Almina Šehić is a member of YU-Peace and coordinator of the Youth Center in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje, the local partner organization of Vacation From War. In 2019, the “camp”, the organization of which rotates annually between the five partner cities of the project, took place in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje, a city in which Croatians and (Bosnian) Muslims continue to live separately: after the Peace Camp at the seaside the follow-up camp for participants from previous years is the second major annual activity of Vacation From War in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

(Text: Almina Šehić) Since I joined YU-Peace in 2016, I met many people who still play a major role in my daily life and are part of me, even if we only see each other every few months. Seeing some of them for the first time in my city, in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje, was heart-warming. Of course we enjoy the company of the others no matter where we are. But I am sure that everyone part of this project would agree if I say that it is priceless having the others come to our city and spend time together. Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje is a small town, some would say that it is not well „developed“, and therefore it is often judged negatively –  together with the people who live there. Of course there are close minded people who do not support the work of the Youth Center, but every city has that kind of people. The center gives us the opportunity to meet people who are fighting for the same cause as we are.

Around 60 young people from Sombor, Vukovar, Srebrenica, Tuzla and of course from Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje took part in the “camp”. On the first evening we divided the participants into groups, each of which was made up of youngsters from all cities. Each group was assigned a day and they were given the task of organizing a diverse evening program and supporting the organization of the schedule for the respective day. So everyone could help shape the camp. The youngsters designed a logo for their group and chose their own anthem. They introduced their logos and hymns to each other; in this way they all felt connected.

The program, then, started with introductory games, ice-breakers, in order to strengthen trust for the joint work on the difficult topics. The workshops over the next few days were more serious and quite challenging.

The participants told their personal story in a workshop; they shared their feelings, the challenges they face, knowing that they would not be judged. There was also a workshop titled ‚memorInmotion‘: we used the history of monuments to raise participants’ awareness for the importance of preserving history. They had the opportunity to design their own memorial to represent themselves, their struggle and their goals.

The OSCE partner organization organized a workshop on “Hate” and how hatred is spread.

Our campsite was a bit outside the city, so we went on a day trip and explored the city together. There, we organized games for children in the park. In the same place we created a mural of our YU-Peace-Logo a while back, we drew a dove on the floor as a sign of peace.

The participants also had some free time: we as hosts gave a tour of the city to one group and also visited the mosque and the Christian church together. The other part of the group hiked up the nearby hill, enjoying a great view of the whole city.

After the camp, I asked my friends from Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje about their impressions. We agreed that seeing all these faces full of amazement and acceptance was invaluable. That is the beauty of YU-Peace and its people. Today, we still talk about this camp. Everything we do motivates us to do even more.