Primarily as a woman and as a mother, Ms. Maja Ivanova unselfishly gives her support to those who need it most - children. Whether the problem they face is a health or social problem, she always and unconditionally puts her efforts to help and support them in their struggle. Her efforts and activities are primarily focused on the fight against autism and raising public awareness of the existence of this disease.
Fight against Autism
Seeing the actual problems that autistic children and adolescents and their parents and closer friends are faced with on a daily basis, and seeing the reality in which every small improvement is worth the effort, Ms. Ivanova took the next step – she supported the initiative and started to work dedicated on improving their position and conditions in which they will be able to achieve happier and better life.
The first activity of Ms. Ivanova related to autism was during her stay in New York in September 2009, at the 64th United Nations General Assembly, attended by the President of the Republic of Macedonia. Within her activities in New York was the participation at the Second Annual Conference on Autism, organized by the International Foundation “Autism speaks”. This Conference was attended by about 150 First Ladies and dignitaries who increased the importance of the event with their participation and attracted greater media attention. Thus, one of the goals of the conference was achieved - raising public awareness on autism. In September 2010, Ms. Ivanova participated for the second time in this conference and thus contributed to the efforts to encourage the states to allocate funds and resources for autism research, public awareness campaigns and to support the concerned families.
A year after Ms. Ivanova launched her activities in the Republic of Macedonia, she managed unobtrusively, in direct contacts, with great enthusiasm, but with great perseverance, to bring together individuals from academia working on this issue, on the one hand, and parents of autism diagnosed children, on the other hand. But above all, Ms. Ivanova managed to unite all stakeholders in the fight to raise public awareness on autism and make them available for the youngest, for those we are ready to walk millions of steps just to get a smile, a touch, a hug, a flash in the eyes of the autistic children.
Under her auspices, on April 2, 2011, in the Republic of Macedonia, for the first time, the International Autism Day was marked, in co-organization with the Macedonian Autism Scientific Association. In the center of the capital, under the motto “Autism Speaks. It is Time to Hear” many citizens gathered together who are directly or indirectly concerned with autism. Particularly important was the support given by the spouses of the diplomatic corps in the Republic of Macedonia. Many famous musicians supported the campaign with their performance and attendance, children with their songs added to the value of this event. The event was colored in light blue, the color of the international organization “Autism speaks”. And the youngest to whom this event was dedicated were the happiest. Music, dance, children’s voices. Songs, hugs and some tears of the loving, honest and naive performance of the children.
The reactions that followed the International Autism Day were positive and full of optimism, mostly by parents and relatives of autistic children, expressing gratitude that the initiative is finally raised to remind society of the disease and the challenges it brings. This reminder, this earnest initiative of Ms. Ivanova was invaluable, especially for autism diagnosed children, their parents and friends. More important was that it directed general attention to the problem that is someone’s everyday life, encouraged others to recognize it and reminded current and future parents that timely detection of the disease is necessary. For Ms. Ivanova that was even stronger incentive to relentlessly continue the activities, and soon afterwards visited the kindergarten “Liliput”, the only kindergarten where children with autism are accepted. She was acquainted closely with their daily life and habits acquired in the kindergarten, their integration, increased social and communication skills.
Ms. Ivanova continues to assist parents of autistic children and their organizations whose primary purpose is to encourage the development of autistic children, their education and improvement of their communication skills. Especially interesting initiative, whose implementation Ms. Ivanova gladly accepted is to facilitate the project for hydrotherapy of autistic children. She is patron of the Conference "Freedom in Water" that will train people who will continue to work on intensive trainings in water with people with disabilities, especially with autistic children.
In order to contribute to the improvement of the position of autistic children and enrich their daily lives, Ms. Ivanova became committed to finding positive and good practices that could be applied in our country. Each time she travels abroad, she visits kindergartens, schools, clinics devoted specifically to autistic children, trying to gather opinions, suggestions and positive examples. During the official visit to the Republic of Austria in June 2011, together with the First Lady, Mrs. Margit Fischer, she visited the only specialized kindergarten in Vienna for children with autism.
Commitment to the health of all children
Ms. Ivanova regularly visits the medical institutions for children diseases in the Republic of Macedonia. The visit to the Center for Children with Cerebral Paralysis during the New Year and Christmas holidays is one of those that leave a strong impression on Ms. Ivanova. The children greeted her with a smile, and she gave them Christmas presents and made their day perfect because she gave them her support in the fight against this disease.
When initiatives for children and their health are concerned, Ms. Ivanova is always there to support. The First Lady of Macedonia, Maja Ivanova, during the 65th UN General Assembly in New York in 2010, attended the conference on reducing maternal and infant mortality – “Women United for Health”. The main event for the wives of the presidents was the picnic organized by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, in the Stone Barns Center, a huge organic food farm.
During the visit of this Center, Michelle Obama introduced Ms. Ivanova with her initiative for healthy diet of Americans, especially children. For this purpose, Ms. Obama launched the campaign titled “Let’s move”, supported by chefs from the North American continent, who, as volunteers in schools, prepare healthy food for children. Given that the excessive body weight in children is not just American, but a global problem, the First Lady of the United States has pledged this movement to become an international campaign and to include many first ladies of the world. This initiative is accepted by Ms. Ivanova. Yet she considers that unlike in the US, children in Macedonia are fed with quality fruit and vegetables and are familiar with the true origin of the products, but bad habits are still present in the daily diet. Therefore, besides the active education of children about nutrition, the initiative should include chefs and doctors who will do health tests of children, especially their weight.
Ms. Ivanova implemented this initiative and became patron and promoter of the campaign "Healthy Food for Faultless Childhood", part of the program "Integration of environmental education in the Macedonian educational system" implemented by the citizens' association OHO in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science. Ms. Ivanova, visited several primary schools where educational activities are conducted, urging their parents to join the common efforts to create conscious generations who will become immune to the fast food dependence and thus provide safe and healthy future.
Visits to schools, especially those for children with disabilities, are often included in the agenda of Ms. Ivanova. The visit of the primary school for children with disabilities "Idnina" and the exhibition organized by the pupils titled "Swarm of Wishes" marking the jubilee of the school, is an event that evokes positive feelings of love, warmth and sincerity, a meeting to remember. At that visit, she addressed the children and wished to continue spreading positive energy and be successful in what they do:
"We must remember that children with disabilities are first and foremost. Each of us has an obligation to be humane, to help. But only with joint efforts we will all contribute and do something for these children. They say the secret of every success lies in the desire and persistence. Undoubtedly, we all have a desire, and I say, let's be persistent. To embed the piece in the mosaic that makes children's dreams come true. Let's make a step forward in achieving something that will remain forever in the remembrance of these children", Ms. Ivanova said, expressing support of their efforts for equality and the fulfillment of their "Swarm of Wishes".
During the New Year and Christmas holidays in 2010, Ms. Maja Ivanova visited the "SOS Children's Village" and the Orphanage "11 October" in Skopje and had the opportunity to attend children's performances. She intended to be part of their family, to spend the holidays with them, to express her respect and attention, and as mother she told them that they are wonderful people who successfully cope with challenges in life and that they should continue to fight. She was most pleased with the opportunity to wish the children happy holidays.
"As old people said – Wherever you go, be home for Christmas. I decided today to be part of this family and am happy because for a moment these kids can feel that they are not forgotten. Indispensable is the feel when their young souls will feel the heat and when in their eyes you will see joy and satisfaction. We are here to wish them Happy New Year and Merry Christmas, to hug them and give them hope for the New Year, hope that everyone deserves" - Ms. Ivanova said during her visit of the school.
In 2011, during the Christmas holidays, Ms. Ivanova invited in her home children from the "SOS Children's Village", to be part of her family again and to enjoy the celebration.
Songs and dances for a happy childhood
Ms. Ivanova is also a patron of many entertaining events, which manage to attract a smile and happiness on children's faces. One such event is the play "Santa and Friends" which was performed in several languages during the Christmas holidays.
... "I am really trying to support every event for children, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation, regardless of their preferences and interests, I am always here to help in meeting their needs. And as each of us has the duty and care to provide better and happier future for our children, I feel even greater obligation - to provide a better present for all children, especially those that that had bad fate and were left alone or those who God blessed with other talents, who are perceived in the eye of the public as individuals with physical or mental handicap", Ms. Ivanova said.
Besides the traditional patronage of the President of the Republic of Macedonia to the festival "The Golden Nightingale", the nightingales have full support from Ms. Ivanova too, who attended the presentation of the monograph "40 Years of the Golden Nightingale".