The beautiful people of Bosnia

Recently, our staff and a group of volunteers spent their time with children in Bosnia as part of the Inspire program. These volunteers travelled to run summer camps for kids in our orphan sponsorship program.  They were blown away by the resilience and spirit of the children they encountered. As the project leader Umair recalls, the people of Bosnia are the best part of the country.

Inspire is one of our favourite initiatives at Islamic Relief Canada. It’s a volunteer abroad program that happens throughout the year. We’re now in our third year after successful trips to Bosnia, Kenya, Lebanon, and Malaysia, alhamdulillah. (This year we are going to even more countries: Nepal, Turkey, Malaysia, and South Africa.) 

The volunteers who come back from these trips bring a lot of self-reflection and motivation to continue doing good! Even the staff who travel with them come back in absolute awe of the kids they meet and the stories they encounter

Stories from Inspire

So we captured some of these stories on video and we can’t wait to share them with you. The first one is about the children in Bosnia. Their spirit and endurance will leave you teary-eyed (so pull out those tissues).

“So Bosnia, it’s an absolutely beautiful country. Beautiful scenery, beautiful landscape. But the people. The people are what stand out most for me. 

“There was this one girl, her name was Amina. Probably about yea high… legitimately, if she’s talking, you don’t know where the noise is coming from. But it’s coming from down here somewhere. And she talks a lot, she has a presence. Any time she walks into room, you know she’s in the room. And she can’t speak a word of English, except “I’m hungry”. But she had full conversations with us, even though we didn’t understand a word of Bosnian and she didn’t understand a word of English. But we just kept going back and forth. She was just an incredible personality. So full of love.

“But what got me was—this is the incredible part about kids—they’re so full of life, you can never tell what struggles they’re going through. So when we were saying our goodbyes, she couldn’t show any weakness, so she ran to the washroom. And then she started to cry.

“It’s incredible to see how much love the kids can hold. Despite what they’re going through. 

“Many of these kids, they’re pretty much all orphans. They’ve lost an integral part of their childhood. As a 7-year old, or an 8-year old, and you don’t have your father. It’s incredibly difficult and challenging. But behind the smiles, behind the laughter, there’s a very, very real story there. We hear about it all on the news, but we tend to forget about the human element of it, how people are suffering and it’s important for us to do our part.”

Islamic Relief’s History in Bosnia

After the war ended in 1995, the people and the economy of Bosnia suffered greatly. Hundreds of thousands of lives were taken, and nearly half the country was displaced. The mass genocide left behind broken families who were struggling to cope. Many survivors ended up committing suicide. Their children now took on the burden to recover and rebuild from the war.

Bosnia was one of Islamic Relief’s first projects. We were there during the war, providing emergency relief with food, medicine, water and shelter.  Now, 26 years later, we’re still helping these communities rebuild. Our orphan programs in Bosnia now support 206 orphans from the war. We also have a micro-financing project that helps widows of the war establish a business to support their families.

Stories like Amina’s help us know that we are making an impact on these children’s lives. But at the same time, they are teaching us so much more about what it means to be resilient and joyful even during difficult times.