Thank You - Fundraising Party 2018

Dear friends.

Huge thank you to all of you who joined us at our traditional annual fundraising at the Gunnersbury pub. We are delighted that this party now in its (9th) year keeps live the energy that connected us for the first time in 2009.

We would like to thank our musicians Sanja Govorčin, Lis Murphy, Slaven Janjić, Niko Orosnjak and Stefan Melovski, all our volunteers who worked hard to prepare the food and our Trustee Freya who promoted two great initiatives launched by former students and teachers of the Mostar Summer Youth Programme: A Love Letter to Mostar and Balkan Bred.

We thank all 128 of you for your support and generosity, which helped us raise £3,100 on the night. More donations have been promised over the coming weeks.

We also thank our loyal sponsors Letter Box and Magaza shop, whose donations make a difference every year and help running many of our projects.

We wish you all a very happy festive season and look forward to seeing you at our spring / summer events.

Best wishes for the New Year!

Our Kids

Charity Foundation Trustees

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A Mother's Story

Following on from last week's story by Rasna, this article was written by Simi, Rasna's mother, and tells of her experiences visiting the children cared for by Our Kids Foundation ("Nasa Djeca" in local language) in and around Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Two years ago I remember sitting in the presentation given by my daughter's school teacher about their forthcoming trip to an orphanage in Bosnia. I was reduced to tears when we were shown a video of a previous trip, so moved was I by the plight of these children. Little did I imagine that two years later mother and daughter would be visiting the very same orphanage.

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As a solicitor specialising in child protection for over 25 years, I have first hand experience of the distressing background of these children's lives, and the lifelong experiences for them as a result of poor, neglectful or at its worst, abusive parenting. Whether, as they approach adolescence and their adult years,  it becomes a vicious cycle of alcohol or drug misuse, sexual abuse, or violence in their relationships.

I was overawed by the dedication, professionalism and commitment of a handful of staff who go, and indeed have been going, that extra mile for these children and young adults, with very little financial rewards. As one professional commented as she scoured YouTube late into the night to find ideas for working with the children, whether it be for therapeutic or creative purposes, " for me this is not a job, it's a way of life."

No one afternoon at the orphanage was the same, the children were always being stimulated, challenged and entertained, largely by one member of staff who may have up to 15 children that afternoon, including some with special needs, who require greater support. It was an incredible experience to witness. Despite a language barrier, we had a great time playing with the children, and spotting a future Ronaldo! 

However it was the afternoon when therapeutic work was being done with the children that was by far the most distressing to witness, especially as a mother. The children were asked to lie down, relax and dream, about anything, whether it be their parents, experiences, other loved ones, etc. Thereafter they were asked to draw their dream. Apart from two children, all of the children drew pictures of unhappy people and distressing situations. See for yourself - as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. This activity was invaluable as it enabled the therapist to know more about the children's experiences and how to assist them in their recovery.

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From the age of 18 there is no support from the government for the children. Two homes have been set up for the girls and boys, to engage them into society and teach them to become independent. The house for the boys boasted a garden the boys where they are being taught to tend to a garden, and we sampled delicious cherry cordial and jam that they had prepared. We met two of the boys, one of whom is training to be a mechanic, the other a chef. 

The girls' house was equally impressive - from their skills at keeping it immaculate and witnessing them running a second hand clothes shop, create artefacts to sell, etc thus teaching them invaluable life skills.

Two years ago when my daughter went to the orphanage she was absolutely besotted with a three year old boy who she spent the best part of the fortnight with. His photos were her screensaver on her phone, computer, and she had photos of him dotted in her room. We found out that he had been adopted, and made a 14 hour journey to meet him with his adoptive parents. It was totally worth it - he has since blossomed and is blessed to have such wonderful parents. As a mother l can now close that chapter in the knowledge that he is so very happy in his new home, and thus end a mother's story.
 

 

 

Rasna's Story - Visiting Our Kids Projects in Mostar

The following article was written by Rasna. She first visited Our Kids Foundation's projects in Mostar on a school trip a few years ago. Recently she returned with her mother Simi. Rasna was kind enough to write this article for us, describing her experience.

‘Nobody stays in Mostar for 7 days’. ‘Why are you here for so long?’ asked the receptionist at our hotel. I pointed to my Nasa Djeca t-shirt and told him about the cause that is so close to my heart and also added, much to his surprise, that this was my third trip to Mostar.

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So what draws me to this beautiful place? To put it plainly, the people. They are so warm, welcoming and always full of life. The children in particular are special, each one possessing their own unique personalities. I always end up having a favourite, which I know isn’t necessarily right, but I just can’t help being drawn to some of them! Each day was different, as we completed a variety of activities, which were all superbly organised by the wonderful Belma and I soon realised after spending a few hours with them, that each afternoon was never long enough. My favourite activity was when were divided into two groups competing against one another, to see who could get the most points. The most heart warming part about this was hearing the children screech with laughter each time someone in the team was successful, quite simply it was the sound of pure, unrestrained joy.

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I was also lucky enough to meet the lovely women at the girls’ house, who I spent most of my mornings with. We were thoroughly spoilt and so well looked after. They treated us to coffee and delicious, traditional Bosnian sweets. The language barrier was also never an issue, due to the fact that we had our own personal translator, the lovely Amir, who also took such good care of us, always taking care to ensure that we had a taxi back to our hotel.


In addition, we visited the halfway house, a project which I saw when I came, with my school, two years ago. From its foundations, it has progressed into an amazing home for young men, where they are taught basic life skills that will aid them for their future. As before, we were treated so well, with the boys offering us tea, coffee and despite the fact that we said no, even some of their delicious homemade cherry juice. We were utterly overwhelmed by their kindness and I hope to spend more time with them next year.

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To say I was sad when we left is an understatement. It always takes me a few days to adjust back to life at home, but I can confidently say that Mostar is a very special place for me and I will definitely be back next year. In the words of Aida, Nasa Djeca’s project manager, ‘Rasna is Mostar’. 

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Fundraising Night with Marko Govorcin

Our Kids Foundation is delighted to announce a fundraising concert with Marko Govorcin, Sanja Govorcin and Slaven Janic. Saturday December 9th, 2017.

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Marko will bring with him two new CDs which have been produced in a very successful Balkan studio in Munich owned by Brano Likic.

The concert is to take place at the stunning St Peter’s Church in Notting Hill, W11 2PN.

Please join us at 18:30 on Saturday 9th December 2017 to enjoy traditional music from the Balkans and support Our Kids mission of improving the lives of disadvantaged children and young adults in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Minimum donation to attend the concert is £20/person and it can be made on our Just Giving page. Please clearly state the names on whose behalf the donation is being made.

Funds raised by the concert will be used in supporting the long term and ongoing projects of Our Kids Foundation. We work mainly with children in social care and young adults who have to leave state care once over 18. Many of them have special needs but receive little or no support from local authorities.

Click here to buy tickets for the concert (£20 per person minimum donation)

Doors open 6:30pm. Concert starts 7.30pm.

Fundraising Concert with Amira Medunjanin

Dear friends, a big thank you to all of you who joined us at our fundraising concert with Amira on the 10th of June.  We would also like to say thank you to so many of you who donated online but could not make it on the night.  It was a lovely gathering of friends in support of a great cause.  

We are so proud to have these amazing musicians and great humanitarians Amira Medunjanin, Ante Gelo and Zvonimir Sestak supporting our work and raising the profile of Our Kids.

We raised £7226.60 which will go directly to support our existing projects in Mostar.

We are so inspired by your generosity, willingness to help and ongoing support. Special thanks to all the volunteers who helped us run the concert smoothly. Thank you to Magaza Balkan Food shop for your generous donations.

Please do stay in touch and we will keep you up to date with the progress we are making this year.

If you missed the concert and still wish to donate, you can do so here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/ourkids/amira

Laptop Donation from HERO World Support

Laptop donation for the after school club at the children's home in Mostar...

Earlier this year we were contacted by Alex and Brian from HERO (Humanitarians for Education and Recreation Outreach). They asked if they could make a donation to support our work and agreed to donate laptops for use by the children at the after school club at Egipatsko Selo children's home.

We met them in October and as promised, they purchased 6 brand new laptops. They also visited the orphanage to see the after school club in action.

Computing resources like this are vital for the children's education and homework, and preparing them for employment when they leave at the age of 18. The home doesn't have equipment like this so the kids get little opportunity to use modern technology. This will be an amazing boost for them. Of course, they can use the equipment for fun stuff too - and they're already enjoying watching movies and listening to music.

Thanks Alex, Brian and everyone who supports HERO. To find out more about their project, click here: http://www.heroworldsupport.org/projects/

And for more photos and a write-up about how the kids are using the new laptops, check out this blog post from our volunteer Asia: borderlessasia.wordpress.com

Halfway House Open Day

Our Kids Foundation's new Halfway House began operations earlier this year and recently ran an open day event to help raise awareness and show the local community what we do.

The house is located in Vrapcici, just outside Mostar, and provides temporary accommodation and support for young adults leaving the state care system.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, when children reach the age of 18 they must leave state care, but often they have no family or other support network. They struggle to make the transition to independent living, and problems experienced during this critical period can have a long lasting impact on their lives.

A little support during this vulnerable time can make a huge difference. Young adults at the Halfway House are provided with a safe place to live as well as help with finding and keeping a job or enrolment in further education. When they are ready to move on, we help them to find their own accommodation and establish an independent life with a firm foundation.

The project began operations in May this year and we now have 7 young people in the program. In December the house ran an open day for the local community, to give people a chance to learn about the project's goals and how we work The event was well attended by neighbours, media and local politicians as well as our existing supporters and volunteers.

Well done to the team and residents!

Fire, Theft and Flood at the Children's Home, Mostar.

Three heartbreaking stories from the orphanage in Mostar - but thanks to our wonderful project teams, volunteers and supporters, all challenges can be overcome.

Child welfare in Bosnia and Herzegovina is severely under funded, making it difficult to maintain good living standards for the children even at the best of times.

When disaster strikes, the system is often unable to respond. When it strikes three times in quick succession, it can lead to a desperate situation, and this is exactly what was experienced this year by the children living in the Egipatsko Selo children's home, Mostar.

The first disaster struck a few months ago with a major fire in one of the dormitories. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but it destroyed one of the living areas. The government had no funds to repair the building and its future was uncertain.

The second problem was the badly maintained roof in the area of the orphanage where our Naša Djeca project team run all the children's workshops and the after school club. During even light summer rains it was letting in water so the club, which means so much to the kids, was regularly cancelled. We were extremely worried about how the building would fare during the heavier rains of winter.

The third issue was, unbelievably, a break-in and theft at the club house. Stealing from orphans is outrageous and such a saddening thing to experience. The thieves broke through the entrance, wrecked most of the rooms and made off with a TV, some bicycles and all the radiators - presumably for the scrap metal value.

In spite of all these setbacks, the amazingly dedicated team in Mostar refused to lose heart and set about raising the funds necessary to fix everything. Our supporters in the UK ran a special appeal, as did our partner organisations. The team in Mostar did a fantastic job rounding up local support too.

Thanks to the hard work and generosity of all involved, our employees, volunteers and donors, we are delighted to report that repairs are progressing really well. We'll keep you posted.

New Windows in the Fire Damaged Dormitory

New Roof and Security for the Club House

"Thank you"

Dance and Culture Concert in Mostar

For the fourth year in a row, the children, employees and volunteers of our Naša Djeca project in Mostar participated in a benefit concert of dance, music and culture. The event was organised jointly with other organisations in Mostar and around Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The event raised over KM2500 (£1000) for the project but more importantly it is a wonderful opportunity for the children to express themselves and raise awareness within the community, presenting the work of Naša Djeca and other youth groups in a very positive way.

Students from Heathland School Visit Mostar

This week at our Naša Djeca and Kuća na Pola Puta projects was full of laughter, fun trips and a lot of love.

The weather was perfect this weekend for outside games at the Kids Club. Our friends from the Heathland School UK were present to add to the fun. After a night BBQ at the halfway house, everyone took part in fun games like Jenga.

What are movie essentials? Popcorn and drinks! All of our kids were "movie ready" to watch Svemirska Avantura 2 which is an animated film about dogs in space.

Did someone say strike? Our kids had a blast bowling at Mepas Mall.

We celebrated a birthday on Thursday as one of our children from the Kids Club turned 14 years old. Happy Birthday Almedin!