Al Green’s I’m So Tired of Being Alone was playing when I got the email. “Congratulations from Photographers Without Borders. On behalf of PWB, [we] would like to notify you that you have been hand-selected from our list of applicants to complete our project in Bosnia/Herzegovina.”
For years I had dreamed of doing work abroad with an NGO. I met lots of other photographers who had done the same around the world and their stories were always amazing. They said the experience really opened their eyes to the world. I wanted my eyes opened too.
A couple years ago I discovered Photographers Without Borders. A Toronto-based NGO run by Danielle Da Silva that partnered with NGOs around the world to place photographers. They had some amazing photographers doing great photography work for them around the world.
I applied to one of their Guatemala projects, had an interview, but wasn’t selected. Undaunted, I kept re-applying, until magically (okay, it was work, but it felt like magic) I got an interview in October followed by that email in January saying I’d been selected.
The History – Bosnian War
Between 1992-1995 the country now known as Bosnia and Hercegovina went through a horrific civil war.
I’m still learning about the conflict to understand how ethnic tension, political and economic motivation caused it. Let me try to sum up what happened from what I’ve learned so far:
The Bosnian war happened because Serbians and Croatians living in Bosnia wanted to annex Bosnian territory for Serbia and Croatia. The Nationalist leader of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, was pushing for what he called a “Greater Serbia”. The Bosnian War was also part of the Breakup of Yugoslavia.
The Bosnian Croats and Muslims, fearing that Milosevic would try to take their land if they were still under Yugoslavian control, called for Bosnian independence.
Then the genocide started. A man called Radovan Karadžić created his own army within Bosnia with the support of Milosevic. In 1992, under Karadzic’s leadership, Bosnian Serbs began a policy of “cleansing” large areas of Bosnia of non-Serbs.
In 1992 the Bosnian Serbians began to siege Sarajevo. People in the city who opposed the idea of a “Greater Serbia” were cut off from food, utilities and communication.
For three years food was scarce and people starved as a result. More than 12,000 people in Sarajevo died or were killed during the siege which lasted 43 months.
During the genocide, entire villages were destroyed and thousands of Bosnians were chased from their homes, held in detention camps, raped, tortured or killed. Rape was used as a tactic to destroy people and communities.
Land mines were also scattered around villages and roads during the war. Even though the war ended in 1995, since then over 1,700 people have been killed by the remaining land mines. Natural events like flooding can also cause the ground to shift and bring new land mines to the surface. NGOs are still working to clear the mines.
After the war, Karadžić was eventually captured in 2008 and brought before the Hague tribunal to face counts of genocide and promoting revisionist history. His trial is still ongoing. The Hague expects to deliver its verdict this year. The trial began in 2009.
The Charity – Project 1948
The NGO I’ll be working with in Bosnia & Hercegovina is called Project 1948. Their goal is to build peace between the different ethnic groups in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Specifically between young adults who grew up in the aftermath of war.
I’ll be working with them in Sarajevo. Their Cup of Peace therapeutic arts program gives these young adults cameras to document the challenges and joy in their daily lives and to identify where the strengths and weaknesses are in their communities to create their own narratives. I’ll be working with them to teach technical photography and to document the project for their archives and media use.
This year we will also be going into unmarked Syrian refugee camps in Bosnia to help deliver basic humanitarian aid, such as providing hygiene products for people living in the camps.
Their name, “Project 1948” is a reference to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published in 1948. That’s the document that says all human beings are inherently equal and entitled to basic human rights.
How You Can Help – Fundraiser for Photographers Without Borders and Project 1948
I’m going over to Sarajevo as a volunteer. I want to raise $4,000 for Project 1948 with Photographers Without Borders to help contribute to the cost of their project and their ongoing programs.
So I’ve set up this fundraising page.
It will be open for the next 77 days, until May 1, 2016. I’ll be in Sarajevo with Photographers Without Borders from May 16-30. I’ll then fly back home to Canada on June 4.
I would appreciate it so, so much if you donated to it. Even $5. Even $2. Anything. It would mean so much to me and the organization.
Thank you donation incentives
Receive a thank-you shout-out in a blog post.
Receive a personal thank you postcard from Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Receive a personalized 8″x10″ print taken in Bosnia & Hercegovina with a beautiful original image. Plus a thank you postcard from Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Receive a personalized 13″x19″ print taken in Bosnia & Hercegovina with a beautiful original image. Plus a thank you postcard from Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Receive a beautiful printed book of original images taken by me in Bosnia & Hercegovina. Plus a thank you postcard from Bosnia & Hercegovina.
OR (if you live in Nova Scotia)
Receive a 30-minute photoshoot with me in June or July 2016. Plus a thank you postcard from Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Wow. You’ll receive a beautiful printed book of original images taken by me in Bosnia & Hercegovina, a personalized 13″x19″ print taken in Bosnia & Hercegovina with a beautiful original image, and a personalized thank you to you or your company in a blog post and a thank you postcard from Bosnia & Hercegovina. You’ll also have my amazement and awe at your graciousness.
Once again, here’s the link to the fundraising page. Please share and thank you so much!
p.s. Here’s that Al Green’s ‘I’m So Tired of Being Alone’.