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How Milica is starting a new life after spending time in a detention centre

Milica has given a new direction to her life.

How Milica is starting a new life after spending time in a detention centre

Milica’s start in life was very difficult. Support from DIMAK enabled this young Serbian woman to undergo training, with psychosocial services helping her to make a new start in life. She is now mentoring children and young people in difficult situations. And she writes poems about her experiences and feelings. Here she reports on her impressive progress.

A few years ago I was still in juvenile detention. Now I want to be a role model. A role model for all those who are facing difficulties, but who want to improve their lives. The German Information Centre on Migration, Training and Employment (DIMAK) helped me with my new start.

When I was 11, I ran away from my aunt to go to my father. He had just been released from prison, but didn’t want to let me stay with him. Desperate, I ended up in a facility for children without parental supervision. 

The wrong path and juvenile detention

Some of the young people at this facility became criminals there. I knew that it was wrong. But I thought it was the only way to earn my living. I began to commit crimes. When I was 15, I ended up in a juvenile detention centre in Kruševac – 200 kilometres away from my home. I had to stay there for almost 3 years.

Then came the point at which I finally realised that I was on the wrong path and would have to change my ways. But how do you do that when you’re in a detention centre? The supervisors there are mostly concerned with explaining what’s allowed and what isn’t.

But Neostart provided me with counselling at the detention centre. It’s an organisation that offers support after you leave the penal system. GRiG also gave us advice. It’s an organisation that helps children who are in trouble with the law. I took advantage of these offers.

I went back to my aunt after being released from the detention centre and thought about how to put my life in order.

I looked for support from many organisations. That’s when I heard about Café Bar 16 . It’s not just any old café; it gives people like me an opportunity of employment and training. And I needed help: I had only completed primary school, which you attend for 8 years in Serbia. And I had a criminal record. There weren’t many doors open to me.

All offers of help accepted

The Center for Youth Integration (CIM) runs Café Bar 16. At the beginning of 2022, CIM suggested that I train to become a waitress and bartender.

I came into contact with DIMAK during this training and took part in one of their self-help workshops. If I don't take care of myself, who will?

I met so many people. My only regret is that the workshop was held during the Corona pandemic, and was held online.

I have no doubt that the workshop empowered me to overcome my fear of challenges. This fear hasn’t of course completely disappeared. But I learned how to cope with it. I now feel much more self-confident.

Milica completed her vocational training in Café Bar 16.

Poems in English

CIM also arranged an additional job for me in the Muzej Jugoslavije (Museum of Yugoslavia). I’m still working there, mainly at the weekends.

Although it’s self-taught, I speak very good English. I also write poems in English. I use them to process my experiences. Today I'm pursuing many goals and I feel positive about the future: I find everything so interesting that I don't want to commit to just one thing.

I especially enjoy holding conversations with foreign visitors in the museum. The museum management is so impressed by my work and attitude that they have entrusted me with leading workshops for children.

An open ear for children and young people

The GRiG organisation has also asked me to mentor children. I’ve now met many children who live a life like the one I once lived. I can see how they react to my life stories. It makes a big difference when the young people see someone like me. Someone who was once on the slippery slope herself.

The support network

Milica was supported by the following:

As of: 07/2023

The self-help workshop empowered me to overcome my fear of challenges.

Other experiences