Project Update: Halfway House - Part 3

This is our third and (for now) final update from the Halfway House project. Here we're focusing on social enterprise and vocational training.

Social Enterprise is an important part of the project. Running businesses will provide opportunities for training for the beneficiaries, as well as generating income for the project. We hope that the income will be sufficient to pay for all the project’s operations and may even help us to expand and fund other projects. But this is a long term plan perhaps taking 5 or 6 years or more to achieve. In the mean time we will be supplementing the project’s own income with fundraising, grants and private donations.

Tourism and agriculture have been identified as high growth sectors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The World Tourism Organisation’s figures show that the country will have the third largest worldwide growth in tourism over the next 5 years. The Halfway House project is designed to take advantage of this. Among the businesses we want to set up we are planning a cafe in the town, as well as a training kitchen, and bed and breakfast accommodation at the house. We also have the opportunity to produce fruit and vegetables in the grounds.

As well as offering training to the beneficiaries within these businesses, we will be showing them how to run the businesses themselves - taking them through financial management, business planning and marketing. In a country where there is such high unemployment, the ability to start a business can be a good way for someone to to create their own opportunities.

As ever, there are challenges to overcome. The building is about 10km outside Mostar center in a village called Vrapcici. This makes it difficult to develop a hotel business, but we have done the research and believe that a small bed and breakfast offering will be successful.

The grounds surrounding the building are small but useful. We can either grow produce for sale at local shops and markets, or for our own use in the house. This particular point has also presented some legal challenges: agricultural businesses are regulated to some degree and the system is not designed to enable charitable organisations to conduct agricultural work. We are actively working with other organisations in the area to learn from their experience and perhaps find ways to partner with them.

With regard to the cafe and the training kitchen, we are working with Mick who runs an organisation in Bulgaria called Phoenix Inspire. He has successfully set up a café business in Vidin, in north western Bulgaria, which provides training and job opportunities to vulnerable adults. We visited his café and learnt about his operation. Mick is a highly skilled and experienced chef, and he’s currently looking to expand his activities by creating a professional training kitchen and two other cafés in Bulgaria. In particular they specialise in high quality pastries and other bakery products. We are hoping to replicate his model in Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide similar jobs and training for the beneficiaries of the Halfway House. The professional kitchen at the house will be used for training, and then we will operate a café in Mostar. In the long term we hope to set up more cafés in other towns but this will come much later.

Here are a few photos of Mick's café in Vidin to give you an idea of what we hope to achieve:

The Halfway House building will also be a useful resource for the local community. There are plenty of opportunities to use it as a meeting venue and involve school children from Mostar and beyond.

All of these businesses provide excellent opportunities for the beneficiaries to learn transferable skills which they can take anywhere in the country and will help them to find work in tourism, hospitality and agriculture. Indeed, they may even be able to travel to other countries to work and gain further experience.

It's also worth pointing out that this project is about developing each individual’s own potential and the beneficiaries will not be limited to these activities. We will of course support them in applying for their preferred education and training programs, or indeed to find a job in different fields if that is what they want.

Overall this is a very exciting project with a solid plan. But as always funding and “hands on deck” are our biggest long term problems. Right now we’re looking for all the equipment and supplies we need for the house: things like bedding, cutlery, plates and dishes, pots and pans, and a few items of furniture. We have a long list and if anyone is inclined to do some fundraising and wishes to help us purchase specific things we need, we would be very grateful indeed!