The formation of SAFE in 2004 was the first step in a journey of consolidation, expansion and a quest for sustainability, all of which are necessary requirements to enable influencing and campaigning over the sustained periods of time needed to effect real improvement and change.

This is a constant struggle, some SSO’s have ceased to exist, but overall there are now more than 30 SSO’s in Europe, and over a dozen now employ paid staff, supported by volunteers, many of whom are stroke survivors or family members. One of the youngest SSOs in SAFE, yet very active and enthusiastic about the cause is the SSO from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We spoke with Maja Bozinovska, neurologist and the President of the “Здружение за борба против мозочен удар” about their SSO’s membership at SAFE, what does it mean for their organisation, but also what is the work they do and challenges they meet every day.

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image credit: behappy.me

SAFE: Your organisation is very young, but seems to have achieved a lot in past year. What do you feel is your strongest achievement?
M.B: It is true that our organization is very young it was formed in May 2014, as a non-profit volunteer-based organisation so we felt a great responsibility and also enthusiasm to promote it and fulfil the ,,emptiness“ in Stroke field in Macedonia. Today we are already recognized in Macedonia as an active organisation and we have good collaboration with Macedonian Neurology Society. Since the beginning we considered it would be the best to start with something that is easily applicable –primary as well as secondary prevention, so we started risk factor checking campaign called „Do you know your risk?“. We started with the activity even before we achieved formal administrative registration of our organisation. For almost 3 years now, we go on with it in 6 Macedonian cities, having performed now about 800 free medical examinations and face to face personalized consultations with multidisciplinary team consisting of medical specialists. Having in mind that majority of us in the organisation are medical specialists, I think that this sort of a ,,clinical“ work out of the hospital is our biggest achievement. Also, it is our tradition to do it as addition to other activities every year on World Stroke Day. We are particularly proud for being able to activate our own web site this year and creating leaflets and posters in Macedonian language for this year’s World Stroke Day. We also started with stroke educative lectures for different specific population groups, having organised 6 lectures until this moment.

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SAFE:  From the newly formed stroke support organisation stand point- how do you feel about your membership in SAFE and what are your expectations from SAFE as the roof alliance of so many different SSOs (at this moment, 28 countries)?
M.B.: SAFE membership was of a great meaning for us, especially in achieving two main types of our organizational goals: official and operative. At first SAFE helped us to build the organization’s public image and reputation, and second it lead us all 28 organizations together in taking actual, concrete steps that one intends to take to achieve its own purpose. Of course, having global strategy and local synchronized activities makes our work easier and confirms to us that we are in right pathway. Being a part of „big family“ is our best step, since we live in very small country, fighting with financial crisis and population lethargies about health issues. SAFE and member SSOs motivates us and inspire us to fight not only with stroke but also with prejudice. We hope that in future SAFE will still logistically lead us and we will have chance to become part of some large projects or cooperate with other SSOs.

SAFE: How do you see the role of Macedonian SSO in SAFE and how do you plan to contribute to achievement of the SAFE’s goals?
M.B.:We will share SAFE mission, and work on all SAFE projects, we will try to be proactive and inventive, and struggle to rise our organization to be worthy member of SAFE. We plan to be active in all projects and to share the mission in our country and the region, to collaborate with different SSOs, as well as with scientific stroke organizations.

SAFE: What would you like to share with other SAFE members about your work in Macedonia?
M.B.: I cannot be short on this, probably some neighboring members share same opinion, since situation here is different in more ways. Our most positive experience is one of the most basic expressions of human behavior that arises out of long-established ancient traditions of sharing and reciprocal exchanges- volunteerism. We struggle with great financial and political problems but we can honorable mention the spirit of our volunteers, from university professors, hospital directors, doctors, nurses to jurists, web designers, lectors and even teenagers that were or still are part of our activities. They share their time, knowledge, equipment and facilities in untiringly way with no financial support to build us to where we are.