Summer 2011 in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Tony's Story in Bosnia
How I discovered the program
I actually stumbled across the Bosnia internship program in an email. I then remembered that a friend of mine had gone to Bosnia two years before with the CSBSJU internship program and had a great experience. I was looking for a unique abroad experience that would transcend and go beyond the traditional study abroad trip and found that with the Bosnia Program.
What I learned from the trip
Well, I of course learned a lot about the Balkans and Bosnia Herzegovina specifically. The region is a very interesting place with a unique and at the same time tragic history. At my internship I was able to see how international development is approached at the ground level, which was absolutely fascinating. I also learned quite a bit about independently living abroad. While, there is a good support network for the interns in Bosnia, we for the most part we given a lot of room to do things on our own, which I think most of us really valued. Most importantly, I learned a lot about myself while I was in Bosnia and what I was capable of doing, while living in a totally new environment.
I was influenced by my unique experience.
My time in Bosnia made me a more confident person. I learned a lot about myself on the trip. I learned that not only could I live independently in an international setting, but that I loved doing it. My global perspective was also broadened by my experiences in Bosnia. I was able to learn quite a bit about a culture other than my own and met some incredibly interesting people. My time living in Sarajevo allowed me to see how other people live and approach life.
What I did in Bosnia
During my internship I worked at EkoMozaik, a socially responsible company that produces high quality organic honey in the Šekovići area in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is owned, 100% by the Mozaik Foundation, a non-profit foundation located in Sarajevo. EkoMozaik has three main initiatives that it seeks to accomplish with its operations. The first of these is rural economic development in the Šekovići region. The region is quite impoverished with unemployment near 70% and has not been the focus of development efforts to date. The second initiative is gender equality. Traditional gender roles continue to be prevalent in the area of Šekovići and women's roles have continued to be limited to the household. EkoMozaik hopes to bring women into the workforce by providing employment to over 50 women. These jobs typically involve working in the production of lavender at EkoMozaik. One final element of the EkoMozaik program is reconciliation between ethnicities. EkoMozaik hopes to involve the neighboring municipality of Živinice (predominantly Bosniak) along with the municipality of Šekovići (predominantly Serb) in its work and in the process build economic links between the two communities.
While at EkoMozaik I have been exposed to a variety of unique and interesting experiences that are relevant to working in the field of community development. I am personally responsible for managing social media for EkoMozaik and for the creation of an English version of the company's website. I am also responsible for English advertisement of the company, which entails the creation of a brochure or calendar that can be handed out to English speakers and explains EkoMozaik's mission and operations. On a daily basis, I accompany the director of EkoMozaik wherever she goes, which includes meeting with organizations such as USAID and the World Bank and officials from the communities we work in. Recently, EkoMozaik held the opening ceremony for its operations in Šekovići. I was involved in the preparations of the event, while also providing photography during the ceremony, which was attended by local municipality officials, representatives from USAID, and the Czech Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina. My internship with EkoMozaik has allowed me to become involved in an organization that is truly making a positive impact in some of the poorest and most isolated areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while allowing me to observe how development is approached at the ground level."