In the last 6 years, I was part of the team that organized — Meeting G2 — a business conference for Croatian Diaspora. It was an exciting project that allowed me to meet a lot of Croats from the diaspora and to discuss their ideas, wishes, but also problems and obstacles that they are facing when coming to Croatia and trying to do business here. Through the Crowdfunding campaign that I did for Visnjan Observatory, I also met Dusica Hoban, who dedicated a lot of her time and financial resources to helping people in Croatia. Since I found her motivation and results rare in Croatia and the Croatian diaspora, I proposed doing a short interview. Hopefully, her enthusiasm will inspire others to similar actions or to connect with her and maybe in the future to create some humanitarian trust.
1. For the beginning, share with us a bit about your background story? How long are you living in the UK, and what are you doing right now?
I was born in Pazin, and from 1966 I lived and studied in Sweden. From 1972 I lived studied and worked in the U.K. For many years I worked in the NHS in finance and business management. Following several personal tragedies in 2004/5, I had to leave that work and rethink how to survive financially to enable me to continue to support myself and my two children, to finish the private education system and universities. That is when I took steps to start investing and have continued to do so to this day.
2. How did you come to the idea to help Croatian people, institutions, or the state in general?
My charitable effort really started with a Moldovan boy Andre, around 2006/7. This boy had a hole in his skull when an electrical cable fell on him; at that point, he had not been outside for three years to prevent infections. The local doctors only managed to patch up his skull with some skin, but what he actually needed was a metal plate and many operations performed in the U.K. over a period of two years.
Andre successfully recovered and learned fluent English at a private school in Surrey, which was not far from the hospital where he was being treated and staying with a compassionate English family.
As I was being updated on Andres’s progress, it made me realize how important it is what we individually do for others…in some cases literally saving their life.
The reason I have decided to focus primarily on helping in Croatia is following a talk at the Croatian Embassy in London. The talk was by EBRD Bank, about the integration of Eastern European countries into the EU. I was shocked to hear that Croatia was the country they were concerned about the most, even falling behind Bulgaria and Romania. At the end of the talk, I challenged the speaker to explain Croatia, and his short answer was – Croatia lacks quality people…This came as a huge shock to me!
3. What types of projects are you aiming at?
I have been aiming and concentrating mainly on a humanitarian concept, although I have been known to dip into culture and education.
4. You participated in Visnjan Crowdfunding, did you had other successful ideas or projects that you backed up or initiated?
This is the list of projects that I supported in the last few years:
2017 — Pazin School (books, English club)
2017 — Maggie’s, Charring Cross Hospital (Cancer support)
2018 — Senoa House, Zagreb (Repairs)
2018 — Pazin Hospital (Palliative Care)
2019 — Podravsko Sunce (Montessori Materials)
2019 — Pazin Hospital (Ultrasound)
2020 — Adra, Zagreb (Earthquake first aid)
2020 — Nismo Same, Zagreb (Cancer support)
2020 — Zvjezdarnica, Visnjan (Education)
5. What is your favorite so far?
I think my favorite so far has to be the ultrasound equipment for Pazin hospital. When I was shown around by the hospital manager, and I realized that they only had some old broken X-ray mc. They were working very hard to obtain the palliative care status so that the chronically sick patients didn’t have to pay to stay and be cared for in their last few weeks in this world. To obtain that status and for the government to fund this service, they had to have a European standard; however, on my visit, they were still missing adequate beds, shower rooms, etc. I decided to buy them two beds and two televisions immediately. I had a subsequent meeting with the director of Istarski Domovi Zdravlja and promised to pay a substantial sum towards a new ultrasound, providing he could explore how to fund the rest. It all took about 20 months to materialize, which included a fantastic concert and a play to raise the money and not forget that some Croatian people sent money from Canada and Sweden. They decided to invest in superior ultrasound equipment to develop further clinics at the center, and the vulnerable didn’t have to travel to Pula/Rijeka.
6. You had a certain number of interactions with „locals” in Croatia, representatives of the different government or state bodies and institutions. What is your experience with them?
I am sorry to have to say that initially, I didn’t find the people I was trying to obtain information from very helpful. In the beginning, I didn’t know where to start, so I wrote emails to the heads of towns, hoping that they would guide me to the right departments, however at times, I sent three messages and did not get a reply. This was very disappointing for me, considering I was looking to help, and they couldn’t even be bothered to reply to my messages. Also, one institution didn’t even acknowledge the receipt of the donation, I had to keep ringing them, and the head has not to this day personally contacted me to acknowledge anything, just got a member of her staff to write to me, at which point in quite a rude, arrogant manor.
Also, I tried to contact an ex-Ambassador, when I was planning to sponsor a top student to study in the U.K. He never replied to my message, following that I sent a message to his wife, just in case he didn’t receive my message, she also did not reply. All I needed was a contact at the university…
Also, I feel that people are not used to someone giving something with no expectation in return. Often they don’t want to get involved because that would mean more work for them, and they choose to do the minimum and choose not to be helpful, even if it means that someone else will lose out. I find that very sad.
7. How are you connected with other members of the Croatian diaspora, and do you have any plans?
With regret, I am not connected to the diaspora. I have tried but have not been very successful. The few I have met in London have not been in any way inspirational, not even vaguely interested in what I am trying to do. I was told that they are only interested in culture…
8. From whom did you get the most support in Croatia so far?
I would love to be able to say that it was a Croatian person who was the most helpful and supportive in my charitable endeavor. Still, it is with pride that I can tell that it is Ambassador Andrew Dalgleish, who has taken the trouble to meet up with me on several occasions and Andreja Maretic. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do. Sometimes it just needs a kind word from people I respect to give me strength and belief to continue, despite the negative people one meets on the route.
9. What are your plans for donations?
Hopefully, if good health serves me well, I intend to continue for the rest of my life.
Ideally, it would have been brilliant if I had met someone with my outlook and passion and form a trust, which would have enabled me to do even more. But as it is now, if I get involved with one or two projects per year, I am happy. Otherwise, it would take up all my time, and I feel having worked exceptionally hard in my youth, I intend to enjoy some of my free time before I get too old.
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