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Balkan Sunflowers coordinator wanted in Macedonia

The Balkan Sunflowers mission in Macedonia needs a new coordinator, and also, rather urgently, some new long-term volunteers (6 months at least).

BSF most recent coordinator in Macedonia, Leentje Flour (who was BSF Albania coordinator before), wrote a short report about her last few days there:

<< The summer is ending in Shutka, temperature is back to bearable now and hot dust gets washed away by the occasional rainfall. It's been a lively, active summer, and we celebrated the end of the season with some extra activities.

The playground Collective, a group of artists, jugglers and music performers from Germany visited our project in Shutka. At the ROS center, they made daily workshops with large numbers of kids. The ROS center was crowded with happy children, making their own juggling equipment out of trash, making aper-masks, painting, playing self-made music instruments,... We reached many children who had not visited the ROS center before. The week was concluded by a performance for friends and family, on a fluorescent playground.

Balkan Sunflowers are still blossoming in the ROS center. We're trying to take more control over the waiting lists for English and computer classes: as a result, a higher number of students is attending the classes. Also, we're looking at possibilities to involve more children from the poorer areas in Shutka, as well as refugees.>>.

See the volunteers pages on our website - - for details about the application procedures to become a BSF volunteer/ coordinator.

Other BSF activities in Macedonia include: new classes for refugees from Kosovo (English and computer), football and basketball (twice a week), children activities in the neighborhoods of Klanica and Momin Potok (the volunteers go twice a week to play with the children or organize indoor creative activities when it's too hot to play outside). The local volunteers teach Macedonian language and basic maths. We are collecting data on the refugees who are attending our activities and want to go to the regular school and will refer them to UNICEF. Balkan Sunflowers volunteers are preparing a data base of people with health disabilities in that area of the city to refer them to IRC and other NGOs. Kindergarten: 2 int. volunteers plus 2 local volunteers take care of 20-25 children each morning at the ROS center. Including refugees from the camp in Shutka. The number is variable every day.

We are planning a big cleaning action on the fields where our sport activities take place.

- Some information for possible volunteers/project coordinators interested in working in the MK project:

a) The background

The Shutka (Suto Orizari) neighbourhood, situated on the outskirts of Skopje, is a community of about 30.000 to 50.000 inhabitants, of which 90 percent is of Roma ("Gypsies") origin. Shutka also hosts around 1,000 Roma refugees, which fled to Macedonia after the war in Kosov@ erupted in April 1999. These refugees have been unable to return so far, as many of the Albanians believe that the Roma collaborated with the Serbs.

This influx of refugees (with only a little humanitarian aid coming with it) created significant economic as well as political difficulties in Macedonia. In Shutka 90 percent of the population is unemployed and most families live in deplorable living conditions, receiving only a little social help of around 100 DM ($50) a month.

b) The work

Since June 1999, Balkan Sunflowers has provided a community-based programme. With the recent opening of a new community centre in Shutka, BSF moved its activities from the HOMOS building to work there, in co-operation with the American Refugee Committee (ARC) and the Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS).

Activities include English and art classes, computer lessons, a kindergarten and community theatre. Outside the centre BSF volunteers carry out individual language classes, children activities, sometimes in co-operation with a local streetchildren organisation, a sports programme and a (refugee) visit referral programme. One BSF volunteer also started to record a CD with Roma folk music performed by Shutka musicians.

Balkan Sunflowers is fairly unique in that it concentrates on both refugees and permanent residents, a focus that aspires to relieve tensions within the community. Balkan Sunflowers has also regularly taken on responsibility for distributing relief goods: clothes, toys, wood, in co-operation with international humanitarian organisations like Oxfam, and Care International. We are also closely cooperating with a local organisation - L'Esperance - that started a streetchildren project. This past winter a neighbourhood winterisation project was set up.

*********************************************** BALKAN SUNFLOWERS (MK OFFICE) Risto Ravanovski 4 1000 Skopje, Macedonia Tel/Fax: +389 91 363 142 ***********************************************

Source: Balkan Sunflowers

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