Bosnia and Herzegovina
Emergency Smile mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina
After a successful online mission with children from the Borici camp, our team had the opportunity to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina in September August to work in the camp and other locations. We had the privilege to partner with Save the Children and World Vision which allowed them us to reach over a thousand people including children, parents and aid workers.
The main camp where the mission took place, was actually an old factory that was adapted to be a reception centre for refugees. In comparison to other camps that we have visited in past missions, the Borici camp is well taken care of, and at the moment of the mission it was half-empty.
The reason for this is that at the beginning of the summer many families move out of the camp to live in the forests and try THE GAME: trying to cross the border with Croatia. The pushbacks are quite violent and Save the Children observed in the past that the children re-enact these experiences once back in the camp. Some played the role of the parents, some of the children and others of the police showing very well the violence they experienced.
Our team was proud to have the possibility to work with these children and bring some joy into their lives.
Visiting schools in Bihac
The first day of a new school year is always an exciting moment. Especially, if it is the first day in school ever. What a difference, if you can make this moment unforgettable with clowns joining the classes, spreading joy and showing that school is a place which offers lots of surprises.
Our team had the privilege to visit several schools and be part of this special moment for some kids, their parents and the teachers.
The Principal of the Harmani II School in Bihac shared with our team that after a time of uncertainty on how to deal with the new development of the pandemic, it was also a relief for them to see that everything went smoothly thanks to our team’s help. :
“We were nervous about this day because we did not know how it will work this year, the situation was not easy and a bit stressful for everybody; but it turned into a nice moment when you arrived. It was a big relief, thanks to you!" – Principal of the Harmani II School in Bihac.
Temporary Reception Centre of Borici
When our team arrived in the Temporary Reception Centre of Borici they could see that the kids were excited but at the same time kind of holding back and observing. This did not last long though, and very soon they jumped into the games of the clowns. Everybody was trying different props: juggling with scarves, spinning plates on sticks, moving and dancing with ribbons, playing with the parachute and passing the swinging rope.
Sometimes it was hard for them to keep their focus on one activity but it was so touching to see the joy in their eyes when they finally succeeded.
Our Circus Smile format might be targeted for children but its impact goes beyond them. The team noticed how parents and other adults living in the camp were watching the children’s play from the windows, a bit suspicious on how to react on this. But day by day they started to come down to the yard and then joining and trying themselves all the props. It was like a small community experiencing joyful moments together.
The day of the final show, the children, who had been training hard during the last days, were really excited to show all they had learnt. But, they had to wait for one boy who was attending regular school to finish his classes and be back in the camp. It was his explicit desire to be part of the show and of course the team respected it!
This gave them time to warm up, to prepare the stage and to focus on the different acts. Everyone stayed highly focused and additional features and new gimmicks were implemented to surprise the audience.
Finally, everything was prepared, everybody was ready, and so the show could begin: not only the kids, but also some of their parents, aid workers and other staff attended the show final performance which lasted for about 50 minutes. Every child who performed on the stage, was warmly welcomed and cheered by the audience and supported by the clowns.
They all showed so much courage and it was overwhelming to watch how proud everyone was.
It became a space of confidence, safety and joy where kids could be kids again and the parents could forget for a moment the worries for the future.
Working with children and unaccompanied minors in Usivak
During the mission, the team got the opportunity to be in the temporary reception centre of Usivak, close to Sarajevo, to work with children and unaccompanied minors* for an entire week.
Thanks to the support of World Vision, that runs the child-friendly space and the unaccompanied minors' zone, our team had the possibility to work with children and teenagers from 3 to 18.
Sometimes it was hard for them to keep the focus on one activity and they understood that it needs time and effort to practice, but it was amazing to see how fast they made progress – and how happy they were about their successes.
At the end of the week they shared their achievements during a small performance and showed courage in presenting small numbers in front of an audience. The clowns supported them and helped them in turning small failures into big successes.
*Unaccompanied and Separated Children are minors traveling alone. In our missions (live and online) we have had the honour to work with them several times. It makes us very proud to be able to create a safe space for them, where they can reconnect with emotions and get back some of their lost childhood
Aid workers and other care takers play an important role in Borici camp: they support families, living through difficult moments, on various levels.
It was very important for our team to support them in the best way they could, which entails having fun but particularly creating a space for them to play and relax.
During our Emergency Smile online mission we had the honour to give online Humour Workshops to different teams of Save the Children in North West Balkans and now our team was finally able to create a safe space for them live. The dedication they put in their daily work is incredible and we are proud to be able to support them.