How To Give Back During Your Remote Connections Trip to Croatia

By Joe Orovic 

We remote workers want more than bucolic scenery and a dive into a foreign culture. We can also be a rather generous bunch. More than most, we understand the difference between a tourist and a traveller. We want to be the latter. It involves giving back. You may feel the urge to do so during your visit to Croatia. Fortunately, plenty of organizations around the country and in Zadar need generosity of any variety.Time, energy, or money.

Before going any further, a bit of a clarification. It’s easy to fall into a mental association game with Croatia. People hark back to the war in the 1990s, a gruesome period most locals would rather forget.

You may see some signs of that trauma during your stay — a stray bullet hole in a facade; a collapsed home. Yes, some charitable organizations help displaced people and veterans. Croatia, in general, has moved on beyond that era. Yes, megalith charities we’re all familiar with have a presence in the country, from the Red Cross to Unicef. Those are worth your time, of course. The scope and need for good deeds in other areas remains vast. Local groups have taken to some clever, grassroots initiatives worth supporting.

So if you’re looking to give back while you take Croatia in, here’s a guide to some of the places that could use philanthropy, in whatever form. Don’t be afraid to contact any of the below charities and say, “I’m in town for the next 15 [or 30] days. How can I help?”

Help the Kids

There are many high-quality organizations in Croatia improving quality of life for kids in need. Among the more grassroots is “Mali Zmaj” (“Little Dragon”), an initially rag-tag group which specializes in organized activities and support for underprivileged and needy children. The group’s humanitarian work covers a broad range of initiatives: collects money for school supplies; organizing surprise birthday parties for children whose parents otherwise wouldn’t afford them, etc.

The group also collaborates with a host of local businesses to give children a vacation on the Adriatic coast, among other activities. “Mali Zmaj” offers charitable souls several ways to help, chiefly volunteer chaperones for activities. Who wouldn’t want to spend a day chilling out with a bunch of rapscallions?

Another local organization helping kids: Udruga Dajmo Im Šansu “Let’s Give Them A Chance”), which focuses on orphans. Both can use volunteers — and cash.

Help the Environment

You may notice during your nomadic stint that Croatia’s, well… beautiful.

Duh. But below the surface, like the rest of the world, environmental problems abound. Ask any local what’s below the crystalline Adriatic waters: garbage. By the tons.

So much so that local activists organize mass cleanings of coves, ports and beaches, scooping up detritus by the truckful every spring. Clearly, we know you won’t add to the problem. Put your rubbish where it belongs, etc. You may also want to be a part of the solution during your stay in Zadar. There’s a grassroots-level group doing some aggressive environmental activism needing help. Eko-Zadar has been at the forefront of promoting eco-friendly development, environmental protection and green tech implementation. It is one of the more dynamic eco groups in the country. The group’s hyperactive workethic means at any given moment there will be some grassroots activity you can volunteer for.

Eko-Zadar also has a “Green Telephone”, a service which lets locals report various eco-mini-disasters. In case you’re outside of Zadar, Eko-Zadar can redirect you to an equivalent group in whatever town you’re in.

Help the Animals

Animal Shelter in Croatia
courtesy of Zadarski Azil

Zadar’s history as an agricultural town by the sea has led to a long lineage of farm dogs and mutts, and a symbiotic relationship with cats. Unfortunately, many of the farms are gone but the dogs — and its leash-free ethos — remain. Ditto cats, which have been the de-facto trash compactors for local grandmothers looking to get rid of the remnants of lunch. This has led to a notable number of strays, alley cats and lost pets roaming the streets. Fortunately the local pet shelter Zadarski Azil has been doing its best to help.

But it hasn’t been easy. The shelter has taken to Facebook as its primary means of communication, acting as the de facto adoption agency, dog catcher, and dispatcher for lost pets roaming the streets. The shelter works on a shoestring, lacking some rudimentary equipment to keep the place tidy (one recent Facebook post asked if anyone with a weed whacker could stop by to clean up a bit).

Still, they could always use a hand around the shelter itself. And who wouldn’t want, after a long day at the laptop, want the joy of a wagging tail or purr to greet them?

These groups are all intertwined, and can help your stay in Croatia be a more meaningful one. Remember, don’t be a tourist. Be a traveller.

What are some other groups or areas of need your talents can address?