Dear friends, it took a while but we've finally raised enough money to go back to Bosnia. Not only that, but for the first time ever our charity has paid off the debts it ran up funding the work we've already done. So from now on we hope to raise the money first. This trip was about honouring the promises we made to people in June. Bill Burras (who's supported us from the start) joined me on this trip to see for himself the work we've been doing and although money was as tight as ever, we did come through for everybody.
After landing in Sarajevo at 12.20 p.m. our first port of call was to Alisa, who runs the Concentration Camp Victims Network. Alisa had asked us in June to make up food parcels and hygiene packs for 50 of their members most in need. We met up with Alisa at her office in Sarajevo, and after a coffee set out to buy all the necessary items to make up these packs. £535 later we'd made up 52 packs and as we left, Alisa was busy contacting her members asking them to collect. The following day a queue built up outside her office and Alisa started to call out names. For the next two hours I watched as these people came in and out of the office collecting the packages: some of them were old, some of them young, but all had one thing in common - they were all innocent victims of a war they didn't want.
For these people concentration camps, where rape and torture took place daily, was a reality. They'd survived but at a terrible cost. Years on they still don't have what we'd call a life. Most still have to go to the public kitchen every day for their only meal. As I looked at the faces come and go, each of them saying 'hvala' (thank you) as they left, I felt that although we had done something, it was not enough. CCV is a registered organisation in Bosnia and Alisa is genuine in her cause. I trust her 100%. She speaks very good English so if anybody wants to help her directly, give her a call. Her office number is: 00387 33232925.
Day three worked out perfectly. We got an appointment at Otto Bock for Hasib (the landmine victim we met in June). Work on his new prosthesis had already been started in October so he was ready for a final fitting. We met up with him, and after a couple of hours fine tuning on his prosthesis he was dancing around on his new leg with a smile from ear to ear! So this completed our work with Hasib. We'd already paid for a new roof for him in July at a cost of £450 and this, together with the £975 bill from Otto Bock, was money well spent.
After settling up the bill, the director of the company asked me if we'd be interested in helping people they have on a list. I said we would be if the costs could be kept to an absolute minimum. We talked for a while and agreed to come back on the 28th for a meeting with Nusret Pleho who runs the
Landmine Survivors Network Survivor Corps in Tuzla. This completed our objectives in Sarajevo for now, and it was time to head North to catch up with our friends in the Tuzla canton.
Our next project took us to Gračanica to check on the work at the coffee bar we have been helping Agan Serbeoic set up. Jobs are the best way to help people in Bosnia. Not everybody is poor and coffee bars do good business all year round. As we arrived we were glad to see the bar looked superb and there were a few customers in it. We walked in and ordered a few drinks and while Agan insisted they were on the house we made him charge us anyway! It was a good end to the five months it's taken to get going.
During our stay we called to see how the building work for Ramiz Ahmedbasic in Dzakola had been going. We had supplied him with building materials in June and when we arrived I hardly recognised the place…he'd recruited his friends to help him do the work and his house had been transformed. If proof were needed, here it was. Everybody we meet in Bosnia wants to work themselves out of their problems, they just need a chance and a little help.
We called to see how Mustafa was getting on in the small home we built last year but due to lack of funding he still doesn't have running water or a legitimate power supply as yet, so we spent some time pricing this up. It works out at around £350 for both and although we haven't got the money I told him to get the ball rolling and we'll send the cash in the next few weeks. We've had to pay for him to see a doctor but Mustafa, like many others in Bosnia, doesn't have a blue book so cannot get treatment. He says he has a heart problem so we feel it's important to have him checked out. The medical report will be sent to us and then we can decide what to do when we have all the information.
During our visits to Bosnia we always find new friends and new problems. We visited Migan Cobic, a married father of two living in Puračić. He asked us if we can get clothes for his daughters (three and eleven years of age). These can be found easily in the UK and it won't cost a lot to get them shipped over. It's not always big projects and large funding that are needed. If a child has little clothing, to that family it's a big problem but to us it's nothing. We just need some support from the public to keep going.
Before we left for our meeting in Sarajevo we had time for one last thing that, for me, put the icing on the whole visit: Aljo Bicakcic is a six year old boy who lost his father this year in a building accident. This little lad has lost the most important person in his life. His father, Mirsad, was a good husband and dad, and in the words of his wife he was the very best. Without him money has become tight and the whole family has suffered, so we've decided to sponsor this family for 12 months. This'll help them a lot but it wasn't this that made me happy. With Bill's help we went out and bought Aljo a brand new mountain bike. We took it to him the night before we left and the look of sheer joy and excitement on this lad's face was priceless. Some may say this was a luxury we didn't need to buy but Aljo`s smile could melt anybody.
The meeting in Sarajevo at Otto Bock turned out fruitful and we'll be getting financial help from both the Bosnian authorities and from Otto Bock. We intend running constant appeals for the most in need and there'll be four people at any given time. Otto Bock will email their photos and information to us (with a price for treatment) and as we raise the money to help these people one at a time we can transfer it directly into Otto Bock's account. As soon as one treatment has been completed, they will send us details of another patient who needs our help (and the chain of four will continue ad infinitum). Some treatments are as little as £100 so this project is something everybody could help with.
Before I close this letter I'd like to thank everyone for their support. EETEP can't work without your help and I'd like to give a special thanks to Bill Burras for all his help and support in Bosnia. Bill is our biggest supporter and without him we'd have a lot less to report. Thanks, Bill. Also I'd like to thank Matt Nicholas who has spent weeks building and promoting our new web site: www.eetep.org.uk. He's made a great job of it and we feel we're now on the road to making EETEP a very successful charity. Thank you for reading. Have a great Christmas and New Year!