“For my better homeland”

Village Kopajkosara is small village of 70 inhabitants, mostly elderly people, situated in Svrljiske mountains, between cities Nis and Svrljig. Most houses in the village are old, made of mud and straw. People in the village are mostly oriented to agriculture for living. Young people have left the village and moved to  cities, searching for jobs. Village Kopajkosara is well known thanks to its natural beauty and Cave Samar, where the world record of staying in the cave was made back in 70’s by Milutin Veljkovic, speleologist.
Informal group “My Homeland” is group of people from Kopajkosara, some of them living in the village and most of them not. However, most of them are attached to this village and they decided to do something to revive it. They started from the Cave Sama r, very special place in the village and waterfall Ripaljka, to create preconditions for rural tourism, to bring tourists to their village and revive economy.
In order to create preconditions for rural tourism in the village Kopajkosara, Informal group “My Homeland” with support from Trag Foundation through the program Active Communities, started with cleaning of approach to the cave Samar in the village, building picnic place on it, renovating existing object into a local history museum and organizing cultural manifestation Prelo.
43 volunteers were engaged with 560 hours of volunteer work in cleaning 1,5 ha of approach to the Cave Samar from bush and grass, in building 60 meters long steps to the cave, nice picnic place with table and benches, posting touristic maps in 3 spots in village, etc. Making better approach to the cave was one part of the project, on the other part Informal group “My Homeland” renovated existing object in the village in first public, community space and organized exhibition of local history and tradition in it. They engaged more than 60 inhabitants of village Kopajkosara and neighboring villages in collecting traditional objects for community museum – old tools, traditional clothes, handworks, etc. They have spent 47 hours of volunteer work in collecting and preparing objects for exhibition. Each object was marked with name of donor, which caused great attention of all people in the village – they were coming to community museum occasionally just to check if their name is still there, taking some objects (kitchen dishes) to use it and returning it back to the museum. Finally, the cultural manifestation Prelo was organized in June 2014, with 200 visitors who could visit the exhibition, enjoy traditional songs and music, try traditional food, etc.

All these activities gathered whole community around it, people from village Kopajkosara, beside their volunteer work, collected additional 1.032 USD and Svrljig municipality matched this sum with additional 2.553 USD for local development actions. Informal group “My Homeland” was great in making good partnerships with local authorities and local institutions. Beside Svrljig Municipality, two more municipalities - Crveni krst and Pantelej and several local institutions –Public utility company Svrljig, Srbija sume, Direction for development of S vrljig municipality, Touristic organization Svrljg, have joined the action “For my better homeland”. Most of them donated their expertise, machines and workers for cleaning the approach to cave, building steps and organizing cultural manifestation. These activities and great support from local authorities brought media attention as well, beside several reports in local media, a great rep ort about village Kopajkosara and Samar Cave was made by national Radio Television Serbia. Activities of Informal group “My Homeland” organized media jeep caravan called Photo safari in order to present their village Kopajkosara and all touristic potentials of it.

These great activities resulted with also great unexpected results – 34 persons joined the group and want to help in their work, 7 young people are planning to adapt their old houses in the village for tourists, several tourist visits were organized to the Cave Samar and village Kopajkosara, 8 women are preparing homemade products for tourists, etc.
In invitation of Trag Foundation, Informal group “My Homeland” became member of  national Association of Serbian Rural Organizations (NASUS), in order to share experience with other organizations and groups.