Eldar Balta is the founder of MOBA, an association for the promotion of social responsibility based in Sarajevo. According to Balta, MOBA is a word that describes volunteer work in this area of the Balkans. “When the community or someone in particular was in need, people would gather around to help. It still exists in our culture, especially in rural areas. It is a really good way of, not just volunteering for a good cause, but also for socializing, having a good time in general. Out of that word, that particular tradition, the Yugoslavian government made Youth Working Actions,” he said.
According to Balta, it’s this tradition that inspired him to create MOBA. Four years later, MOBA has found success. In the beginning, it was just Balta and one of his friends. They started out by cleaning a park and coaching baseball for free. “In time, we grew and our resources grew. We planted ourselves in one community here in Sarajevo, trying to challenge and infect the community with volunteerism, responsibility, fun and work,” he said. Out of this, Balta and his friends started a landscaping business, Irget. Now, both MOBA and Irget are scaling, said Balta.
Balta sees the deep need for education in Bosnia to make it into a better Bosnia. “The only way to do that is by education. The more you know, less afraid you are. The more you know, the more skilled you are. Then there are more ways of transforming what we already have into what we need,” Balta said. Through education, Balta believes that there’s a chance for freedom and independence to pursue your own happiness and well-being.
Through MOBA, Balta has seen great change in his community. He sees now that people are self-organizing and are enthusiastic about the work. According to Balta, kids who were there at the beginning are still around helping with the efforts. “Change has happened, definitely, but we do seek for more. And for better,” he said.
Balta feels that getting involved is not complex and extravagant. “Helping others is helping yourself. Be what you want to see. Lead or follow, and don’t stay stuck in cynicism and whining,” he said. To Balta, Bosnia’s future will be bright if Bosnians work for it. “Until we realize our children do not owe us anything, and we owe it to them to be better, the wheel is not going to turn forward,” he said.
Adnan Smajic is the owner of Franz and Sophie World of Tea. This cozy little tea shop has had great success in the community and even internationally. Franz and Sophie has received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. When a customer walks into F & S, they are greeted by a warm welcome, and often a hug, from Smajic. It’s that warmth that is making an impact in the community.
According to Smajic, his goal is to bring tea culture to Bosnian people. Smajic says that he was formerly a doctor, but decided to make a drastic career change. “I started twenty years ago; I lived in Germany at that time. I learned how to drink tea and enjoy tea. Starting as a hobby, I tested tea and took tea courses. In 2004-05, I came back to Bosnia. And one day I made the decision to open this tea shop,” he said.
Smajic sees Bosnia’s needs more apparent when it comes to the government. “Well, as a state and a country, we need a stable government. We need somebody who thinks about Bosnia as one country, and isn’t just thinking about their own nationality. If you don’t have a stable political situation you cannot get a good economic situation. Everything depends on a really good political situation,” he said.
According to Smajic, his hope for Bosnia is, “If everybody drinks tea and gets a little bit from the Zen culture of Japan. This is what I am doing, and it’s a little bit exotic and unusual for Bosnia.” He sees this as his way of making a positive change in Bosnia. Eventually he would like to help the economic situation through his love of tea. “The next step would be to work with people from inside of the country where you can produce herbs and make tea in wintertime when you cannot work on the land. Something like fair trade production,” he said. To Smajic, he thinks that others can get involved simply by doing what they love. “The thing is, it would be great when everybody does what I am doing, which is doing what you love. Work, but not making big money. Just make you and your environment better,” he said.
Elmina Kulasic is a Senior Advisor at Victims and Witnesses of Genocide. According to Kulasic, it’s an organization formed in 2010 that focuses on working with war survivors in Bosnia. Kulasic wanted to learn more about the issue and attended the conference about a year ago. Kulasic works with survivors, translating documents and getting the word out there on the national and international level.
According to Kulasic, her involvement with victims began in the United States, when she worked for a non-profit advocating for Bosnia. “I was trying to emphasize what happened in Bosnia, so that people could understand why the US should be interested in peace in Bosnia,” she said. Kulasic’s current organization is different in that it works with survivors even after they testify. “They don’t have national programs here where survivors receive adequate care after they testify. Most of the time they go back to their home and they have to deal with the aftermath of testifying in a case,” said Kulasic.
Kulasic sees that the war has greatly disrupted Bosnia’s moving forward. “I don’t want the image of the war to be the image of Bosnia. Bosnia has a lot more to offer than just the story of the war,” she said. What does Kulasic deem necessary for Bosnia to move forward? “We need to learn from the past. That is going to be through court rulings. We have a generation that was born during the war or right after the war, that is growing up in a very divided Bosnia; Two to three different systems. And when you look at the education in Bosnia it’s very divided. We still have this divide that has to be addressed,” Kulasic said.
According to Kulasic, her hope for Bosnians is for them to understand that Bosnia’s their home. “Whether they are Bosnian Muslim, Croat, Serb, Yugoslav; whatever they identify themselves with, my hope is that they will understand that Bosnia is their home. And that we all have lost someone that we love, and that most of us are still searching for our loved ones. If we want to ease our pain and find some kind of portrait of peace, we need to understand first and foremost that Bosnia is our home,” she said.
By: Bethany Yonts