Friday, February 26, 2010

Dorcas "Hope for the Future" Project 2010

This is the 4th year that we are running this project. See here for last year's project kick-off. Our target group is unemployed families with children: trying to give them a better chance in life. We got 20 people from the Centre for Social Work in Banja Luka, and this year we are also working with the Centre for Social Work in Laktasi, which is the next city, just 10 minutes North of Banja Luka and so the other 10 came from them.

This year we had a bumper turn-out at our first meeting this morning: all 30 families were represented and many of them with both parents and a spattering of children: Along the wall to the left are some people who work in the Centre for Social Work in Banja Luka:
As part of this project I teach two English Classes for beginners and elementary and it was great to see that both classes will be full once again this year. People are really excited to be able to learn! We also offered really affordable computer classes and there were over 20 who signed up for those.

Also as part of this project we give out a monthly package which comes from Dorcas Aid in Holland, containing basic food and other useful items sent from Holland. We also buy hygiene items here to distribute to them as well: below are some of the people with their packages:

They are also given business training and are given the chance to write a business plan, and the 3 best plans are given 5000KM (R30000/$4000) in no-interest loans. I love being part of this project as it really gives people a chance to help themselves in a way that purely social project wouldn't. I look forward to seeing how we will help these people this year through this project!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winters in Banja Luka...

We do get quite cold winters here in Banja Luka: it does get down to -22C (-8F) at times, and the average temp is around 0C (32F). We have snow, sometimes LOTS of it:
So, this is what the view from my balcony is like when we have loads of snow... which happens once or twice (or for this winter 4 times!) a winter and it is cold and miserable and icy (and slippery). We do have a good winter service so the roads are (mostly) cleared and most people have winter snow tyres, so this amount of snow doesn't really stop anything from happening (not like in the UK where 5cm means schools are closed!). Then after a couple of days (or weeks) it melts and becomes what I call: "sad snow": which is just annoying:
And then it is flood warning time, as the snow melts off the mountains, it mingles with the rain (and usually we have lots of that too) and the rivers swells and there becomes photo opportunities like this one in the swollen Vrbas river: thanks to Mladen and David (don't ask how they got there: but doesn't it look like they are having fun?!)
And then once in a while we get days like yesterday: lovely and sunny and warmish and we get out and EVERYONE is out and about. I also get to take a lovely photo like this one of Corina and Ljilja at the Kastel Fortress in Banja Luka on Corina's last day with us here :-(:
I do get to go to South Africa every other winter, when it is summer there, which means I miss the winter here :-) But otherwise, I am getting used to these winters, and I am blessed in that I have a lovely landlady who heats our house VERY well!! And I must admit that when I see snow I still get excited! It is very beautiful and I am still not completely used to it and don't think I ever will be...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Operation Ink Tag Removal

What to do when you discover that you still have an ink security tag on the new pair of jeans you bought in Canada when you get back to Bosnia!!!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Operation Tag Removal
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Floorball tournament

Today, Ljilja, Corina and I attended some of the matches in the Regional Floorball tournament that was taking place in Banja Luka, between 6 teams from Bosnia, Serbia and Slovenia. First started in Bosnia Hercegovina by a Swiss worker in Travnik among children, my Finnish colleague, Miika, was the one who started the sport here in Banja Luka, starting also among children. Then along with a group of local enthusiasts, the first adult Floorball club in Bosnia Hercegovina: "Gromovi" or "Thunderers" was formed.

Here is the poster for the tournament and the Gromovi's logo:

The sport is very popular in Scandanavian countries and Switzerland for example, and is a form of hockey played in a hall. The sticks as well as the ball are made from plastic, and there is very little contact allowed, and so it is a very fast paced and interesting game.

The tournament took place in our local sports hall and even though the other side looks empty, the seats on our side were much fuller than at the first ever exhibition tournament last year: the word is getting out! Here are "our" boys, playing against the team from Belgrade:
You should be able to recognise number nine: my colleague David from the Czech republic:
And Miika, my Finnish colleague, showing his skills:
As this sport grows in popularity among the adults, it is also growing amongst the children: with a mini-league now being formed in Banja Luka, along with a Bosnian tournament amongst the teams that are present throughout Bosnia. It looks like floorball is here to stay!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fun day!

After our team meeting this morning, Ljilja, Corina, David and I went over to Sinisa and Olja's for lunch. Here are us girls: (me, Corina, Ljilja and Olja):
We had a great lunch and also a great time talking in Serbinglish with some of the local language, some English and some translation going on... Corina is able to pick up a lot from body language and managed to guess quite often what people were saying...very dangerous :-) It was fun to hang out with her and some of my co-workers and catch up with them all!

In the evening Corina came with me to English Club (which had been on a hiatus in my absence). And amazingly enough: we had more guys than girls - it doesn't happen very often!! Milkan and Sofija had already left by the time we took this photo, but here are the rest of us: see if you can spot David and Milan wearing my Canadian Olympic mittens (and Drazen in front with the yellow bowl cracks me up!!):
(Also it was a self-timer shot and I ALMOST didn't make it...)

As you can tell by the picture we had a great time catching up with one another as well!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back in Bosnia

I had a great time at the Equip workshop in England, but after a month of travelling, it was time to be back "home" in Bosnia. I also caught a cold along the way and so was looking forward to my bed! I lucked out as Ljilja's friend, Corina, was supposed to arrive on Friday, but her flight was cancelled, so she came in also on Saturday: and Ljilja was coming to get her from the airport in Zagreb, so I was able to catch a ride instead of taking the (3 hour long trip on the) bus as originally planned!

Corina is visiting us for 10 days from the US and Ljilja is (as am I!) really enjoying having her here. She has been a couple of times before, but the last time was 2 years ago so we are busy showing her all the new things. Tonight we took her over to meet Tanja and Damjan as they had invited us for "pita" (Bosnian pie) and it was great also for me to catch up with them. Here are Corina, Ljilja, Sneza and I:
I must admit that although I do love travelling, it is nice to be in once place for a while and I am looking forward to catching up with everyone and getting back into the swing of things here in Banja Luka!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Equip workshop

After a whirlwind week travelling around England starting at my sister's and going on two other friends, I arrived at YWAM Harpenden (a big YWAM training centre just north of London) on Saturday to take part in the Equip staff training workshop.

As I involved in YWAM Communication, I was asked to co-ordinate a "module" on Communication. Each module is 8 hours long and participants get to choose which modules they want to take. I, along with two others, did our module in the first set on Monday and Tuesday: covering areas such as design, crisis communication and writing.

Now I can kind of relax and enjoy the rest of the conference as a participant!
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