For a decent life in Bosnia and Herzegovina

4/1/2012 - Stigmatization of illegitimate children, poverty, health insurance and children without birth certificates are just some of the challenges being addressed in SOS Children's Villages in modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina
Berima is manager and Senka is co-ordinator of the family support programmes of SOS Children's Villages Bosnia and Herzegovina. The range of social services for disadvantaged families and families in crisis situations in Bosnia and Herzegovina is impressive. Poverty, unemployment, violence in families, low parental skills and low school performance are some of the factors that affect the families SOS Children's Villages is supporting. The stigmatization of children born out of wedlock, families without health insurance and children who do not get birth certificate are additional problems. And last but not least, there are legal difficulties and administration problems because of the federation structure.

"We are there for them"

Three family strengthening programmes offer psycho-social support: in Sarajevo, Mostar and Gorazde. "The first contact is often by telephone or families come to our premises to ask for support. They know that we are there for them", explains Berima Hacam. But more often the social workers do home visits, a fact which is much appreciated by the families. "During these home visits it is easier for the families to share their problems and discuss solutions. This is something the state should provide, but it does not happen."

There is a range of measures the SOS programmes can offer, according to what is needed, helpful and target-oriented. "Sometimes it is material support, but only for a short time in order to avoid dependency", clarifies Berima the NGO's standpoint. In many cases school supplies are an issue. "We buy books or organise the sharing of books, ask partners for support, organise tutoring and training for parents how to support children in learning. Children of the families in our programmes can attend the kindergarten free of charge."

Also health support is offered: The SOS co-workers check if families have health insurances, organise campaigns to address the problem of missing health insurances and find solutions with the ministry of health. "We also motivate them for regular check-up, especially in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder," says Senka Cimpo. "And we offer training and lectures on different health issues, for example together with a company on dental care."

As many families are looking for income generating activities, SOS Children's Villages supports them by looking for partners to organise trainings. Sometimes SOS Children's Villages provides simple tools, e.g. for hairdressing and cooking. Even simple measures like buying chicken, giving eggs to families and train them how to take care of chicken, can be of help. SOS Children's Villages supports them in job hunting, explains how to write a CV and mediates in companies to take people from the project.

Offering knowledge

Offering knowledge is also a key issue in the children, teenage and parents clubs. Parental skills trainings are open to the whole community. "We also offer knowledge to school teachers, social workers and volunteers. Some are obligatory like child protection, others are voluntarily", explains Senka. Activities like picnics and excursions complete the service. "The aim is to give a model how to spend leisure time in a meaningful way. The feedback we get is great!"
  There were several cases of placement in the SOS Children's Village Sarajevo in the past where the internal assessment showed the possibility of reintegration into the families of origin, provided that these families receive special, tailor-made support. The family strengthening staff supports these families. The wide range of activities organised at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Social Centre is available for family strengthening participants and coordination is already done on a regular basis. Berima: "At the same time, special know-how - for example the therapists in the SOS Children's Villages - would be valuable for families we support with our family strengthening activities. The challenge will be not to overburden these co-workers and be realistic what people are able to do."