Imagine a world where coffee saves lives! Stefan Nikolic (30) made it possible, with his vision and big heart! Named Youth Hero for 2019, and the man who won the Virtus Award, the greatest achievement for humanitarian work in Serbia and the region, is the embodiment of humanity and goodness.
Stefan Nikolic left the IT world in order to pursue a career that will, as he says, “lift up his level of happiness”. He found it in saving children’s lives. The initiatives of his organization, Good Deed, have, so far, helped more than a thousand kids from vulnerable groups. His major success? This year Damjan, once sick with cancer and now a healthy and happy boy, will attend the Youth Hero Awards ceremony with his friend Stefan. Both as special guests and living proof that life and a strong will can overcome the impossible!
Dear Stefan, as a multi-award-winning humanitarian, you are always on a mission to help people out. Can you share some good news with us respecting the latest plans of your charity organization, Good Deed, in these challenging times?
In the worst situation, a lot of positives can be found
That’s how we have approached the pandemic situation. We have noticed that in difficult times people’s awareness and solidarity are rising and that we could use that moment as a start for the #GoodDeedChallenge – a project that encourages people to do good deeds and further raise awareness about charity. The goal of the project is to do any good deed and then challenge your friends to continue doing good deeds and continue the chain. The challenge trend has erupted in the same measure as a pandemic, and we think this challenge will be something that will make people interested and allow them to apply their creativity to good deeds. More information will soon be on our social networks.
What triggered you to leave your studies and devote yourself to social entrepreneurship?
From an early age I had the feeling that I was not the type of personality who wanted to develop a career in the corporate world. Although guided by this feeling, I enrolled in college because I was interested in IT technologies and business, but after 3 years of study I decided not to go that way. The criterion for that decision was my level of happiness, and I didn’t feel any happiness doing what I was doing.
When I left college, I had no idea what to do with my life. On one occasion, the idea came to me that I could devote myself to the mission of encouraging people to do good deeds, because good deeds most of all affect the awareness level of the population, and this kind of awareness is directly proportional to the quality of life in the environment we live in. So I started various projects to raise awareness for charity and have continued to do this to this day, feeling fulfilled in what I do.
It all kicked off with a cup of coffee! Can you tell us more about your NGO, Good Deed, and how it came about?
The humanitarian coffee turned out to be an excellent mechanism, both for raising awareness and raising donations
As I stated in the previous answer, that idea prompted me to start an organization so that I could deal with that call on the legal side. After various projects and charity parties, I talked to the owner of a café bar about what we could organize in his cafe. He suggested we could organize a one-day event where people would buy cups of coffee and we would donate the full amount to children without parental care.
So, our organization organized a complete event and everything went great. The humanitarian coffee turned out to be an excellent mechanism, both for raising awareness and raising donations. After that event, we created a network of cafes in several cities, where on announced days the entire amount of coffee consumed would be donated to children with cancer, socially disadvantaged children, and kids without parental care.
Most of your donations go to kids with cancer, socially deprived kids, and children with no parental care. How does interaction with them affect you, and what is one of the moments that inspired you, that you will never forget?
When I started with humanitarian work, I never thought I would get in touch with children from vulnerable groups; but as time went on, the activities we carried out made me start spending time with them. By that time, I only wanted to make my own contribution to directing resources to these children, but as things were continuing, I started spending more and more time with those kids.
I realized that my company meant a lot to them, especially for children with cancer. I’m glad it all worked out, because spending time with them has been the most beautiful part of this whole humanitarian story. We play video games, table tennis, and basketball, and I am very happy to be able to add cheer to the difficult moments of their fight this way.
Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new business field – what does it take to make the most out of it, especially in Serbia?
Social entrepreneurship is a very interesting business concept, because you do good things through business. However, when I found myself at the intersection of social entrepreneurship and humanitarian work, I chose humanitarian work. Both professions are uncommon, not only in Serbia but around the world also, and I personally think it takes more persistence to persevere along that way than in some less intense businesses.
Apart from many interesting ideas, you are the author of the project What’s Going On? Tell us more about the business model behind it and what the latest updates are.
The “What’s Going On” project was all about live streams from cafes, bars and night clubs, so when you go to the website you can actually see what’s going on. But, as I mentioned, my choice was to dedicate myself only to a humanitarian cause. Having in mind our main target group was cafes, the whole project became a “Humanitarian Coffee” project.
“Humanitarian Coffee” is a project that takes place 3 times a year in our network of cafes through which the entire amount of money from coffee sales goes to children from vulnerable groups. The latest update is that soon people will be able to drink humanitarian coffee not only 3 times a year in cafes that collaborate with us, but every day, in a way that cafes will also offer “Humanitarian” coffee, which will be 20% more expensive than regular coffee, and the 20% add-on will go to children throughout the whole year.
One of the actions your organization hosts is free haircuts for kids who use the national kitchen. Are any other creative initiatives coming up?
Yeah, we had a lot of parties where the ticket was your favorite candy, and we were carrying those sweets to kids without parental care. Also, from time to time we raise funds, buy pizzas and sweets and take them to children without parental care.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The biggest challenge is to provide funds for organizing humanitarian projects.
We are a non-profit organization, so most of the money comes from sponsorships and project applications, but also from our own pockets. We don’t have constant sponsorship, and that is the biggest struggle in our line of work.
We can honestly say people like you make this world a better place. What would you be proud of as your greatest achievement in the last decade?
The moment we found out he was cured and the feeling I felt cannot be measured by any reward or success I have achieved so far.
I don’t know if I can name it as an achievement, but I’ll tell you about my friendship with a 10-year-old-kid who beat cancer. I stayed with him throughout the whole recovery process. The moment we found out he was cured and the feeling I felt cannot be measured by any reward or success I have achieved so far. We are good buddies – we like to play online games and I often visit him and his family. This whole story is the crown of everything I’ve done so far.
Read more inspiring stories from the author.
Photos: Vilmos Comafai, Sandra Kiseli
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