Who We Are
  Medical Aid for      Kosovo
  Cultural     Reconstruction
    in Kosovo
  Bosnia Documentary
  Sarajevo '92
  Kosovo History
  Bosnia History
  Action alerts  
  Press releases
  E-mail notices

  On-line books
  FOB Briefs
Search Us
Join Us!

  Reconstruction       Projects
  FOB Newsletter

Center for Balkan Development
Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]

CBD Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 1, December, 2005
<back to table of contents>

Connecticut Friends of Bosnia Builds
Homes for Srebrenica Survivors
By Carol Schaefer

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 toilets.

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 or kitchen.  

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 or boots.

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.