|This is the former hotel Portin, which is now a center|
that houses nearly 500 people while they wait, often
as long as a year, to be granted asylum and be allowed
to remain in Croatia on a permanent basis.
For most, Croatia was not their fist choice. Many of the neighboring countries are now closing their borders or significantly limiting the number of refugees who are allowed to enter. While the number of refugees in Croatia is relatively small compared to other countries, the problem is real. They must apply for asylum and then wait for a decision, which usually takes 6-12 months. During that time they are not allowed to work for pay and must just wait.
The government has a good system in place to meet the most basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, but not much else. The Red Cross is the key partner that operates the center and there are several additional NGOs such as Save the Children and UNICEF to name a few, that help with small projects at the center, but there is no coordinated efforts between them. We met with the center director and were guided by the Red Cross coordinator for asylum seekers and migrants. He gave us a very thorough tour of the facility and described many of the programs that are in place to assist the residents during their lengthy stay. He also shared some of their greatest needs.
|These girls were so excited to practice speaking English when they|
heard us talking! They followed us around for most of our visit.
While they have all had major trials in their young lives, they
still had big smiles on their faces.
|Mug shots of a few of the former inhabitants|
of the "Elder's Apartment" who should have
joined us for the cleaning party! Recognize anyone?
|Pretty sure this couch hadn't been cleaned under in 5 years!|
|Sister Rougeau making sure the windows were clean.|
|Elder Echols packing up for the big move!|
|Sister Martineau is a meticulous window cleaner and told me|
she actually loves to clean! Poor girl didn't know what she
was getting herself into when she volunteered to help!
Besides looking for a new apartment and cleaning the old one here in Sarajevo, we also did district meeting in Tuzla and apartment inspections there as well. Thankfully, all was well with the Tuzla apartments! From Tuzla, we then traveled to Sapna to follow up on one of our school water projects and see the work they had done so far. We supplied sanitation materials for two of their schools. They are making progress on the projects, but are only able to work on things when the students are not there. The major work will be done once students break for the summer, but they are doing some of the smaller projects now.
|New sinks, faucets and mirrors where non functioning ones used to be!|
|The school director insisted we chooses a piece of student artwork|
that was displayed on the walls. I chose this one because it is
of their small town and will remind me of the special people
we have met here when we go home.
|What amazing food prepared by these ladies!|
|This is Elvira, the English teacher who translates for us at this school. |
Her little boy is adorable and made me miss my grandchildren even more!
Not only is she a great help to us, I now consider her my friend.
|The school director enjoying the wonderful food. He didn't want to eat |
too much before volleyball, but couldn't help himself it was so good.
|The mayor and some of the school staff who joined us.|
|Denny (in the light blue shirt, yes he is jumping!)|
has been wanting to go play volleyball with them since
our first meeting. They have some really good players and
it was "real" volleyball, not just a pick up game!
It was hard to say goodbye to Downi and Boyce on Thursday. It was so nice to see family and enjoy time together doing missionary work and seeing the country. This weekend we get the pleasure of seeing Erica and Brayden. We will only get to spend Sunday and part of Monday with them, but we are extremely excited to see them too! We will do a visit to a school for children with disabilities in Banja Luka on Thursday this week, followed by Zone conference on Friday and potentially another visit to the refugee centers in Zagreb on Saturday before joining them. After our brief visit in Slovenia with Erica and Brayden we will be driving straight to the western part of Serbia, about 8 1/2 hours away, for the Adriatic North Senior Missionary conference which starts on Tuesday at 1:00. I'm so thankful I don't get car sick and only get sick of being in the car because this mission sure does require much traveling! Thankfully spring has finally arrived, there are blossoms on the trees, flowers blooming and the mountains are alive with green again. It's a beautiful time of the year and we are so blessed to have the opportunity to serve God's children in this part of the world.