|Builders for Peace ||
Images from Bosnia
Builders For Peace
We are an association of like-minded individuals who want to show by concrete action their love for the Bosnian people. Each year since 2002, volunteers spend one month in Bosnia-Hercegovina to share a sense of common humanity and cultural awareness.
The following is a brief sketch of Builders for Peace activities in Bosnia over the past eight years:
We spent our first summer (2002) helping in the construction of a new building for children with special needs in Gračanica, northeast Bosnia. In 2003 we shifted to teaching conversational English to high school and grammar school kids. Over the past seven years we have conducted a free, month-long summer school, with three levels of conversational English mornings, and an optional seminar on American Studies, plus a Workshop on Youth Issues in the afternoons. Any American college student is eligible to teach one of our conversation classes. The Gračanica school was headed by a former volunteer, Lis Garassino, in 2004.
Approximately seventy students graduate from our Gračanica school each year. We have instituted an ongoing system of mentoring between our American college volunteers and their former Bosnian students.
In addition to teaching summer school, a few volunteers have worked afternoons at the “Osmijeh” (Smile) Center for Children. They have worked with ordinary children, as well as with children with special needs. In the past few years we shifted from Osmijeh to the “Children’s Village”, a vibrant orphanage on the edge of Gračanica where in the afternoons we teach children sports.
We sent a second team, to Mostar, Hercegovina in 2003, where they worked under the leadership of Martha Ondras of MIT from 2003 to 2005 and Judith Kubran of CUNY in 2005. In Mostar, our volunteers collaborated with a mixed group of local college students (Moslem and Catholic) which we organized. They worked on the restoration of the sixteenth-century Karađoz-beg mosque. They also helped prepare the reopening of Mostar’s reconstructed Old Bridge (Stari Most) on 23 July 2004.
In the summer of 2005, our Mostar group created the data base for a Student Needs Information Center for the two universities in Mostar: the Croatian “Sveučilište u Mostaru” and the largely Bosniak “Džemal Bijedić University.” Although we could not coax the Croatian university administration to cooperate officially on this project, we were able to make the end product available to students on both sides of the Neretva.
In 2006, our second team shifted their focus from Mostar to Fojnica, a small town in the mountains thirty five miles west of Sarajevo. We taught Conversational English to high school and grammar school students under the leadership of a local English teacher, Anita Kalamut. Other volunteers worked with library students from the University of Sarajevo, cleaning and classifying some 3500 books in the library of the ancient Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Spirit. We continued this work—together with a local team—in the summer of 2007 and 2008. Together we managed to clean and shelve thousands of books which had been stacked on the floor since the war (1992–5). Last summer we continued this work. In the future we hope to create an up-to-date description of the contents of this centuries-old library, so that the scholarly world will come to know of its riches, which include 13 incunabula (books printed before the year 1500).
In Gračanica , Mostar, and Fojnica our volunteers have continued to show their concern for Bosnia and its people. Our mentorships with local young people are bearing fruit. In the fall of 2007, we brought a Gračanica high school student, Mirela Turkić, to Hingham, MA, for her junior year, under the aegis of Deanne Moore and Sonia Lowman. Our work in Mostar has nourished cooperation between local Catholic and Moslem students who have formed their own organization (“Builders Of Peace”—Graditelji Mira). We plan to continue fostering such relationships. In our summer school in Fojnica, Catholic and Moslem grade-schoolers have studied together for the first time. Their happiness is evident from their classroom enthusiasm.
Because we keep our costs to a minimum, total costs for volunteering should not exceed between $2,000 and $2,500 for the entire five weeks. There is no administrative overhead.
Each year, we also spend some time in Sarajevo to meet with Bosnian friends and hear relevant presentations, thanks to our friendship with the folks at the Bošnjački Institut Fondacija Adila Zulfikarpašića.
Bošnjački Institut in downtown Sarajevo
Volunteers in Sarajevo, 2005
Never again - A view overlooking Sarajevo with some of the city's graveyards\
We have recently launched an INDIEGOGO campaign.