Little Miracles, Big Moments

Some firsthand accounts on how the projects of Farmers Helping Farmers are changing the lives of those receiving our support.

Music Camp in Srebrenica

In August 2018 I took advantage of EY Social Volunteering to go with the aid organisation Bauern helfen Bauern [farmers help farmers] to spend a week in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

In 1995, Srebrenica was the scene of the largest massacre in Europe since World War II; more than 8,000 Bosnian boys and men were murdered here. The marks of the atrocities are still

clearly visible – in the countless bullet-holes in the walls of the majority of the houses, in the

endless rows of gravestones at the memorial, in the stories of the inhabitants. The population of Srebrenica is still deeply divided between the Serb and the Bosnian ethnic groups. Bauern helfen Bauern is the only aid organisation that still supports the people there, offering them hope for a better future..

In 2012, the Salzburg Bauern helfen Bauern founded the music school "Haus der guten Töne" in Srebrenica. With the ultimate aim of bringing together children and parents of both groups and of encouraging more tolerance and acceptance in their social interaction, this laid the foundation for a more inclusive future. In summer 2018, the music school invited children to a music camp.

More than 120 children from Serbia and Croatia came to Srebrenica for a week, to rehearse with the children and young people there for a combined performance held on 3 August. This was the first time children of all three ethnic groups had come together in Srebrenica.

Our task, as volunteers for the week, was to look after the children and young people, to serve them food and to help with the organisation of the concert. Although my week in Srebrenica was quite strenuous, it was a unique experience – and even, in a way, refreshing, to forget completely for once the daily routine at home, and to spend the whole time in the service of others.

Seeing and hearing about the cruel fate these people had to suffer, right in the middle of Europe, makes us grateful for the freedom and security in which we were able to grow up and now to live. Experiencing the open, unprejudiced way the children and young people interacted with one another teaches us to approach others without prejudice or distrust, and to realise the importance of co-operation. This week showed us the necessity for tolerance and collaboration in every society, and the dreadful consequences that hate and exclusion can have for specific groups of people.

For me, this was a fantastic opportunity to bring some comfort to people whom fate had treated so unkindly, and to be a small part of a great transformation.

My first visit to Srebrenica – encounters with places, people and their stories

When I was about five years old, the news on TV was showing images of war, and I said to my mother: "We've got it good. We never have war here." She immediately became serious, and thought for a minute. How to talk to a five-year-old about war? I don't know exactly what was being reported in the news that evening, nor whether I was four, five or six years old, but thinking back, I reckon it must have been about the wars in Yugoslavia. Perhaps even in Srebrenica, who knows?
I can remember the first time I actually thought about this abstract word "war" – a word you hear
in the news. Boys sometimes wanted to play war games. But what does it really mean? I think someone who has never experienced war, but only stories, reports and historical facts, can never truly know what war means. We can only surmise.

22 years later, I was to learn more about these dreadful wars in Yugoslavia and the events in Srebrenica. I am 27 years old. While I was at school, I was always interested in history, and I took history as a special subject during my last two school years, but the teaching never went beyond 1989/90. The fall of the Wall, reunification.
When I met Hasan Nuhanovic in Salzburg, shortly after a performance of the play Srebrenica, which is based on his story, as told in his book The Last Refuge, he said: "Well, those bricks fell on our heads." We'd never heard anything about that in school. For six weeks, we had been immersed daily in Hasan's story, during rehearsals for Srebrenica. During the time before the outbreak of war, Hasan tried to persuade his parents, particularly his father, to leave the country. Although we know full well how the story ends, we hope every time that that he may still manage to persuade him...
Every time, we worry with the family – when they have to leave their home and flee from place to place, from village to village, from one relative to another. Always on to where the villages are still standing. When they eventually reach the totally overcrowded town of Srebrenica, which then becomes a protected zone without actually being able to offer protection to the refugees.
Every time I look into the eyes of the actors as they tell the story of Hasan and his family, shivers run down my spine. When his mother well knows that the chetniks are about to attack, and I can feel Braco's presentiment  that he may nor survive the war. Over the six weeks of rehearsal, I learned a lot about this war, these wars, and about Srebrenica. I read a lot, saw dreadful images and heard reports of experiences from both acquaintances and strangers.
When rehearsals were over, I knew I wanted to go there. I needed to see the country, get to know the places and the people who are still living there, or who have perhaps returned. And the Drina, the mountains, and Srebrenica.
Doraja Eberle, whom I had met during rehearsals, said: "No problem – just come with us." So at the end of May 2018, I accompanied Landolf, Susi and Franz on their trip.

It was a long drive, but enjoyable and very interesting. The three told me all kinds of stories about earlier trips, and in the past 23 years there had been many of these. When we crossed the border into Bosnia, we stopped to visit Christina, a young petrol-station owner whom Landolf and Franz have known for a long time, and who used to be a waitress at a different petrol-station. She is
now a strong and successful businesswoman with a generous heart. It was lovely to watch her delight at seeing Landolf and Franz. "It's a long time since you were last here" – with a note of reproach, but with a twinkle in her eye. Of course, the days of the relief transports with several HGVs are in the past. Now they occasionally use flights, so they don't call in at Christina's every time. But when they drive, then they always do – both on the way there and on the way back.
The drive through the countryside took quite a long time; I saw the first fields, houses, villages
and mosques. Very rural at first, then we drove through Tuzla and past Zvornik, with large concrete buildings, great grey blocks of various sizes. Old. It was a bit like  travelling back in time, or as though time had stood still here...
War. What Hasan's story brought home to me is that it suddenly wrenches you out of your everyday life. From one day to the next, everything has changed. You've just been a student, a teenager, or director of a large company, living a life you've gradually built up for yourself. What
do I want to achieve? What career am I aiming at? And then, from one day to the next, all that is no longer important. It's just a question of survival. Of course, in a certain way, this means a standstill. Zvornik, Tuzla, Cepa, the Drina and Srebrenica. All places I'd heard of, and had images, stories and associations in my mind. Now I was seeing them with my own eyes.
On the way to Srebrenica, of course, we passed Potocari. At first I didn't know where to look. At this huge fenced-in compound with the factory building where such terrible things had happened, or at the other side of the road, with the vast cemetery where newly-identified victims of the genocide are still being buried every year. But I couldn't look quickly enough – we had already driven past.
On the approach to the town, empty houses, almost ruins, alternate with inhabited, renovated houses. Often only the front has been renovated, and the bullet-holes are still visible on the sides. However small the plot of land, they all have a little garden to grow food. I thought of my parents' house. My mother loves her garden, and allows it to grow more or less as it will. So in summer there are a few tomato plants, courgettes and perhaps even a pumpkin. The rhubarb spreads, as ever, and so do the redcurrants, which are tedious to pick. As a child, I used to hate that – those tiny berries, so easy to squash, and so sour that it's not worth eating as you pick. In our country, having your own garden is mostly just a hobby – but here every garden is used for basic food.
We passed a large square in the centre of the little town, with a children's playground  and a sports ground. It is unexpectedly busy – families with small children, young people, a few older people; this lively place sends a positive message. Yet I can see how in this town, where a lot of building, rebuilding and renovation has been carried out, every house, every corner, every stone has a story to tell. And I realise it is not possible to know all of these stories.

I learn a few from Amra, who takes a whole morning to show me round the Memorial Center, the factory building and the cemetery, and to tell me something of the history of her town and also her own story. She is a strong, very special woman, and I am grateful to have met her. She has made it her task, daily to confront  the dreadful story of her native land in order to hand it on to posterity.
Another special person I met is Namir, who devotes himself entirely to the people there. Driving with him through the region, you see how people wave to him from the houses and gardens. They know and appreciate him, because he is there for them. I can see him still – he's a bit like the sheriff of Srebrenica, a kind, strong, fair-minded man, sometimes strict, and with a sense of humour. People know they can trust him.
We visited some BhB projects: the market garden, the raspberry plantation and the three families who were to be given houses that week.
These families could hardly be more diverse, but they all have something in common – they are around my age, and already have children, or at least one on the way. The couples' parents are also there, and everyone is helping. It is so good to see how happy they are to be starting a new life with their children in homes of their own.
"Have you been here all your life?" I asked a young woman, who was a few years older than me and about to be handed the keys for her new house. "Yes, always here", she said, "always here in Bratunac." That means that when at the age of five I was first thinking about what war might be, and my mother couldn't think how to explain it to a child, this young woman was growing up in a country at war as long as she had known it. For her, war was not an abstract word; she knew very well what it meant.
I realise that I am ashamed of being born in Germany and having a carefree childhood. It was pure chance that I was born there and not in a different country.
So how should one treat this unexpected gift, which perhaps at first does not seem like one? This year I met Doraja. And BhB. And Landy. And Susi. And Franz. And Namir. And Amra. And Hasan. His story is so powerful, and I am so grateful for having heard it. It opened up new perspectives to me, and it has a lasting effect. I don't know what lies ahead. I don't know yet exactly where and how I should put these new impressions to good use.
But somehow I know that this wasn't my last trip to Bosnia, and I think there's a lot to be learned from BhB and the work it does, and it will somehow be carried on. There are so many places where help and support is needed. You have to start by lending a hand somewhere.

Thank you, dear Doraja. Thank you all. You are a wonderful team and really special people.
Magdalena Oettl

A journey to Srebrenica – a place that lingers in the mind

I'd been thinking a lot recently about how good we have it in the western world, but at the same time, about how many places there are where people are in urgently need of help – so I decided to do something about it. When I had the opportunity of joining a group of Hilti apprentices to build houses in Srebrenica, I  was very excited at the thought of what I would find there.

I was warmly welcomed by Bea, who is responsible for the wonderful organisation of the Hilti Foundation, and by the instructors and apprentices. I gladly think back to the interesting conversations we had in the evenings, also together with Namir, the local BhB representative, who offered me all kinds of insights.

When we arrived in Srebrenica, it was obvious that this place in Bosnia and Herzegovina has its own story to tell. Even after more than 20 years since the war ended, bullet-holes in the houses are still clearly visible; many houses, still left empty, are falling into ruin. It seems all the more important, then, to help people here to have a safe roof over their heads.

Before we started work, the group toured the Memorial Center. This visit helped us all to understand more clearly just what had taken place here. Standing in the same rooms where the despairing people stood then, and seeing the endless rows of gravestones, made us realise the nightmare those people lived through during the entire war, and worse, during the genocide.
I was particularly moved by the story of a contemporary witness who has never been able to come to terms with his flight to Tuzla, and whose greatest wish is for people to learn from their mistakes. I decided to take this message back with me and to raise awareness in my circle of friends and acquaintances, to help prevent anything like this happening anywhere, ever again.
On our arrival at the building site, we met Milos (the future house-owner) and our team of three Bosnian builders, and work got going right away. Under the direction of the experienced team, everyone – young or old, male or female – could help with whatever they were  able, whether nailing the exterior walls, or in the interior, or with roofing, sawing or insulation – anything's possible on a building site. That was a good feeling for me and the group; each of us had an important part to play and everyone put their full efforts into the work.
We enjoyed the work breaks, when we could get to know one another better and learn a little of the local culture – despite the language barrier, we told jokes, drank the occasional pivo and tasted home-made honey.
The weather was kind to us, spirits were high, and on the Thursday we had already completed the building. It was a wonderful and moving moment when on the Friday, Milos and his wife received the keys. I sincerely wish the couple that they may settle here and find peace.

A further highlight was our visit to the music school in Srebrenica. This is a powerful idea, and remarkable project for a town with this history and such a mix of ethnic groups – overcoming borders by means of making music together, showing the children that everyone is equal. We were deeply moved at a performance by a girls' choir; I have nothing but admiration for the work of the teachers there.

To sum up: it takes quite some time to assimilate the impressions gained on this journey. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina is practically in the centre of Europe, few people are still aware of what happened there. This is a great pity, both for the people there and for future developments. Therefore I think it is important for us, who enjoyed their hospitality, to make a contribution by drawing attention to the situation on our return.

My good wishes to all future visitors for an equally memorable journey that will linger long in the mind. Please give my love to the little orange cat in front of the Misirlije guest-house, for everyone in Srebrenica needs a bit of love.

Many thanks for this valuable experience.
Stephanie Gabler

House-building in Srebrenica

A project carried out by a small group, facilitated by BhB with your support – thank you!

Last year, by a happy chance, Anselm Becker and I came across a fantastic project: house-building in Srebrenica, an initiative of the Salzburg organisation "Bauern helfen Bauern". This
was to be the conclusion of six years of work with our small group; we were all keenly interested, and immediately started to organise various fund-raising campaigns. We soon realised that the existing structures – particularly in Ober St. Veit – were a great advantage. Support came,
on the one hand, from the parish of  Ober St. Veit with the Caritas committee, and on the other,
for the Lenten meal, from clubs and societies as well as private individuals.

At last, on 20 August, we were ready to start, having collected enough money and loaded up
our two 9-seater buses, which were filled to capacity. We had not counted on such immense encouragement and confidence placed in us by parents – so of course, all the greater were
our expectations and our anticipation as we set off for Srebrenica.

By evening, via Budapest and Novi Sad we reached the border between Serbia and Bosnia – a bridge over the river Drina. The atmosphere in my "men's bus" – exuberant so far – quietened down. Shortly afterwards, as we drove through Potocari and saw the Memorial Centre, the bombed and shot-out houses still in ruins, we were deeply moved. (Later, it was very important
for us to return to this incredibly tragic place for a guided tour, which revealed what is not shown
in the history books.) Soon, however, Arthur's warm welcome at our living-quarters and encouraging words from our host Namir revived our spirits. The following morning, we set off for the building site; after more than an hour's journey over hill and dale, through quarries and over dirt roads, Anselm and I were relieved when Namir told us to park the vehicles and walk the
rest of the way. We are very glad to have got through the week without tyre-changes or
serious damage; we hadn't realised until now just how much a motor vehicle can stand!

On the building site, I had never seen such incredible motivation at work, especially from the
kids. We got to know the families, chatting over coffee, then everyone was impatient to get going on the building work. Fantastic!
A schedule was drawn up, duties allotted and work assigned. The relatively uncomplicated construction and the many helping hands enabled us – almost to Namir's astonishment – to complete both houses within a week. Of course, we had time for the occasional short break –
and since there were so many of us, and the hard work caught up on the initial enthusiasm
of the younger generation, towards the end these breaks were ever more welcome.

It was important to use local resources, so we all joined forces with the future residents; this resulted in a true inter-cultural exchange. The wood came from the region; the kids wielded tools particularly for the interior work and for roofing, where Anselm and I also occasionally worked up
a sweat. Through working and taking breaks together, cultural and interpersonal exchange took place automatically – it was just wonderful! We experienced warm-heartedness, selflessness
and openness – in conversation (translated by 17-year-old Hermina, the daughter of the first family we were building for), in playing football with the two sons of the second family, and especially at the symbolic handing-over of keys, where if you only looked into someone's eyes
you could feel the warmth of their gratitude. It was an incredible week, a fantastic conclusion –
and I hope this feeling of brotherly love will be lasting; it's a good feeling – thank you so much!

House building is the best team building

a personal story by Vera Millauer

Instead of investing immense amounts of money for team building activities in various seminar hotels, house building sounds like a far better option and comes along with an additional benefit. The bus travel to Srebrenica was already an exciting experience giving us the possibility to enjoy the beautiful wild and intact countryside which many of us did not expect to see.

The visit to the Srebrenica – Potočari Memorial Center, and watching the documentary showing mothers talking about their murdered children, are experiences which I will never forget. Although many years have passed, the feeling was that time stays still in Srebrenica. As if the tanks have withdrawn only a few weeks ago. Signs of atrocities are still everywhere: destroyed houses, bullet holes on the walls, trenches…The breathtaking nature offers a bit of consolation and invites for hiking, but only until you learn that conditions in most of the fields and forests are life-threatening as mines have been removed mere from the main roads. There is no money for demining, education, anything.

Bauern helfen Bauern (Farmers help Farmers) is an initiative that gives hope to the people of Srebrenica. Without its support many inhabitants of Srebrenica would have lost their courage to move on, lacking the basic preconditions for a normal life like accommodation and food. This is not an overstatement, it is sad reality.

The Association was established in 1992 as a private and independent NGO bringing humanitarian aid including in-kind donations and various aid transports to support self-help in deprived regions of former Yugoslavia and its neighboring countries. Among many initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BhB is also building wooden houses for war returnees in Srebrenica. Since 2001 more than 400 houses were built.   

The process of house building was – due to professional help of the new house owner and three competent craftsmen – more pleasure than real work. It was phantastic to be able to build
a house in three days in which an entire family can live normally, with one floor, an oven and terrace. I should also mention that we had the privilege to build “our” house on one of the most amazing spots in the area, with a breathtaking 360 degrees panorama view during great weather conditions.

As soon as our team left, after successfully completing the house building mission, heavy rain showers hit the region and turned out to be THE flood of the century, impairing the already deeply wounded country with full force.

My conclusion from this extraordinary mission:
Helping is not just a good deed but it can really be fun. Experiencing immediate and tremendous impact and seeing the two bright faces of future house residents is priceless. After having seen our photos and hearing our stories, the rest of the ERSTE Foundation team cannot wait to travel to Srebrenica. I perfectly understand them.

Vera Millauer is not only a dedicated employee of ERSTE Foundation but is also privately supporting various social projects in Austria and the CEE region. She has personally donated
the entire amount for this particular house in Srebrenica while the rest of the ERSTE Foundation team helped building it.

A Hilti team builds 2 houses

After a long and rainy journey we arrived at the "Misirlije" inn in Srebrenica at 7:30 p.m. At about
8:00 p.m. we met Namir – a Farmers Helping Farmers member in Bosnia – and enjoyed a very nice dinner with him.

Coming into contact with history

Sunday, May 4, 2014 – after breakfast we drove to the Potočari Memorial Center. Just a few minutes
outside Srebrenica the quiet cemetery and memorial are reminders of the atrocities of 1995. "What will
this be like? What’s waiting for us there? How will we be able to deal with what we see?" Thankfully we
were accompanied by Edith, Landolf, Heinz and Namir. The hall where so many people vainly sought refuge, where mothers gave birth to children, where old and infirm died, where desperate people took their own lives and where everyone sought help. This is where the events of Srebrenica in 1995 were driven home for us. We were deeply moved and shocked. The final resting place of victims gives the survivors certainty regarding the whereabouts of their men, sons and fathers. After visiting the memorial in Potočari we quietly moved on to the two construction sites. Visiting the site should simplify getting started with the work tomorrow.

The "Potocnica" cooperative society - solidarity and woman power

The "forget-me-not" is the emblem of the society. Perhaps it also refers to the destiny of the women of Srebrenica. Women of various ethnicities have joined forces to work towards a common future. They want to provide food for travelers, visitors and workers to generate an income for society members. They are already in negotiations with a nearby factory to provide food to the factory workers. We will keep our fingers crossed and hope that this effort is a success. We are happy that we could make a contribution to
the society by providing kitchen furnishings and offered hearty thanks for the wonderful lunch and the homemade grape marmalade (Pek-Mez) that we each received.

A side trip to see horses

We arrived at the inn wet and cold. Most people wanted to warm up. So it was only the persons accompanying the Srebrenica crew that went to see the horses along with the Farmers Helping Farmers members.

Emin, a man who loves horses, and his wife, Sabrina, live with their four children in the splendor of nature at an altitude of 850 meters. The institution of the “horse man" means a welcome change for the children of Srebrenica, allowing them to get out into nature. Whenever possible he saddles up his horses for the children to ride. The saddle brought by Edith will certainly be used in the future. After visiting the animals, and again soaking wet and surprised by a snow flurry, we enjoyed the warmth of the wood oven in the family’s impressive home. We all hope that our paths will cross again one day!

Working and the return trip home

Monday morning: the rain had stopped and we could hardly believe it. So we got down to work on our construction sites. The daily schedules were always the same: breakfast at the inn; working on the construction site from about 07:45 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.; dinner at the inn or at "Biba", a wonderful smallish restaurant located directly on the Drina River. At the various construction sites we were treated to tasty food, prepared by Hajira and Hasiba, during coffee breaks and at lunch. One construction project was so close to the Drina that it made for a perfect pavilion for lunching directly on the river. To ensure that the Drina was also reachable by foot, and that we didn’t have to eat lunch while standing, Daniel and Martin quickly built the "Graf Landolf Stairs" as well as a table and benches.

Our goal was to hand over the keys to the new homeowners on Thursday evening so that we could begin
the long journey back home early Friday morning.Plans were studied, wood was sorted and scaffolding
was built; the carpenters had to be convinced to use the Hilti tools. There was much to be done.

Polako, hvala, molin, pivo, ivjeli and voda were terms that we quickly learned. But not all of them were suitable for use on the construction site. Otherwise, we made ourselves understood by using gestures and mimicry. When there was a fairly tricky question we simply had to wait for Namir’s help.

Susi and David were clearly the most talented linguists in our group. I’m not certain, but without Susi’s constant cries of "hejde, hejde", which means something akin to "go, go" (or faster, faster) I believe that
the work at construction site 2 would have been finished first! The carpenters, masters of their trade and
artists in handling the chainsaw, either showed us what to do or gave us the necessary space to find our own solutions. Truly Hilti-like. In addition to chainsaws the only things they had were a pocket rule, hammer
and nails, spirit level and a hand saw. This showed us that houses can also be built with few tools and much ingenuity, something that continues to impress us.

We completed the work according to our schedule and handed over the keys on Thursday evening. It was
a very emotional moment. The happiness at having built a home for someone remains strong and gives
all of us a sense of pride and satisfaction. The work was hard but also fun. None of us would have missed the
time we spent together in Srebrenica and we were all happy to have met new people, made new
experiences and to have laughed, cried, ate and celebrated together.

The return trip on Friday took us as far as Wörthersee, where some of the group jumped into the lake
before we went to dinner. Selina, Rebecca and the boys spent the evening in a cocktail bar while the accompanying crew took stock of the trip over a relaxing evening. After a lengthy trip that was full of experiences in what was an unknown and exciting region, we arrived back home in Vorarlberg shortly before 3:00 p.m. Saturday.
The memories, encounters and experiences we all made during the week will never be forgotten!

Looking to the future

It is over a week now since I returned from Srebrenica – but not a day passes without my
remembering this journey, all the people I met and what they had been through, and my
companions during the four days, who showed me just how simple, natural and direct help
can be. And not a day passes without my telling someone about what "Bauern helfen
Bauern" has achieved here, and continues to achieve day by day. 

Whatever I knew in theory about Srebrenica, about the war and the dreadful events of
July 1995 – all this seemed almost nothing in the face of the reality. The encounter with the
people, with their grief – but also with the incredible courage they show in trying to find their
feet again in their native land; their hope and their gratitude for every word, every gesture
of friendship and affection, for every expression of respect and admiration.

Friday, 12 April. In the school playground in Srebrenica, a memorial service for the victims of
the grenade attack of 12 April 1993 has just finished. Many schoolchildren died on that day;
they had been playing football. The families have placed flowers on the fence. The whole
scene is one of mourning. Inside the school, the children of the Superar Choir are rehear-
sing for a concert, serious and concentrated, with great enthusiasm – truly professional.
"Life goes on", says Namir – and he's right, even if for many of these people, looking back
at memories of the past is more meaningful than looking to the future. 

"Bauern helfen Bauern" helps the people in Srebrenica to venture a look into the future
once again. I am proud to have been able to contribute something, and to be part of this
fantastic initiative. My thanks for everything to Doraja, Sophie, Landolf, Susi, Namir and all
the others. This was certainly not my last trip to Srebrenica.

Christine Rhomberg
April 2013


"baptism of fire"

Not staring, but comprehending. Not shaking hands, but embracing. Tears – not of mourning, but of gratitude.
It was part of our lives as we grew up; we had a vague idea, we may have read a bit about it, but not really learned anything. The greatest genocide in the world since World War II – forgotten, dismissed in the history books as a footnote. Now we had the chance to go there ourselves, as helpers, as givers.
BhB – a trip we'd long been waiting for.
BhB – 20 years long.

It all started when we were still very small, but BhB was one of the constant factors in our lives. Constant in the sense that it was always there – no more and no less. We knew where the team travelled to and where they were helping, but just how this help worked, what risks and resources were involved, we had no idea – not in our wildest dreams. Not until we met the people in Srebrenica did the names acquire faces, the people personalities, the stories reality.

Our "baptism of fire" was like a leap – or rather, a push – into cold water. Catering for exhausted walkers in the Peace March, the mourning widows when the coffins arrived, and a huge crowd of sympathisers at the ensuing burials. Emotional days – days of grief, anger, anguish, helplessness.
But most of all, admiration: admiration for all that BhB has achieved, for the loving care and commitment that went into the team's tireless efforts to bring help – not just on one occasion, but over years and with lasting effect. Person-to-person help – as Doraja says: "Kneel when you give – stand erect when you receive." A moving experience, when we visited some of the families there. Although they did not know us at all, our BhB T-shirts earned us an immediate warm welcome. Just imagine – a white T-shirt, a small logo, radiant smiles.
It's amazing that these people can smile at all, when you think what they've been through – it's just inconceivable.
We are deeply grateful for having been allowed the opportunity to experience Srebrenica for ourselves – and to be able to tell the story to others. We now have a better understanding of the work done by BhB, and our admiration for what we once knew only at second hand has increased all the more. Many thanks –
Consti and Sili

Farewell to Sasina

Sasina, for six years we were privileged to visit your people, to accompany
them. Now we know something about their lives; we wept and laughed with
them, and made friends with them.

We learned to stop complaining loudly about things that you, Sasina, would
welcome for your people. We learned to listen, and to imagine what it must be
like to live in very different conditions from those at home. We saw and understood
how our surplus can be the fulfilment of others' small dreams. Through the
gratitude your people showed us, we became more contented within ourselves.
Many happy moments not only remained there, but also came away with us,
stored in our hearts – so we will never forget you and your people. It is hard to
say goodbye. We are not leaving for ever, though; we will return sometime to
visit you, to see how you are faring, to hear you laugh and to talk about old
times over a glass of kava.

We hope that your people will multiply, and that more life will return to you.
We are so grateful to have known you!

Farewell Sasina

A special sense of community

Dear Doraja Eberle,

From Saturday 28 to Tuesday 31 January, I was able to experience the really
special sense of community in the BhB team. Lela and Sakib from our team were
also very impressed.

After the very opaque methods of the society we formerly supported, it is refre-
shing to meet projects that really bring help directly to the people I wanted to
draw attention to. Namir is exactly the right person for the organisation to have
on the spot; he is highly sensitive to the many individual situations and has a
pragmatic approach to seeking the immediate solution.
There were also three kind people who showed clearly their support for the aims
of the organisation  and are always prepared to give of their best.
I would like to thank Landolf, Emo, Hans and Namir for their attentiveness and
their generosity towards the people who feel they are forgotten by the rest of
the world. Over recent days I have often thought of all those whom we visited.
Even more cold and snow!
I will not go into more detail about the various stops we made over that weekend,
since no-one knows these better than you do. For me, it was very important to
return to Srebrenica and to know that our society, "Run for their lives e.V.",
supports the right organisation and genuine projects. In future, I will keep you
informed in detail about all our activities. I have already issued an invitation in
Srebrenica for 26 August, because "Havixbeck geht frühstücken" (see the DVD
in the book) will be shown again on that day, and we are hoping for many
donations. A racing event and a charity race will also be held. I would be delighted
to welcome someone from BhB to contribute information.

The Miracle of Srebrenica

Around 350 Serbian and Bosnian kids of all confessional backgrounds, both healthy and with special needs, were invited to explore and evoke a magical world of circus artistes, clowns and wonder. The FHF project “Zircus of Peace” gave these deprived children an opportunity to be an acrobat, clown or carny for five days. 

During the final show there were heartrending scenes of laughter and tears of joy. The charivari
of 150 kids that so rarely enjoy the sunny side of life was unforgettable for us all - just like the
multi-ethnic pyramid that the Bosnian president and mayors of Bratunac and Srebrenica formed
in the midst of children of all backgrounds.

We cannot undo the past, but maybe we can contribute a little bit to a peaceful future in one of
the most deprived areas in Europe. I am convinced we have brought a couple of blissful hours to these children, their parents and communities.

Valentin Inzko

Courage in the Face of Odds.

Donja and Gornja Velesnia /Croatia. These villages are inhabited by Bosnian/Croatian refugees. Although the cottages seem okay from the outside, the poverty of the people is devastating. The everyday struggle for food, electricity and furniture as well as the raging unemployment leaves many hopeless.

Our companion and new “mayor” of this settlement gives us hope, though. He tries to help everybody no matter which background or confession. He himself was interned in a Serbian concentration camp during the war. The villagers are especially in need of groceries but as well livestock to ensure their long-term survival.

Ferdinand Oetker, Isabell Leibenfrost, Ernst Grössinger and Maria Ötzlinger.

Deliver Joy - Experience Joy.

Petrinja/Kroatien. Glorious summer sunshine accompanied our visit to “our” families. They were overjoyed about all the clothes, shoes, school books and tools that we brought in addition to the food boxes. And we were overjoyed for them. Those families whom we provided with seeds had by then tended beautiful vegetable gardens.

We as well visited twenty new families and handed over our aid parcels, listened to their stories and worries. Soon we are going to return to help, with a focus on encouraging self-help. We will
be able to finance professional education for two teenagers which often means a future and new hope for the whole family. We are so grateful for this weekend and will definitely keep our
promise to further ease the pain and suffering of these families.

Andrea and Uwe Bethge, Adolf Ribbentrop and Sophie Brandis.

Get to know more of our projects.