Iris Network COVID19 reaction stories – Juventas

United we are stronger – for all of our communities!

Juventas, Queer Montenegro, Association “Spektra” and LBT women Association “Stana”, a group of Montenegrin NGOs, continues to provide services during the COVID-19 epidemics despite all the changes in the working conditions, and following all of the guidelines of the National Coordination Body for the prevention of the new Corona virus spread.
Persons from the LGBTIQ communities, people who use/inject drugs, sex workers, ex-prisoners, our main target groups, face many challenges at the moment some of which include: emerging or worsening mental health issues due to the long isolation and no contact with relevant others, additional economic hardship which can potentially lead to unemployment and homelessness, higher risk for the ones already facing domestic violence, as well as higher risk of discrimination happening due to changed health system priorities.
People who use/inject drugs, sex workers and former and active prisoners are communities NGO Juventas works with in particular. The services being delivered to them are the following:
1. Distribution and exchange of safe injection equipment (syringes, needles, cookers, medical alcohol, elastic tourniquets…) in Drop in centers and during outreach
2. Distribution of free condoms and lubricants in Drop in centers and during outreach
3. Service of washing and drying of laundry and garments (on a regular basis, but now even more so as a part of measures preventing the spread of Corona virus)
4. Online and phone counseling with outreach and expert workers (doctor, psychologist, social worker)
5. Delivering food packages for the ones most economically challenged (once per week, quantity for 7 days)

According to measures issued by the Government, all external partners/associates are forbidden to provide additional services in prison. On the other hand, Juventas is supporting the work of this institution by providing materials for in prison tailoring of protective masks throughout the framework of a project this organization has.
The services being delivered to the Montenegrin LGBTIQ communities are a product of cooperation and synergies of all four named organizations, Juventas, Queer Montenegro, Association “Spektra” and LBT women Association “Stana”, and these include:

1.      Distribution of free condoms and lubricants – NGO Juventas

2.      Online and phone counseling with outreach and expert workers (doctor, psychologist, social worker) – NGO Juventas

3.      Service of washing and drying of laundry and garments (on a regular basis, but now even more so as a part of measures preventing the spread of Corona virus) – NGO Juventas

4.      Delivering food packages for the ones most economically challenged (once per week, quantity for 7 days)-NGO Juventas andNGO Queer Montenegro 

5.      Peer online and phone individual and group counselling and support- NGO Queer Montenegro
6.      Free legal aid- NGO Queer Montenegro
7.      Peer online and phone individual and group counselling and support for

8.      LBTQ women-LBTQ Women’s Association “Stana”

9.      Online self-support group for trans and gender variantpersons- Association “Spectra”

10.  Individual online and phone consultations for trans and gender variant persons- Association “Spectra”

In addition to services we are delivering for more than 10 years already, but also in trying to answer the needs of the communities we work with and lessen the burden the COVID19 pandemics brought along, Juventas and Queer Montenegro started with the distribution of food and basic hygiene package for the ones most vulnerable in communities we are working with. It is important to note that these have been adapted to the living conditions of our clients, some of whom do not even have the basic requirements for a dignified life: electricity and/or water.
Juventas and Queer Montenegro, in cooperation with international donors, have set aside a part of their funds in order to fully and adequately provide this service to our clients. Delivery of food and personal hygiene packages is being implemented on a weekly basis and received a special permission from the National Coordination Body for the Prevention of the New Corona virus Spread. Two teams made out of two outreach workers are responsible for food packages delivery. Throughout the process – from the supply of food to its direct distribution, all engaged persons fully comply with all the prescribed preventive measures and use the available protective equipment.
Outreach workers and associates are dedicated to communicating with clients based on their needs, whether online, telephone or in direct contact, again with preventive measures in place. Online communication with all our communities is conducted through social networks (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and various communication platforms such as Viber, Whats App, Skype and the new Houseparty application which, in addition to communication, enables people to play social games. It is important to note that the phone numbers of team members of all of our organizations are available and visible on the platforms listed. Also, we have prepared specific guidelines for our team and clients.
All our four organizations have been advocating for the protection and human rights of all the communities we work with since the outbreak. It is our great pleasure to be able to provide these services to our clients coming from all of the communities we are working with, and we are using this opportunity to thank all of our colleagues for their hard work in trying to alleviate the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic.


Iris Network conducted the survey “Social services during coronavirus pandemic in Western Balkan
countries” in order to assess the current state of the pandemic as well as the repercussions it will have on
the provision of social services to beneficiaries provided by IRIS Network members in the local
communities. The results of the survey serve as a baseline for this Report.
The Report provides a particular overview of the actual challenges and hardships that CSO providers of
social services encounter in working with beneficiaries in light of the pandemic predicament. It also serves
to map assistance models and as an instrument in advocating for policies and measures of
national/regional/ EU Institutions which focus on service providers during and after the crises implicated
by COVID-19.
IRIS network is the only regional network that brings together over 200 organizations that provide
different type of social services to more than 10.000 people in the South East Europe region. IRIS was
founded in 2012 as part of the project “Improving the provision of SSD in SEE funded by the EU”. The
network aims to strengthen the role of non for-profit social service providers through South East Europe
and to ensure that these organizations are recognized as equal partners by the public sector.
This project is funded by the European Union
During December 2017, IRIS Network commenced a new regional initiative “IRIS NETWORKing – CSOs for
protection sensitive migration management” developed by IDC and its partners from ASB, SOS Podgorica,
LIR CD, La Strada and Initiative ARSIS. The Project aims to significantly contribute to the improvement of
service delivery and policy framework related to the migration in the region of Western Balkans (Albania,
BiH, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). The main objective of the project is to empower CSOs to
be effective, accountable and independent actors and to improve their capacity for dialogue with
governments for the purpose of influencing policy and decision-making processes. The Project is
supported through the European Commission Programme Consolidating Regional Thematic Networks of
Civil Society Organizations.
As IRIS Network members are facing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 and the strain on the
services and resources they provide is tremendous, we would like to take proactive steps to protect the
Network members, support their ongoing activities and assist them to cope with current hardships as
much as possible under the scope of the Project.

Iris Network COVID19 reaction stories – CAZAS

At the time of measures aimed at suppressing and preventing the transmission of virus coronas, measures were also introduced at CAZAS to protect the health of employees, and the organization of work was modified. Namely, one employee is on duty at the main office every weekday from 9 am to 2 pm. Other employees work from home. All activities that involve gathering more than one person in one place are postponed until further notice (seminars, round tables, meetings, etc.). During this period, emphasis was placed on online activism and online counseling. Working hours of drop-in centers in Podgorica and Bar, in accordance with the Government’s measures, were reduced to the period from 16 to 18h, while the field work remained unchanged, with mandatory observance of measures of protection and preservation of health. In order to protect the health of employees, the provision of hygiene services in drop-in centers is currently suspended, while counseling with a psychologist, social worker or physician is done exclusively by telephone or through a social media account at @smanjenje_stete_cazas. Lunch packages are distributed to customers without modification, while the exchange and distribution of injection supplies is done in large quantities to reduce the number of social contacts.

Iris Network COVID19 reaction stories – SOS phone Podgorica

The global pandemic COVID -19 is, unfortunately, an opportune time to increase the volume of all forms of domestic violence. Therefore, since the start of the pandemic in Montenegro, there has been a reorganization of the work of the SOS Telephone Podgorica, which introduced a 24-hour on-call service and, in addition to the two existing ones, activated another number available to clients (067 805 297). The changes that have been made include the availability of counseling services 24 hours a day, instead of the planned 8 during the work week.

Within the counseling services, trained and competent staff provide support and assistance to victims of violence, which, in addition to counseling services, provides emotional support, which is very important for beneficiaries at these times. With consent, we mediate the beneficiaries to the institutions of the system and work to quickly suppress / end the violence. We guarantee users anonymity and confidentiality, respecting their rights and integrity above all else.

SOS Podgorica is also part of the #SafetyHome Campaign launched by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Montenegro, Police Directorate, SOS Podgorica, SOS Niksic, Center for Women’s Rights, Safe Women’s House and Center for Roma Initiatives. The aim of the campaign, supported by the British Embassy Podgorica / United Kingdom Embassy in Podgorica, is to show the victims that they are not alone and that they can get help and protect themselves and other family members from violence

Iris Network COVID19 reaction stories – Organization for Development and Democracy, Bujanovac

Organization for Development and Democracy, Bujanovac launched a support program for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Presevo. The organization has formed a volunteer expert team that will provide free advice, consultations and assistance on tax breaks and direct financial assistance to businesses. Assistance can be requested in two ways: by telephone – 063/1785420, on weekdays from 11am to 2pm, as well as by email at What users have to prepare before contacting the team is the business ID. In this way, ORD Bujanovac would like to contribute to reducing the economic consequences of the COVID19 pandemic and the state of emergency in Southern Serbia.

Iris Network Covid19 reaction stories – Women’s Association “Nature”, Bratunac

Women’s Association “Nature”, Bratunac immediately after declaring the Corana virus emergency made all its available resources available to the Bratunac Red Cross Municipal Organization and the Center for Social Work. The staff and volunteers of Nature have become volunteers of the Red Cross, and the Chancellery of Nature and the technical resources at our disposal serve the needs of this situation. Volunteers distribute masks (which some of our members and sew) on a daily basis, on calls coming to the Red Cross info center deliver food to elderly people who cannot move, deliver medicines according to prescriptions delivered from the health center, pack and distribute food and hygiene packages to vulnerable populations. “Nature” pay particular attention to vulnerable categories, which are their beneficiaries, such as women victims of war, women from large family, single mothers, women at risk of domestic violence or women victims of domestic violence.
Women’s Association “Nature” currently considering setting up a SOS line for psychological support for this vulnerable category.

Iris Network member Altruist – COVID19 response

The Altruist Association works with children at risk and in the prevention of risky behaviors. They work in two locations, the Day Center and the Field Classroom in Bafo. Altruist program consists of working individually with a teacher, psychologist or social worker. They offer help with schoolwork or homework, as well as instructional instruction and also conduct creative educational workshops tailored to the needs of the children they work with. In addition, Altruist beneficiary are parents and entire families. They offer psychological counseling and support as needed. Due to the emergency due to the appearance of COVID – 19, the Day Center and the Field Classroom stopped working directly with the users on 12.3.2020. year, the day when the children also stopped going to school. The staff continued to work on the premises of the Center on the administrative part of the work, and on further planning of emergency work. After additional measures were introduced by the HNZ expert staff, it was decided that all staff would continue to work from home on the administrative part of the work, with regular meetings to plan work in the coming period, in extraordinary conditions. After the Day Center and Field Classroom stopped working directly with users, all Altruist activities were moved online and to social networks. All parents were personally contacted and informed that the Center would not continue to work with users on their premises, but that an alternative work plan was developed. It involves online communication via Viber messages or calls. Viber was chosen as a medium of communication because most of our users have access to it. Through Viber, parents can get the help they need in schoolwork, homework, or instructional instruction. A psychologist and / or social worker is also available to them in case of need for psychosocial support related to their or their children’s personal needs or directly related to a pandemic. Altruist also set up a Viber group where parents can ask for help with their children at school. The group was formed with the aim of creating a common database of all tasks that were done with children, but also because of the possibility of connecting our users with each other. In addition, all additional information and announcements of some events, marking important dates throughout the month can be followed by users on social networks (Facebook). It is important to emphasize that the Viber Group is made with parents, not children, to activate and involve parents in working with children and to avoid the overuse of cell phones in children.

Altruist users responded positively to the alternative work plan and immediately accepted it. Already after the first contact, customers have accepted the new mode and started working with our staff. The collaboration is mostly related to schoolwork and homework, as the school is currently held online. As for psychological counseling over the phone, there was some adjustment time. Most of the parents called because of problems with school materials, and often these conversations would turn into counseling. Given the new situation, they have recognized that parents also need counseling on how to organize the day, how to motivate their children to work and listen to school material from home, and to fulfill all their school responsibilities. Parents also have the problem of maintaining discipline at home and devising activities for children. In addition, by keeping in touch with parents, Altruist can also monitor how they cope with the situation and whether they need additional help or some intervention. Currently, parents respond well to this type of counseling and are more relaxed in seeking our help. With this mode of work, they are in constant direct communication with beneficiaries , actively cooperating and receiving constant feedback on Altruist work, on the basis of which we then plan further activities and activities. Their activities related to marking significant dates of the year and educational and creative workshops conducted on a weekly basis cannot be maintained until we start working with customers at our Center. However, they have postponed all of planned activities, and they are developing a plan for when and how they will be reimbursed and implemented. In addition, Altruist users of the Bafo Resort Classroom are mostly socially disadvantaged families. At present, material assistance is a priority, as many users are left unaccepted in this situation. On this basis, in addition to online communication, we work to secure funds and donations to provide material assistance to our vulnerable customers. For now, Altruist alternative work plan is working and they have received a positive reaction from beneficiaries . It is important to emphasize that the expert team is in constant communication with each other and adjusts the work plan according to the feedback received from parents and children.

Zemlja djece BIH – COVID19 adaptation of activities

In the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Iris Network member, Zemlja djece u BIH (Land of Children in BiH) reorganized the work of the Association in accordance with the measures of the relevant crisis authorities. Although “work from home” is one of the intensively used options, in all situations where this is possible, very intensive field work is still taking place through mobile teams, which, while respecting all applicable measures, provide humanitarian support the most vulnerable categories. Thus, families with children in which both parents are unemployed (more than 150), otherwise beneficiaries of the Day Care Center for street children and children at risk, are provided with a food and hygiene package, and continuous assistance in food, protective equipment and other non-food items. it is also provided for juvenile migrants from the East who occurred in Tuzla during the pandemic crisis. The complete restriction of group activities with children and women is sought to be overcome through the use of information technology. The contents of promoting healthy lifestyles are broadcast in collaboration with a local broadcaster, while the gender-transformative program for adolescents has been successfully transformed through the use of online platforms and social networks. Our “Be a Men Club” not only designs successful pandemic prevention content, it also organizes online peer counseling on crisis and related occurrences for all adolescents in need. Also, the volunteers of the Association have been very actively involved in the wider local initiative “Street Heroes” to help older fellow citizens.

LEDA Development Association – COVID19 reaction

Iris Network member, LEDA Development Association Due to the new situation with COVID-19 LEDA suspended fieldwork, complying with measures to prevent the spread of the infection. Theirs primary users are pre-school children and they communicate with children and families via telephone and online platforms. It is very important that LEDA follow the instructions and keep our contacts to a minimum, and again find a way to keep their users from being ignored. Because they are prevented from working in the field and supporting little ones in kindergartens, their hardworking online educators encourage little ones to spend time in isolation more easily and with more fun. They make fun games for them, and the children, on the other hand, kids are happy to send their work to LEDA. The least LEDA can do is post them on website, thus stimulating other parents to spend time at home in a fulfilled way. As an organization, LEDA are at the disposal of its users, and thay can gladly be mediators when it comes to assistance packages or other assistance to the socially vulnerable categories. LEDA: “Stay at home, everything will be fine.”

IRIS Network survey for CSO’s: Social services – Covid19 pandemic

IRIS Network considers important to assess the situation, challenges and difficulties its members as well as others CSO’s that are facing in the provision of social services and their everyday work as a result of the current COVID 19 pandemic.

We have responsibility towards its members as well as to other parties to have a detailed overview of their current situation and to provide this information to the EC, as the donor. This will be conducted through a questionnaire CSO’s can fill in on link below.

Therefore, the objective of the questionnaire is to assess the current situation and consequences caused by COVID 19 pandemic on the provision of social services to beneficiaries provided by IRIS Network members in their local communities. The results of the questionnaire will be used for developing a Report on Social Services in South East Europe under the COVID 19 pandemic and will include the following countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia. The Report will be used to assess the actual challenges that civil society organizations providers of social services face in working with beneficiaries and to map the assistance models.

The Report will also be used as an instrument in advocating for policies and measures of national/regional/ EU Institutions which focus on service providers during and after the crises.

Please provide detailed information in the questionnaire and include all information you consider relevant. Also, please include your projections and the assessment of the consequence caused by the crises that will affect your services and the whole social protection system.

For all interested CSO’s providing social services – you can fill in the questioner on the link below .

Please feel free to contact us through National Coordinators and / or Network Secretariat.

Stay well and healthy.