The UN promoted "Youth Week" for the youth of Kosovo, and our project was accepted to participate by the U.N. Department of Youth. So for five days we were involved with different activities for kids from 8-12 , and 13-15 years of age. Volunteers Abner, John, Vicky and Lana came all the way from Denmark to assist us.
Having had little experience with this particular type of undertaking, we first experimented with a simple program at a local orphanage/handicapped center, which went very well. This was followed by the real thing, and though we were only expecting 50 to 100 children to show up, 600 children packed into the not-so-big cultural center!
The next day centered around an art exhibition. Prior to this we had approached the art departments at different schools and arranged for the children to create a drawing or painting with the theme for Youth Week, "Youth, What Can You Do For Kosovo?" 75% of the children's drawings centered around peace, depicting the ethnic factions all living in harmony together. It was beautiful to witness these 7-12 year olds all so ardent about seeing peace return to their land.
The third day we made a make-shift "cinema" utilizing an overhead projector, sound system, etc. To fully appreciate this, one must realize that these children live in an isolated enclave, with no freedom of movement. There are no movie theaters, cinemas, or any other kind of activities for the children or teenagers here. So for them to have something recreational like this was a big treat.
Our last activity was a "Bicycle Rodeo",launched in cooperation with KFOR and the International Police. Since this was the first of its kind in Kosovo, we were a little unsure how the turn-out would be, or how many kids would even have bicycles. Three of the American international police, along with FCF Volunteer John, were up to their elbows in bicycle grease, fixing up the kids' bicycles so they could take part. The KFOR soldiers helped set up obstacle courses, and during the day bicycle safety tips were shared. Many people volunteered to help with the translating. It was wonderful to see everyone pull together to make this a special event.
The kids were so happy to have these activities, and everyone was asking when the next Youth Week would take place! What a joy to offer at least a temporary surcease from the fears these kids face, ranging from stepping on a land mine to the constant threat of a renewal of hostilities.
"For the most part, the orphanages [we work in] are home to children who have lost either one or both parents in the war. Unlike orphans in most countries, all these children lost their parents around the same time and under horrible circumstances. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and extreme fear."
"Although the war in Bosnia is over, the pain and suffering that it has left in its wake continues to haunt the population-adults and children alike. With very few people having employment, it is difficult for them to view the future optimistically. Our goal is to instill hope for a better tomorrow, and a belief that in spite of their difficulties, God still loves them."