Boyd Noorda on Thu, 25 May 2000 07:00:11 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> [Balkansunflower-list] BSF Update 22


Balkans Sunflowers has grown very rapidly in just one year, thanks to more 
than 350 people who have been involved on field work and thousands of long-
distance supporters. Our projects are approaching a phase of maturity - 
shifting from the emergency actions typical of the first post-war period to 
what had been our longer-term goal from the beginning: supporting local 
community building.  

We are preparing a major fundraising campaign to support the projects that 
have multiplied very quickly in our areas of operation. The decision to 
prepare a specific "package", which is being designed in these days, is one 
of the results of the meeting of the international coordinators in Peja - 
Kosovo (24-30 April). You can already buy our new t-shirts with Sunflowers 
design on them: Marko, Wam and the team in Macedonia are taking care of 
this. Write to the BSF-MK office at to order one. 
We need the cooperation of all our friends and supporters more than ever: 
core money for everyday expenses will always be needed, and we'll still be 
faced with the problem that this part is not covered by project-specific 
grants (which are needed too, anyway, therefore we also welcome any help to 
establish contacts with donor institutions which can support our 
initiatives). Balkan Sunflowers will always need creative ways to raise 
funds at grassroots levels. Besides, it's a way for all our friends who 
cannot do field work in the Balkans to stay close to us. Another important 
decision taken at the Peje meeting was to move the central office to the 
"zone of action". Skopje was chosen as the most suitable location. A larger 
office space is being sought for this purpose.  


Please note that while funding has been secured for BSF activities in 
Macedonia for these summer months, there will be need of new resources by 
October. This means that we must start searching for them now. Go to the 
sections on "how to help", "donations", "how to get involved", and give us 
a hand while there is time to plan comfortably! The Skopje office also let 
us know that they will need new volunteers soon, so anybody interested 
please refer to the volunteers pages on the websites and then contact the 
relevant people (you'll find addresses and all necessary info on the 
website). In Macedonia, the team which has worked with the Rom community in 
Shutka Is now expanding to new neighborhoods and broadening the spectre of 
activities it offers, mostly to children and young people. Education is 
often a luxury in these illegal settlements and there's plenty of kids who 
don't attend school at all, so English classes or theatre activities are 
much more important than it could appear at first sight. The transfer of 
BSF activities to the new community centre built by the American Refugee 
Committee (ARC) has been completed. The centre is called "ROS" which means 
light. For the moment we keep the same time schedule for the classes. We 
are going on with the English classes, while theatre classes are held every 
day by local volunteers. They are working on a new play "Snow-white". There 
are also computer classes now, and kindergarten. Another project is devoted 
to street children: it includes music classes and games. English classes 
are held also on an individual basis: one group of children gets lessons at 
their houses, several other individual lessons are given and a class for 
adults has been started at L' Esperance, another Roma NGO. The music CD 
Project has been followed by one US volunteer together with one local 
employee. Day Field trips with Roma children are organized occasionally. 
Sport classes "restarted": probably we will soon hold them every day. 
Children activities are being brought to new neighbourhoods:Klanica, 
Aerodrom and Momin Potok. There is one BSF volunteer taking care of this 
action together with local volunteers. The ARC had asked BSF to teach 
English also in their community centre in Kumanovo, to attract more people 
there. Two volunteers have now started to teach beginner-level lessons 
twice a week there.  


BSF is running projects in four main locations - Pristina, Peje, Gjakova 
and Gijlane - and shifting its focus from emergency response to long-term, 
sustainable community development. Since environmental issues are rather 
pressing in Kosovo (garbage in particular has become a heavy problem in the 
cities), working on issues like cleaning and improving parks and urban 
environments provides a good basis for bringing a local community together: 
several actions of this type have been started/conducted by Balkan 
Sunflowers in different locations around the country. A good opportunity 
for all BSF coordinators to experiment this situation first-hand (the model 
could now be reproduced in other fields of operation) was the Gjakova Clean-
Up day on Saturday, April 29th. The overall project was planned as a 6-week 
operation, Clean-ups every Saturday, from Earth Day (April) 22nd April to 
the UN World Environmental Day (June 5th). This time volunteers from the 
projects in Peja, Gjakova and Gijlan  (about thirty BSF people ) joined 
with the participants of the international coordinators' meeting and local 
people, above all kids: they all worked together from 9 to 5 to pick up 
trash from streets/sidewalks/grassfields (more info in the Gjakova 

BSF is promoting  environmental actions (in a broader sense of the word) 
across Kosov@, as you'll read in the following. More volunteers are needed 
rapidly for Gjakova and Gjilan, to maintain the current programs.  Peje has 
enough volunteers for the existing programs but is putting together a 
summer camp program that will need a few more in June.    


We have helped organize cleanups of two large residential complexes, where 
more than 10,000 people live (the trash problem is coming back again and 
again; the need of cleaning becomes urgent when it gets warmer and there's 
growing risk of diseases).  We are working with residents' committees that 
are taking on new functions to help improve their quality of life, and we 
enjoy a very good cooperation with them and with KFOR and UNMIK. We got a 
good press coverage including a fair amount of Balkan Sunflowers airtime on 
RTK television. Another project envisages the construction of a playground 
in the Bregu I Diellit  (Sunny Hill) area in cooperation with War Child, to 
be installed in May-June 2000.  


Former UCK fighters today help the children plant flowers and potatoes in 
Peja's Peace Garden on the land provided by a primary school: this is one 
of the most recent BSF-Peja projects, that should evolve in a center of 
activities and part of a summer camp for local children that will extend 
through most of the summer.  Activities there include preparing the field 
for planting flowers and vegetables, watering the garden, and also the 
artistic part: the children painted signs with names and pictures of 
vegetables/flowers; the signs were then put around the garden to indicate 
what has been planted where. A greenhouse is being planned too. Integrating 
different levels of local community (school children, local workers, many 
of them former fighters), is an important goal behind a very simple 
activity. Art and environmental awareness are the basis for several 
successful BSF activities in Peje, besides the basic animation work in 
collective centres like the Konvikt (started already last summer), blind 
school and kids' hospital. Although the Arts centre activities are 
temporarily suspended because the theatre is being renovated, the other 
projects are in full blossom. The Parks Project, funded by UNICEF  and 
UNMIK (clean up, restoration, new park benches and tables, tools, 
playgrounds, other repairs), IRC and IOM (labor, electrification and other 
repairs), has been extended into the spring with an aim to start a slow 
peace building process via social contacts with internationals during the 
work.  A special celebration was held on April the first to mark the 
restoration of Karagac Park: picnic, music, readings, environmental video 
debut  and more. An offspring of the Parks Project is the Urban Environment 
Awareness Campaign, which includes the environmental art project (funding 
from IRC), education in the schools, signs, posters, trash bins for the 
whole city of Peja. The video program that was part of this package 
received funding from UNICEF to produce environmental films with teenagers. 
This is developing into a special youth video center in the middle of Peja. 
A room to host the project is being renovated by IRC in the Peje Youth 
Centre. Following up the success of the photo workgroup in Pakrac (Croatia) 
during the social reconstruction project there (1993-1997), plans are being 
made to start a similar photo project now in Peja. The volunteer who 
coordinated the photo project in Pakrac is now in Peja. The cinema nights 
are continuing (a the video projector had been donated through efforts of 
Danny the clown): after showing the first film in the cinema for local 
people in many years, the shows have been brought to Karagac Park, in the 
open air.  


The already mentioned city clean-up action mobilized enormous resources in 
the city including Italian KFOR, NGOs, and the municipal services. "Just 
Clean It" - as the action was called - was a really big operation, and it 
had many important aspects: from the cooperation with the newly created 
Youth Council (BSF helped here too, supporting the election process in The 
city schools with specific training), to the massive funds and materials 
obtained as donations not only from 18 international organizations, but 
from 125 local businesses as well. The BSF Gjakova team performed 
brilliantly in the role of organizer/manager of the whole action, which 
started as an idea of Earth Day Celebration but will continue to develop 
across the summer. One of the best results was the response of the local 
community after the first clean-up weekend. Today Gjakova is probably the 
cleanest town in Kosov@. A community Spring Festival  has been organized in 
Freedom Park to celebrate the action, with singing, dancing, music, poetry 
recitals, athletic events, and silly games. The basic activities that BSF 
has been carrying out in Gjakova since last summer are in the meanwhile 
continuing. Three days a week, BSF volunteers organize activities at the 
Brickworks transit camp.  These activities, geared mainly to the children, 
include drawing, art competitions, football, singing, creative play etc. We 
have also started bi-weekly English lessons for the older boys and girls.  
Due to the sensitivity of some of the traditional families of the camp, 
female volunteers teach the girls, males teach the boys. The Brickworks 
canteen has been refurbished, with new windows, new carpet, shelving, new 
locks on doors, new lighting, mural, so that it can be used as a warm safe 
place for children to play, and as a central meeting place for women of the 
camp. There are two other transit camps where we perform activities with 
the kids, the Kindergarten (here BSF also liaises between the managers of 
the camp, Solidarite, and the residents of the camp) and the Slovenian 
Village. We visit the Childrens ward at the Gjakova hospital two days a 
week for activities with the children.  There is a children's room where 
Balkan Sunflowers can hold the activities. Projects under development 
include: a Youth Center (working with the municipality to find premises for 
free for a Youth Center,), with the support of the local youth groups, and 
* student councils; Art for Prisoners (UNMIK is planning to send packages 
to each of the * prisoners from Gjakova in Serbia.  BSF suggested that we 
organize for 400 drawings, by the children of Gjakova, to be presented as 
part of the package); Environmental Awareness Art Competition (for the 
schools: the winning selection will be exhibited in the Cultural Center and 
displayed in the Municipality Building; they could also be used as designs 
for posters in * later environmental campaigns).  This project still needs 


BSF volunteers  are continuing children activities in the Konvikt refugee 
centre, where they are also hosted: an accommodation that enables them to 
live in close contact with the assisted  families, but also places them 
under some stress for lack of privacy. There are about 100 children in this 
refugee center serving Albanian refugees from Presheva (Serbia), working 
with IRC. Another IRC refugee facility, Gosha Center, is also served by BSF 
volunteers who provide children's educational and recreational activities 
for 30 kids. We have performed distributions of schoolbags, school 
materials and clothes, and also jumpers, jackets and shoes from Kosova Red 
Cross. Thanks to actions of BSF activists for the first time there is now 
regular medical treatment organized in the both transit centers.  Later on, 
in March, we started activities for children at a third IRC facility, the 
Kindergarten Center. Preschool: for ages 3 and below at Konvikt Center, 
with resident mothers and their children.  To provide support for children 
and meeting area for mothers.  Registered with UNICEF. Internet training: 
one hour per day for children from Konvikt , Gosha, and Kindergarten, with 
IOM.  Support learning to communicate by email. Eggs: sourced commitment of 
600eggs/ week every Tuesday for Konvikt centre, with possibly more eggs for 
other centres soon.  With World Vision. Agricultural Project: a private 
farmer donated 400 m2 of fertile active farmland for a kids' farm, to learn 
and produce food for their families.  Involves Konvikt men and young adults 
from farms to help guide the kids. Ferizaj Transit Centres: we have been 
asked to work in 5 refugee camps, for Preshevo refugees (approx 600 people) 
in the Ferizaj (Urosevac) area.  Developing this new district from Gjilan 
base.  Pathfinding. Playgrounds: seeking funding to design and supervise 
the installation of 5-7 playgrounds in the Gjilan, Ferizaj, Kacanik and 
Vitina areas.  


The team who worked in Albania in the last few months also deserves a 
special mention, since they went through a particularly tough period, on 
the emotional side too. As you know from previous updates, the difficulty 
in getting funds for Albanian projects forced BSF to suspend most of them: 
it was a very painful decision, especially for the people who had got 
personally very involved and developed strong ties with the communities 
they worked with. Staying in Albania to help there, while most 
international aid followed the refugees back to Kosovo, was a right 
decision but it was also a difficult situation to face without previous 
preparation. This is why the group of long-term volunteers who saw it 
through during the hardest part is now taking time to make plans very 
carefully about the way to restart. The Mine and Weapons Awareness Campaign 
was the only one who had received a specific grant - from UNICEF - and it 
turned out to be a big success. UNICEF was interested in continuing the 
experience (actually, there should be still some funding from the first 
phase, since a six-month action was planned, but we are waiting to see 
whether the three remaining months will be covered). The core team of long-
term volunteers who worked in Albania were particularly sorry to leave 
Bathore, an extremely poor and degraded periphery of Tirana, where BSF 
managed to bring about dramatic changes with very little resources (you can 
find more materials on the Bathore projects, photos included, on our 
website). There is a possibility to organize a second phase of the MAWA 
campaign for Bathore, while seeking more funds for further actions in 
favour of that community. The children of Bathore are particular vulnerable 
to the situation of extreme poverty and social decay of their environment, 
but also very responsive to the efforts of the volunteers: they showed a 
noticeable improvement ("turned from wild animals into kids", in the words 
of a BSF volunteer who came to love them very much) in just a few weeks.  
Therefore, the motivations to resume work there are very strong. The Mine 
and Weapons Awareness Campaign is not a simple information action on 
technicalities concerning the weapons that abound in Albania: it is a 
complex program designed to educate the kids to recognize the damages of a 
culture based on violence, and also to teach them to express their feelings 
and ideas in a creative, non-conflict way. The first phase started in 
January, with a first training session for 10 local and 5 international 
volunteer.  Then, the MAWA program was conducted in several schools. Each 
program was concluded with an evaluation week. It affected not only the 
children directly involved in the program, but also much bigger circles of 
local people (reached out to local communities through children's parents, 
schoolmates, and friends). We felt it was a success beyond expectations. 
The program: through play theater, music, arts, the goal was to create a 
platform where youngster could express the effect of mines and weapons on 
the children's minds and lives. The children came from a "dictator-like" 
schooling system and learned to express themselves openly through 
activities conducted by the BSF team. At the end of April a big cultural 
event in Tirana (sponsored by UNICEF) concluded the first MAWA Campaign 
tour: kids from the schools where BSF conducted MAWA activities came to 
Tirana to present a theatre play on-stage . They marched on the streets of 
Tirana singing songs. Posters and T-shirts were made and distributed. It 
was thrilling to see "our" kids standing in front of a big audience 
speaking about how they want to live their future lives in peace. UNICEF 
was very enthusiastic about the entire program, an warmly accepted the 
report on the action. They now have to give an answer on our proposal to 
continue the program.  

News from the       | To unsubscribe: Send an E-mail to:
Balkan Sunflowers   | and put in the text body:
(the new SunCokret) | unsubscribe balkansunflower-list
More on the project:

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: