Our legacy in Bosnia
As we prepare to hand over operations in Bosnia, long-time colleague and Head of Supporter Experience Joe Sutton reflects on our achievements in the place which gave birth to Hope and Homes for Children.
I was privileged enough to visit Bosnia in 2017; a country whose history of war and suffering is at complete odds with its natural beauty and the warmth and humour of its people. I shared a car journey with Adnan, one of our brilliant social work team members. With Metallica roaring out of the speakers, he explained to me the complex political system of Bosnia as I gazed at the beauty of the countryside—thick, forested hills, with the the minaret of a mosque rising above the trees at every village.
Bosnia’s complex political system makes it an incredibly difficult place to work. The post-war settlement, which maintains an uneasy peace, splits the country into two governing authorities across national, cantonal and municipal levels. It is largely the extreme sluggishness of this political system that has led us to the difficult conclusion that it is time for Hope and Homes for Children to complete our projects in Bosnia, and to exit the country at the end of this year in order to redirect our resources where we can have most effect.
It is therefore a testament to the tenacious and brilliant team there, led by Anisija Radenkovic, that we have achieved so much over the years despite the challenges. These include conducting the country’s first orphanage closure in Zenica in 2007; supporting 1,755 families and their children to stay together; transitioning 351 children out of orphanages and into loving families. We will also leave a legacy of care reform, with over 3,000 professionals trained and the evidence and documentation that child protection reform can happen and be effective when the political will allows.
Bosnia’s greatest legacy in our story is, of course, the devastation of the Bjelave orphanage that galvanised Mark and Caroline Cook into creating Hope and Homes for Children in 1994. Our most important legacy lives on in those children, many of whom are now adults with their own families, who got their childhoods back.