Home is where the heart is. And for Serbian born, Ana Divac, giving back to the country she calls home was the crux of the foundation she started with her husband former NBA player, Vlade Divac. Now, with floods having hit Southeastern and Central Europe with devastative effects felt by Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, she talks to Sharon Carvalho to delve on what her foundation can do to help rebuild the country and the impact it has had on her.
“Through playing basketball with the NBA, my husband realised that being a celebrity is not just about signing autographs. It is about using your voice to speak for those that will never get a chance to speak for themselves,” says Ana, when, back in 2007, they realised that they had to use their influence to speak for the refugees, raise awareness on their needs and find a way to gather people to help them re-establish their lives. Thus began the journey to forming the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation.
Since then, their philanthropic efforts have been put to the test while providing humanitarian aid, emergency relief and educational programmes in Indonesia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia and many more countries with over 600,000 people supporting them. “We want to change the way people perceive themselves and their role in the world. We want them to understand the power of unity and the changes we can make if we just stick together,” explains the passionate woman.
But realistically, Ana’s aim for the foundation is the hope that each individual will, one day, gladly give 10% of his or her income to charity. “We should be grateful for being in a position where we can give to the needy rather than beingthe ones in need,” she adds. Through their foundation, Ana and Vlade work with the citizens of Serbia to create a sense of responsibility and power in unity that will then help solve social, economic and educational problems. For instance, some of the programmes they have created are designed to support single parents, help young people search for jobs, relocate and integrate refugees and they have even tied up with MasterCard to refurbish state owned kindergarten playground across Serbia.
But none of this is easy. We do not realise just how fragile life is because we get caught up in the materialistic side of it. “Things can change in a matter of seconds. Earthquakes, floods and other natural calamities happen all the time to people all over the world. We need to be constantly reminded that what is important is our inner selves and that the essential part of our life is love and understanding. It is this insight that keeps me up at night with tears in my eyes,” she says, explaining that being a witness to the transformations of human life has changed the way she views the world. On the flip side, Ana adds that when we are truly connected to another human being in love, acceptance and companionship, we are connected in a bond that is unbreakable and that creates a revolution that is incredible and undying. “The foundation has given me a chance to meet and be connected with extraordinary people and all these people have changed me for the better. They have helped me develop my personality and move to a space where I have begun to view life through the perspective of love,” she says with a smile.