Our Kids Foundation is a charity formed in London in 2008, to meet the needs of children in Bosnian orphanages for good and loving social care, now registered in England and Wales, Sweden (Vara Barn) and Bosnia (Nasa Djeca). The care and concern of a world wide community of Bosnians has been garnered to raise more than £120,000 in the last 4 years to enable Our Kids to make a big difference in the lives of young people in care, chiefly in the Egipasko Sela Orhpanage in Mostar, the charity founder’s home town.
Achievements to date include: employing a small of team of workers to provide warm and welcoming space for children at the orphanage to meet and participate in a wide range of after school and holiday provision; developing another space at the orphanage for young people to learn a range of skills to help them towards employability, including IT and hairdressing; acquiring and renovating an old building in the centre of Mostar as a home for some of young people with special needs who have now past the age of 18 and must leave the orphanage – the first stage of this work is complete and 3 young people are moving in as we write.
There is so much more to be done! We need your support so that we can both find the funds to keep these initiatives going in the long term, and stop and take stock, to develop and expand thoughtfully in a way that is both innovative and sustainable and makes best use of limited resources and unlimited goodwill. We want to learn to address both the immediate needs of children and their families and some of the root causes of their distress.
Life in post-war Bosnia is not easy, with fragmented communities and uneasy government operating within an economically challenged environment. There is currently more than 40% unemployment and as many as 50% of people living below the official poverty line. Many families’ lives reflect this fragmentation and the battle with poverty. Support for these families is very thin on the ground. For some families institutional care for their children becomes the only option for survival, especially for disabled children and children with special needs. Of the 3,000 or so children estimated to be in care in Bosnia as many as 40% are learning disabled. Life is hard enough for all the young people on leaving care at the age 18 years, but those with special needs can only look forward to a life in large asylum-like institutions. Institutions are not the best places for anyone to be!
Building on the work we have started, we aim to promote and test out ways of working for children in care, and their families, that are different to current institutional practices. We aim to inspire and promote long term changes in policy and practice for children in care, at risk of being taken into care, or leaving care in Bosnia . At our new centre in Mostar we envisage developing a place of good practice, in which we both create a care community of staff, children, families and support networks to meet immediate need, and tackle some of the many root causes that generate those needs.
To these ends our Centre will offer:
- A long-term home to young people with special needs, who, on leaving care would otherwise be institutionalised
- A play centre for children in care or at risk of going into care, that offers relationships, play, creativity, friendship and belonging
- Support for young people leaving care to develop skills for employability towards economic independence
- Support to families with disabled children for whom, at present, the orphanage is the only option
- Fostering networks and practice, finding and working alongside partners with established good practice
- Work to change the law for over 18s so that there is statutory social provision for supported living for adults with special needs, outside of large institutions.
To achieve this vision we need:
- Help to develop strong working principles amongst those involved in delivery of the work and a creative, innovative learning strategy – to develop a community of practice very different to the current dominant model of institutional care in Bosnia.
We are searching for expertise to help us with this, scoping who and what is working in Bosnia, and in other parts of the world. Hope and Homes is an organisation active in 3 other cantons (districts) in Bosnia and we are in the process of exploring potential working relationships. We recently visited the Camphill Village Trust at Botton Village in North Yorkshire, England, and were inspired by the radical, loving and creative energy of this organisation and we are exploring avenues of support from this internationally renowned organisation.
- 2. Help to develop a transparent, 5 year strategic plan
We need to turn our vision into an achievable plan and we are seeking funding to employ the expertise to enable us to do this.
- 3. A strong locally based management strategy
Currently Our Kids employs 12 people in Bosnia – 11 in Mostar to run the play centre, the social enterprise centre and the Home for young adults with special needs. One other is employed to work in a large institution in Sarajevo to provide one-to-one care for a severely disabled young girl. Strategic and operational management is conducted from London – mkainly through tele-conferencing. A 5 year plan must incorporate a strong, local management strategy.
- 4. A funding strategy to deliver long term sustainability
Our Kids has started a ball rolling that cannot now be allowed to slow down – children and young people have come to depend upon us and we need to ensure that we can sustain our deep commitment to them in the long term. A long term, strategy is need. To this end we are seeking the funds to employ the expertise to enable this to happen.
CAN YOU HELP US?
Perhaps you can offer your expertise?
Perhaps you can raise some funds to help Our Kids to
- Pay the bills to run the Centre as a home for young adults with special needs, and as a play centre for the children from the orphanage
- Keep the Our Kids Play Programme going with a range of different activities run by loving creative people
- Set up and run skills and employment initiatives, e.g. some young people would like to set up and run a 2nd hand clothes shop - we’ve found premises, we just need some money to get it moving.
- Employ a Development Worker based in Mostar to manage and develop the work at local level
Halfway House building project becomes . . . Our House!
In September 2012 Our Kids opened ‘Our House’, a place where young women with a learning disability will make their homes and build more independent lives when they the reach the age of 18. Three young women who have been living at the children’s home Egipatsko Selo Mostar for some years as adults have finally moved into their new home, and we have accommodation for 5 more young women. The opening on 15th September was a wonderful moment for all of us, and it was great to see so many people there who have supported this work.
Make sure that you check the album page.