Helping people in emergency situations is my weapon for overcoming fear

This article is part of UN Women in BiH campaign “Thank you, heroines”, aimed at raising awareness on numerous contributions of women during COVID-19 response.

Danijela Grbić is a fourth year student of the Pharmacy study program at the Medical Faculty of the University of Banja Luka. As a long-time member of the Red Cross, she decided to volunteer to help those who needed it most during the pandemic. The situation with the COVID-19 pandemic forced Danijela into a completely different way of life, and instilled certain fears, primarily for her own health, but also for the health of those closest to her.

"Given the faculty that I attend, many things were known to me, but it was precisely this knowledge that kept me constantly on guard against everything. The biggest problem was to harmonize thinking and knowledge with the information that we are exposed to from all sides on a daily basis," Danijela admitted.

One of her basic "weapons" for preserving common sense and overcoming fear is the knowledge how important it is to help people who did not have the basic means of subsistence even before the introduction of the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although she prepared for similar states of emergency through trainings and exercises at the Red Cross, it was a great responsibility to move among people, while at the same time preserving her own health and the health of those closest to her.

“The reward for that is the expression on people's faces when you appear in front of their door in uniform and you see in their eyes a certain faith and confidence that everything will be alright and that they are not alone,” adds Danijela.

Although special measures related to behaviour and movement were introduced during the peak of the crisis, this did not prevent Danijela from providing support and protective equipment to those who needed it the most.

"My engagement was reflected in the preparation and distribution of food packages and hygiene products to the users of the Red Cross Public Kitchen, who were prevented from coming to get meals for safety reasons. Out of 440 users, as many as there are currently in the Public Kitchen program, about 200 of them needed to be provided with food and hygiene products, which needed to be delivered to their homes. Over 2,000 packages were distributed. While going out into the field, I spent a lot of time working on organizing the conditions for safe joint volunteering, which are related to the daily disinfection of the premises and the preparation of protective uniforms. I also spent some time on duty on a phone line which served to inform citizens during the emergency situation and to provide psychosocial support to people who were not allowed to move outside their homes,” says Danijela.

The young volunteer from Banja Luka believes that in addition to taking care of their own health and the health of their loved ones, a very special challenge for all women is to harmonize and carry out professional obligations. “This is especially true for women who are not able to work from home and who are exposed to the dangers of infection on a daily basis, but also have a very low income. Every woman needs to be provided with better protection mechanisms regarding both physical and mental health.”

Danijela tries to adapt her lifestyle to the current conditions in the best possible way. “This implies constant caution, but also the preservation of mental health, which I think was largely neglected during the pandemic, and the consequences of this will only come to the fore if this crisis continues to last,” Danijela concludes.

Volunteering is work that benefits everyone, and in situations like these we become aware that we are all team players, and that we need each other! Danijela has demonstrated this with her work.

This article is part of the UN Women in BiH campaign “Thank you, heroines”, that is aimed at raising awareness about the numerous contributions of women who are on the frontlines of response to the COVID-19 crisis. Follow UN Women in BiH social media, read stories about some of these amazing women, and thank the women you think are heroines by using the hashtag #ThankYouHeroines. Together let’s support the women who are contributing to a strong COVID-19 response! #HeroinesTellTheirStories

UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women