Jelena is an 8 year old girl who lives in a small village near Sopot, Serbia. She was born without hands. She lives with her parents, brother, sister and grandfather in a space not bigger than 600 sq. ft. However she claims to be the happiest child in the world. Her handicap and poverty couldn’t erase a smile from this child’s face. She dreams of having a doll that cries and yet she shares this information with much hesitation as she knows the poverty her family faces each day.

She uses the toes of her right foot to write and to hold cutlery while eating. When our COCI Serbia staff made a home visit, she demonstrated her skills in front of them; she took out a pencil and wrote her name on the paper, smiling like the happiest kid in the world.

The members of this household, father Tiosav (46), mother Leposava (32), brother Petar (12), sister Marija (11) and grandpa Danilo (80), live on the thin edge of existence, but they never complain about this. They say that they live the way they can. Their total monthly income of $250 is enough for the family’s basic needs.

“We have discussed several times with the doctors the possibility of getting prostheses for Jelena’s missing limbs but we received different opinions,” says her father. “Some think that they would be just an obstacle for her,” he adds.

Jelena says that she adores school, her classmates and her teacher Olga, and out of all subjects she prefers mathematics.

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“I am happy, the happiest girl in the world,” she says. “COCI has organized everything for me — transport to the school, and a specially designed school desk for me in the classroom. What else could I asked for? Many thanks to Uncle Joca (abbreviation of Jovica, a COCI staff person).”

After hearing this story, our COCI Serbia staff went to work advocating for little Jelena. They shared this story with the mayor of Sopot and he promised to help.

Since April 1, 2014, Jelena’s father Tiosav is employed in the municipality as a janitor, and Jelena received a gift from the employees in the municipality. Guess what she’s got? Just what she had wished for – a doll that cries.