It wasn’t until about a month after arriving in Serbia and completing a Royal Compound tour that Mikell even realized Serbia had a royal family.
After a tour of the Royal Palace and learning about a number of charitable endeavors the Royal Family of Serbia was involved in, Mikell reached out to the Crown Princess Katherine Foundation, run by Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia, to see if they needed any help. When researching the royal family, Mikell was struck by the work the Crown Princess Katherine Foundation was doing with local orphanages and domestic violence shelters and wished to somehow get involved.
Mikell herself and her family had been recipients of holiday toy drives, having grown up in an economically disadvantaged home, so the idea of helping to give back in the same way really drove Mikell to want to become involved. In addition, Mikell remembered how her own mother had struggled both during the holidays to obtain gifts as well as at back-to-school time, to provide all of the expensive school supplies her children needed to succeed in school.
Much to her surprise, Mikell received an email from the Princess herself, who asked for Mikell’s phone number. Not sure what to expect, a few days later Mikell received a phone call from Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia herself. The Princess was curious as to why an American would want to become involved in helping. Mikell let her know about her past and her work with refugees and women and children in need and wanting to use her extensive networks of pageant queens from across the globe to help collect toys and gifts for the orphans for Christmas and Easter holidays and school supplies to assist in their education.
After hundreds of hours working with her contacts and soliciting her network for personal donations, before she knew it, she had a garage full of toys and candy awaiting delivery to the Royal Palace for Easter 2021. Pageant titleholders from across four continents had donated to help the orphans in Serbia and Kosovo. Mikell, along with her children Danny and Francesca, helped to sort donations and put together small bags of candy and goodies for the Serbian Orthodox Easter holidays, in addition to toys, books and clothing.
The staff of the Crown Princess Katherine Foundation invited Mikell to personally deliver the Easter holiday gifts to the Royal Palace, where Mikell was met by TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine who greeted her warmly. She was then invited to tea with the Princess and staff of the Foundation. She discussed with them further collaboration to help collect Christmas holiday gifts.
Altogether, Mikell was able to collect over $1500 in donations for the Easter holiday in 2021 and then worked further to collect donations of toys and school supplies for the 2021 Christmas holidays, succeeding in collecting more than $10,500 in donations of toys, clothing and backpacks filled with school supplies. She was able to collect 68 backpacks in total, all filled with school supplies to help further the education of orphans and children in need.
This project continued to grow and for Easter 2022, Mikell was able to collect and deliver, along with her two children, over $5000 in toys and Easter baskets to the Royal Palace for delivery to local orphanages throughout Serbia and Kosovo by the royal family.
Most recently, Mikell and her son Daniel were given a small grant from the J. Kirby Simon Trust to continue her goal of providing new backpacks filled with school supplies to orphans in Serbia and Kosovo. She is also working to collect private donations to further the impact of the project in the hopes of providing at least 200 filled backpacks, along with toys, to be delivered for the 2022 holiday season.
If interested in assisting Mikell with her project, you may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn what you can do to help.
In addition to Mikell’s work in collecting holiday toys and school supplies to orphans and children in need in the Balkans, Mikell also volunteered her time with UN Women Serbia and the Department of Justice, to lend her legal expertise and experience in working with victims of domestic violence to help train police officers and law enforcement officials in Serbia on how to work effectively with victims of domestic violence.
Prior to her husband’s career in the Foreign Service, Mikell worked as a non-profit attorney, specializing in working with victims of crime. In her 5-year non-profit career, Mikell worked with over 6000 victims of crime, over half of which were victims of domestic violence.
Mikell worked in Hawaii at the Domestic Violence Action Center for three years and then for the National Center for Victims of Crime. In addition, she also worked with a number of crime victims during her time as a Consular Assistant at the U.S. Embassy Managua, Nicaragua, working in the American Citizen Services section.
Based on this background, Mikell was invited by ICITAP and the Department of Justice to present to Serbian Police University students and active duty police officers on how to effectively work with victims of domestic violence. She was also invited to present by UN Women to a large group of provincial policy makers on effective programming to help combat domestic violence, based on U.S models. Overall, Mikell was able to reach over 100 people with her DV expertise and assist in combating domestic violence and assisting victims in Serbia to obtain the best services possible.
Currently, Mikell is volunteering with INL at Post to help with a documentary on domestic violence that is being produced to help spread awareness for the UNWomen 16 Days Campaign, helping to combat gender based violence.
Previously, Mikell was the 2020 SOSA recipient for the EUR bureau for her work with helping to collect donations for refugees in the Balkans, a 2021 Daily Point of Light Honoree and a 2020 President’s Volunteer Service Award winner