Velida – Podlugovi
“It begins with individual action. Through it, I believe we can initiate change in our home communities.”
I was only an infant when my family fled as refugees from Srebrenica in 1996. At the time, my parents had just built a home and within months, they had to leave it behind. While I have returned to visit Potočari Memorial Center and I have walked Mars Mira as an adult, the memories surrounding Srebrenica were so devastating that my family never returned. Instead, my parents settled in Podlugovi where I have lived for nearly 25 years. Growing up, I suppose I never realized that my childhood was one of scarcity and limitations. Looking back, I recognize that my family – like so many – was merely working to survive rather than truly live. Perhaps if we had known it would be so difficult, we would have left BiH, like so many others.
I suppose the lack of varied experiences as a child has driven me to seek out opportunities as an adult. I am completing my Masters Degree in Criminology at the University of Sarajevo, but I also take advantage of new learning opportunities and I am dedicated to volunteer work with “Ruke,” an ecological NGO of which I am Vice President. Many people fail to understand why I would give so much of myself to work for which I am not paid. They do not recognize the value of civic engagement, both for initiating community change or personal growth.
My work with “Ruke” has given me a means by which to enact my passion for the environment and address ecological issues while also teaching me essential work skills through hands-on practice. Issue-focused organizations such as “Ruke” are essential for building community networks in BiH; they provide a forum for individuals who might be from diverse backgrounds to unite in their shared commitment to both their surroundings and to one another.