Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) serve as a transit country for individuals seeking safety and better opportunities in the European Union and other European countries. Since January 2018, a significant number of refugees and migrants passed through the country. In the first four months of 2021, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) recorded a notable increase in illegal crossings on the Western Balkan route compared to the same period in 2020.
A Drop in the Ocean played a vital role in supporting those in need, particularly in the Ušivac refugee camp in the Sarajevo canton. The organization focused on distributing necessary items and organizing various activities for the camp residents. With a team of experienced coordinators, local and international volunteers, and community field workers, A Drop in the Ocean assisted since December 2020.
The operation centered around three key programme activities; Non-Formal Education, Community Empower Mobilisation and Humanitarian-Aid. Through the Community Empower Mobilization and Non-Formal Education Activities the organization aimed to empower camp residents through a multimedia classroom and the Drop Club within Ušivac Camp. The multimedia classroom offered computer classes at different levels, allowing individuals to learn essential skills such as email communication and using office software. Additionally, separate classes for women were provided. The Drop Club was a recreational space where residents could play chess, video games, board games, and watch TV. The aim was to support the psychosocial well-being and empowerment of adults in the transit camp, fostering community and cohesion among the residents. In addition, A Drop in the Ocean implemented a diverse range of projects that positively impacted the lives of people on the move. The team organized photography workshops and exhibitions, enabling individuals to express themselves and capture their stories through photography. Sports activities promoted physical well-being, teamwork, and a sense of normalcy. Poetry writing sessions provided a therapeutic outlet for sharing thoughts and experiences. An arts festival allowed residents to showcase their talents, celebrating their cultural heritage and encouraging cultural exchange. Movie screenings provided moments of escapism and entertainment, offering a break from the challenges of their circumstances. These initiatives facilitated self-discovery, empowerment, and the development of new skills and talents, fostering resilience and hope for the future.
Moreover, and as for the other key program activity Humanitarian Aid, A Drop in the Ocean conducted essential distributions of hygiene items and clothing to address the pressing needs of the camp residents. Their support played a crucial role in ensuring the health and well-being of those within the Ušivac refugee camp. Through the past three years the team also extended occasionally its assistance to the Lipa refugee camp near Bihac, contributing to distributions in that area.
Regrettably, due to financial constraints and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ objective to take over all operations in camps in the country, A Drop in the Ocean took the difficult decision to cease its operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This unfortunate development will profoundly impact the individuals who rely on their assistance. The discontinuation of the operation means that vital distributions of hygiene items and clothing will cease, leaving a gap in the provision of essential resources.
Despite our Drop Shop not being taken over, our Drop Club activities have now been transferred until the 31st of December 2023 to our partner in camp World Vision International. World Vision has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) since 1994, implementing relief, development, and advocacy interventions for the well-being of children and their families, especially the most vulnerable. In Ušivac, the organization has been supporting unaccompanied children and developed various activities. By taking over our spaces in camp, World Vision will expend their support with our Multimedia classroom and recreational space, ensuring that our impact remains despite no longer being present.
As we reflect on this difficult decision, the rest of the Drop team wants to express our deep gratitude to all the coordinators and volunteers who dedicated their time and efforts to the operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Their commitment and tireless support, motivated by the same engagement to uphold human rights, made a significant difference in the lives of countless individuals, providing them with essential aid, empowerment, and a sense of community. We would also like to express our gratitude to our long-lasting partners CRR and Collective Aid, with whom we collaborated for the provision of NFIs.
Throughout the operation, A Drop in the Ocean reached out to the camp population via three of the Drop four programmes approach. The impact of the team’s work can be seen across the different project areas. In non-formal education, 5.479 visitors benefited from computer classes, equipping them with valuable digital skills. The community empowerment and mobilisation efforts reached 8.137 visitors, fostering a sense of belonging and well-being within the camp. Additionally, humanitarian aid distributions supported 1,852 individuals, providing essential items such as 12.126 diapers/wipes, 6.190 clothing, and 8.086 hygiene products in total. The dedication and efforts of A Drop in the Ocean resulted in tangible improvements in the lives of these individuals, offering much-needed support, empowerment, and a glimmer of hope during their challenging circumstances.
With the closure of A Drop in the Ocean’s operation, the absence of their presence in BiH leaves a void that will undoubtedly be felt by the refugees and migrants who sought refuge and support within the Ušivac camp. We hope other organizations and stakeholders will step forward and ensure that the vulnerable populations in Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to receive the assistance and support they desperately need during their journey to find safety and a better future.