Death and desperation stalked Elena’s early years. But she won’t let fear hold her back.
When Elena* was a very young girl, her mother was murdered by her father. Social services placed her into a foster family. Elena suffered one torment after another. She doesn’t talk about what happened whilst she was living with her foster parents, but Elena was so desperate and fearful that at the age of nine she stopped a policeman and asked to be taken to an orphanage. And she was.
There she stayed for nine more years, struggling with school and failing to find an outlet for both her trauma and her innate creativity.
Turning 18 in early 2020, Elena was able to come to House of Opportunity in Belgrade, which is run by FSCI partner organisation, Centar Zvezda. A shy and quiet girl, Elena struggled to fit in, preferring to be alone if at all possible. She was distrustful and doubted that she would ever adapt to this new life, where she was meeting people who claimed they wanted to help her, but she was surrounded by other young people with similar hurts. Hurts that brought back the fear.
However, due in part to her creativity, which she showed in the varied products she began making for Centar Zvezda’s social enterprise programme, Elena started to make progress against her doubts and fears. She especially enjoys designing and creating candles, which attract an increasing amount of orders from companies in Belgrade. Elena has proven so good at this that she was chosen to represent the social enterprise programme in Switzerland, where she helped to sell many of the hand-produced souvenirs and crafts that she and the other House of Opportunity residents create.
This, and the realisation that the House team could indeed be trusted, built up her confidence in other areas of her life; she has attended a youth conference in Germany, passed her driving test and gained her license. She now has a permanent job at a print shop and is working on her money management skills with a volunteer from a local bank. And now she is working towards being able to move into her own place at the end of this year when she is due to graduate from the House of Opportunity programme.
Elena tells us that she is “ready for independent life, excited and with less fear than I was two years ago”. Elena is determined to leave the fear behind. And we are with her.