribute to the Work Activation of the unemployed, focusing on social welfare beneficiaries, through services/programs that address the specific needs of the users. The project increased employability for about 100 unemployed young people, both through training focusing on soft skills and three-month individual mentoring.

After two years, we contacted Ms. Sarajka Sejdović in Podgorica, whose mentor during the project, and even after it, on a personal as well as voluntary basis, was social inclusion expert Mrs. Marija Ružić Stajović. Mrs. Sejdović, who was then a MOP beneficiary, is now an employed single mother of five children. She confirmed that the project had a deeply positive impact and was a turning point for her and her children’s lives, being crucial for the empowerment and work activation of her family.

With a very emotional voice, Ms. Sarajka, an illiterate mother of five children, without any formal work qualifications, who also had issues with her ex-husband, explained how through the Work Activation program, thanks to the well-crafted idea and great experts engaged by Help on the project, especially her mentor Ms. Marija Ružić Stajović, who “did not abandon her” even after the project ended, she is now, two years later, an employed woman living decently from her work.

After undergoing training, Ms. Sejdović managed to find a permanent job as a cleaner in the Restaurant 67 – part of the Voli company (a chain of food markets) in Zabjelo, instead of occasional jobs she previously did to support the family budget which consisted only from the social care assistance (MOP). In the conversation she emotionally recalls receiving her first “regular” salary “in the bank”, not knowing how to use the card to withdraw it, or what amount of the paycheck she would receive. A colleague helped her and explained the ATM withdrawal procedure, and to her surprise, she found out that 500 euros had been deposited into her account as her first paycheck.

“I was completely in shock, and he asked me ‘so how much do you want me to withdraw for you?’. I said ‘all of it – all’! And I couldn’t believe that I managed to buy a lot of food for my children, and even to set something aside,” Ms. Sarajka Sejdović recollected for us, with a tearful voice.

For almost two years now, she is very satisfied with her job, working conditions, and colleagues. Sarajka has been working in the same place, where she is regularly insured and where, apart for herself, she found jobs for another eight people, including two of her own children, after they finished high school, as well as six neighbors, friends, and relatives in various positions, depends of their skills.

As turn out to be, besides the drastic turnaround in her life, the project “Work Activation for Social Welfare Beneficiaries” had a very important impact on other individuals from the RE (Roma and Egyptian) community, who were not direct beneficiaries of the project, but were indeed a vulnerable category of the population – from this UNDP project, successfully implemented by Help in a short period of time but as a long-term solution.

Ms. Sejdović’s immediate supervisor at the Restaurant 67 – within the “Our Market” – Voli in Zabjelo, Mr. Dejan Gogić, with whom we also spoke, confirmed that she is an exceptionally diligent person and hard worker, and that they are extremely satisfied with her engagement as well as her human qualities. This mutual satisfaction led them to accept her suggestion to employ several more members of the RE community, whom she recommended, including her two children upon completing their secondary education.

“This is a place where hard work and human human qualities are truly valued, and where that, rather than ethnic, religious, or racial affiliation, are the key criteria. Following that principles we are glad to break prejudices together, and Sarajka and the other worker that she brought here, are the best model for that,” Mr. Gogić told us.

Thanks to the guiding Ms. Sarajka as volunteer, after the the project the mentor Ms. Ružić Stajović, who modestly and persistently insists that the greatest driving force for everything is in Ms. Sarajka’s perseverance and desire to help herself and her children, beneficiary Sejdović managed to ensure, in addition to her salary that she is earning to support and raise her children – also to receives her legal right for an alimony from her ex-husband.

Ms. Sarajka is not the only successful participant of the project with the long-term life changes. Help’s mentor from northern Montenegro, Danijela Armuš, has sent us information about a number of other participants she worked with, whose lives also turned around in positive direction due to their participation in the “Activate Yourself” program and her persistent mentorship.

For instance, Ms. Dragana Stambolija from Bijelo Polje, a mother of three, who had been unemployed for a long time, despite having a university degree, not only received mentorship, but also had the opportunity to undergo a licensed training course for adult education, specializing as a clothing and textile tailor. Thanks to sewing and handcrafting, she managed to overcome what she described as a “crisis” period, as she recently got employed at doo Franca (food production and market chain). Ms. Stambolija now has a steady job, but sewing remains a valuable source of income for her. Two years ago we had a video story about Ms. Stambolija during the project implementation, which you can watch below. As she says, the handcrafted items she now creates are not just work, but a hobby as well. She told her mentor Danijela that her greatest joy comes from the fact that, by earning “little by little,” she managed to save enough, and her family recently bought a house, so they are no longer tenants.

Help’s Danijela Armuš also mentored Ms. Suada Demić from Rožaje. Besides receiving mentorship support, Mrs. Demić completed training aimed at supporting business startups and subsequently launched her own business by opening a children’s clothing boutique. Two years later, Suada Demić’s boutique is working successfully, and she considers herself a successful entrepreneur in Rožaje. She says that the Labor Activation project was the ideal opportunity for her to start her own business, providing the knowledge and essential information she received during the free training – as part of the project concept.

The Labor Activation program also helped Ms. Aleksandra Šćekić from Bijelo Polje, another single mother. With support from the project, she completed training for adult education, specializing as a teaching assistant. Unfortunately, as this young woman explained to us, despite applying for several job postings, she was not hired because “the opportunities were given to those with connections and political affiliations”. However, she gained motivation and learned not to give up, so now she regularly monitors job announcements and will apply again for positions in kindergartens or/end schools. In the meantime, to ensure decent livelihood for her and her child , she works in a bakery and she is content, for now.  She enjoys her work engagement and it is good feeling to be active. She says that through the Labor Activation project, she learned that work is the best remedy for everything, and a way to spend time productively and focus on positive thoughts. We also spoke with Aleksandra during the project’s implementation, a two year ago.

Ziko Kurtagić from Rožaje completed training as a tourist guide through the Labor Activation project. While he was a student, the fees from tourist visits and tours were his only income, as there are not enough tourist guides in Rožaje. He recently graduated and is now actively seeking employment in his field, but he says he still eagerly looks forward for opportunities to work as a guide whenever needed. It is not only a chance to earn and be active, but also his hobby, a connection with nature, and meeting people.

The stories of these individuals remind us of the key message embodied in the name of our organization – Help for Self-Help (Help – Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe).


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