Vol. 11, No. 1, December,
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Friends of Bosnia Builds
Homes for Srebrenica Survivors
For the past two years, Connecticut Friends of Bosnia (CFOB), lead by Carol Schaefer from Greenwich, Conn., has partnered with CBD to help implement their projects in Bosnia. Most of their work involves rebuilding homes for families who were driven from their communities in the waves of ethnic cleansing that swept the country. They have an intrepid staff in Sarajevo that coordinates and supervises the home
rebuilding, while Carol makes frequent visits to the region to identify families most in need.
|Fourteen year old Ahmo Habibovic, enthusiastically
lends a hand on construction of new house for his six
family members, driven from Srebrenica and re-united after
their father was released from five months of torture
in a concentration camp.
During this past year Connecticut Friends of
Bosnia (CFOB) has focused much of its funding and efforts
toward providing homes for refugees from Srebrenica. Srebrenica
is still under the influence of nationalist Serbs and despite
world attention on the tenth anniversary of the July 11th
massacre, there is ongoing hostility and strong opposition
to their return. In addition, the memories of the slaughter
of 8,000 innocent men and boys still haunt them.
A number of refugee families from Srebrenica
have resettled in Ilijas, a small village north of Sarajevo.
A group of CFOB members visited that village in the summer
of 2005 and found the most appalling living conditions they
had encountered anywhere in their many years of working in
Bosnia. Several families with small children were living in
cow sheds without water and plumbing. There were large holes
in walls which allowed the wind to come though. The only toilets
available were primitive outhouses. In the winter, the children
and elderly often had to walk through deep snow to use the
|Nedzada Omerovic, mother of four and
wife of a Srebrenica concentration camp survivor, in front
of this shack which houses her elderly mother-in-law and
older daughter –with no running water, bathroom
Because of generous donor support, CFOB has
been able to help the neediest families, sixteen in all, with
construction of new homes. During our fall visit, more than
half of the homes had been completed, with the other half
scheduled for completion before the onset of winter.
During a brief cold snap at the end of September,
we became aware of the acute clothing needs of most of these
children and initiated a children’s winter clothing
project. (Many were shoeless when we visited the families,
even as the fall weather was turning cold.) With funds from
several Greenwich churches, and a private donor, CFOB staff
in Sarajevo took the children of most of these families to
the open market in Ilijas to buy each child a winter jacket,
a pair of warm pants, a sweater and or sturdy winter shoes
We have also started a book exchange program
among the children who are studying English. All expressed
an avid interest in “recreational” reading to
supplement their English studies.
Looking to the future, we hope to help these
sixteen new Ilijas families gain an economically sustainable
future. As we did with two other Srebrenica families in Ilijas,
we will, where the land is suitable, offer to build greenhouses,
or provide them with livestock. A number of these families
have experience raising livestock and have large enough fields
to support grazing.
The incredible fortitude and amazing sense of
optimism of these families — despite their seemingly
endless hardships – is truly striking. They manage to
cling to the hope that the future will be better for them.
We share that dream and are hoping to be able to construct
more new homes with running water, indoor plumbing and heat
for the many others who are still waiting.