Making a difference in Bosnia
"The chance to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and help change people’s lives" – that’s what companion Gav wanted, when he signed up for a trip to support Emmaus International’s solidarity work.
Gav, who now lives at Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland, was living at Emmaus Preston when the opportunity arose to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Living at Emmaus, Gav had begin to learn about the wider international movement and the solidarity projects that it supports throughout the world. “I’d been at Emmaus for a few months and I was really inspired by their idea of solidarity: helping others to give something back to those in need of our help.”
“I’d been speaking to another companion and he told me about a project in Bosnia that was being organised by Emmaus International. They were looking for volunteers to help build a new wing for the local hospital and to help with the delivery of solidarity packages to local people.”
“For me it was a fantastic opportunity as I’ve always loved travelling. I’d never been to Bosnia before and saw it as a chance to explore a new culture. Most importantly though it gave me an opportunity to give back to the charity who had given me so much, in such a short period of time.”
A thirst for adventure wasn’t new for Gav. He had lived and worked abroad in the past in Spain, Portugal and France. During that time however he had also experienced periods of homelessness. “It was difficult, being homeless abroad. I’d spend times living in a tent, an abandoned burnt out bar, and under some stairs in an abandoned house that had no roof.”
Gav flew into Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to begin his six week winter solidarity camp. “We were staying just down the road from the hospital in a refuge centre that had been designed to support formerly trafficked women in the area. The hospital we were working from was being built to support people who had suffered from mental health problems as a result of the conflict in the country.”
Gav really embraced the opportunity and was just keen to give something back. “Straight away I asked if I could be part of the team delivering solidarity packages on the vans to those in need in the local area. It really did make the trip for me; seeing the reaction of people’s faces when we delivered the packages just gave me a good feeling inside.”
“The packages were made up of furniture and clothes out of the shipping containers that had been donated as acts of solidarity by other Emmaus communities across the movement. I’ve always been a firm believer in minimising waste, so it was great to see these things being reused. It was giving people a small bit of hope; I was thrilled.”
Returning to the UK, Gav continues to embrace the solidarity work of Emmaus: “Looking back, Bosnia was amazing for me. It gave me the chance to give something back to Emmaus. It’s no exaggeration when I say that without Emmaus I’d be dead. For that reason alone I’ll always be happy to support the charity in any way that I can.”