Dear friends, we've just returned from another visit to Bosnia. We didn't do as much work as we would've liked but this was down to lack of funding and increased prices in Bosnia. However, we've done our best with the limited funds available to us.
We had information from a Bosnian organisation called Merhamet who were appealing for organisations to help two families. Our first call was to visit Salko Music, a widower and father of three living in Grabovica. On first impression his house just looked like a shell; the roof was made up of old bits of wood and tin and I didn't need to go inside to check if it leaked…it was obvious. The house had three rooms but only one of them was habitable, and as we talked Salko explained how he had lost his wife Slata to cancer seven weeks ago and how difficult it was going to be to look after his three children alone.
To raise his house to a standard fit to live in, well it wasn't going to be a small job. Luckily Salko has a relative who is a builder and he told me that if we were to supply the materials he'd get the work done for nothing. We measured up for a new roof and plasterboard ceilings in each room and left for the builders merchants. We ordered and arranged delivery of everything Salko would need for his house. The total price was £1,535. This took a big chunk of our budget and we were only in day two!
The following day we left for Sarajevo and we had 500 m of fabric to deliver to Alisa at the Concentration Camp Victims association. The association runs a sewing school for rape victims, next door to the office, and members use the facilities to make items they can sell on the markets. We were, as always, well received and although we wanted to do the food and hygiene packs like we have in the past, lack of funding prevented us.
Our next project took us to the outskirts of Sarajevo. Karen Tinker and Sarah Greenwood (Phoenix Aid, Wakefield) had told us of a hospital for people with severe mental and physical disabilities: The Zovik hospital. This is a state-run institution but was in desperate need of repair. Phoenix had given us boxes of general aid to deliver, so after we had unloaded we were given a tour of the place. The general condition of the building was not great but the majority of work needed appeared to be cosmetic. The main problem were the bathrooms; their leaking soil and water pipes had caused dampness in the walls and this posed an increased risk of infection to both staff and residents.
The staff at the hospital were great and the level of care they supplied, despite being greatly understaffed, was exceptional. They explained what needed to be done and asked if we could get a builder to do the work. I told them we'd bring our own builder the following week to price the job up. That Friday Bill Burras (of Leeds) landed at Sarajevo airport (Bill has made many trips to the Balkans over the last ten years and at 81 years old he doesn't show much signs of stopping). After meeting up with Bill we headed back to Tuzla to talk with our builder Mujo and to check on the delivery of Salko's building supplies.
We visited Ajisa and Merima in Doboj to see how they were doing. We continue to sponsor them £53 per month but I can't see how she'll ever be completely independent from us. We put seven months sponsor money in the bank so at least she's fixed up for this year. For Ajisa, life remains the same drag each day; she has little hope that things will improve in the future and, like many other men and women in the region, the Bosnian war has left her with deep psychological scars. I worry for her but understand that we can't do anything else to help. Buildings can be fixed, and that's one of the things we do, but personally I would not know where to start treating Ajisa as her problems start at grass-roots level. I sometimes sit at home in England thinking of her. I know what her day has been and I know what her tomorrow will be, I just wish we could do more to help.
The following day we went to a meeting with Adil Pezerovic (Merhamet charity director). He took us to meet the other family on his books and when we arrived we found a house that was completely falling down. Adil said he'd received pledges of various building supplies and hoped we'd be able to supply the shortfall. I explained that we would try to raise some money for this family so Merhamet and EETEP together could build a new home. This family was featured on Tuzla TV and I have the report on DVD - if anybody would like to see it feel free to contact me.
After some rest we went back to Zovik, Sarajevo with our builder. After some pricing up we realised we could only afford to do one bathroom and toilet. The cost of building materials in Bosnia has skyrocketed this year due to VAT being added to almost everything. We left our builder £1,105 and he started the job soon after we'd left. Sarah (Phoenix Aid) visited last week and brought us pictures of the finished work. We took £2,800 to Bosnia and we'd hoped to make a grant to a boxing club. We also hoped to pay the €500 Otto Bock needed to treat our latest patient, however I'm no longer willing to use my credit card to fund these projects; I only took those risks in the early days. As a registered charity EETEP has been running for over a year now and it's been very difficult to set up, even more difficult to fund. We feel it's time the public really got behind us with some regular funding. £5 per month would give us something solid to work with (for example).
We aim to help as many people as possible but without your support we'll fail to help anybody. I've been away from my family for over two weeks now with very little contact, however my reason for this is that I know what we do is important and my family are willing to make the sacrifice. In this instance, I feel that we didn't do enough and I've returned home with a feeling of disappointment. eBay sales have slumped, donations are few and far between and I actually worked for four weeks in exchange for a donation to the charity of £1000. Without this, we wouldn't have gone. 90% of my week is taken up with this charity. I can't do any more. We need your help.