Cold showers and dodgy bridges
Companions at Emmaus are encouraged to take part in international solidarity activities, to find out more about how Emmaus operates across the globe, and to help others in need. Ian and Keith from Emmaus Dover share their experiences after joining an Emmaus International project in Bosnia:
“Heading out to Bosnia was a very exciting time for us. We stayed way up in the north west of Bosnia, in a small town called Srebrenica. Some of the houses still had bullet pockmarks in their walls – it was a strong reminder of the fact that a war happened – and had a huge impact on us. The town felt very forgotten, as severe flooding has also swept the town’s bridge away, cutting it off from the outside world.
The remains of the bridge are now used as stepping stones to cross the river, though many houses in Srebrenica are now derelict as people choose to live in the mountains instead. The water ran really quite fast and carrying food, furniture and cooking utensils donated by Emmaus communities over the water to those in need was a pretty hairy business. Seeing what Emmaus does with other charities to run the Medunarodni Forum hospital in Tuzla, caring for those suffering from mental illness was also very moving.
We were part of a huge group of about 100 other people of many nationalities: Spanish, Italian, French, Austrian, Bosnian and English. We were all there because we wanted to help those still living in real poverty. You just couldn’t imagine how life would be for these people without support from other countries.
We stayed in a camp called Franco Bettoli, in Srebrenica. The work was pretty hard, and we often did a twelve-hour day in searing heat, digging ditches and building a sheep-breeding farm and jam factory. The idea is that the farm and factory will encourage more people to return and work in the area.
To get to work we had to be up really early to catch a lift and we often had to walk home at the end of a long day. We’d get back and have to share the limited water supply with 12 other people. Some of us chose to stand fully dressed in a freezing shower, wearing our boots and trying to wash cement dust out of our clothes, while others went the long haul to wait for hot water. It made life at Dover seem pretty comfy in comparison!
The trip taught us both an awful lot. We both felt that we learned to be more patient and tolerant seeing how other people are suffering and are still smiling and yet able to be happy. Seeing how many young people are prepared to give up their time to help others less fortunate was interesting too. Both of us travelled a steep learning curve, but at the same time we felt privileged to be able to make a difference. We’ll definitely head back next year.”