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Jo&Sanja on Wed, 5 May 1999 10:47:41 +0200 (CEST)


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nettime-nl: post it, please



Balkan Sunflower
Postfach 1219
D-14806 Belzig, Germany
www.balkansunflowers.org

VOLUNTEERS FOR ALBANIA

Introduction
Balkan Sunflowers is a grass roots organization which spans the globe. Based
in Germany.  Our purpose is to organize people from around the world who
wish to help relieve the refugee crisis which has exploded throughout the
Balkans.  All of our volunteers pay for their own expenses and
transportation to the field.  Our goal is the return some sense of community
to these displaced populations which now number in the hundreds of
thousands.  The experience of becoming a refugee from  one's home is a
traumatic one, and we are helpless to prevent what has already happened. The
experience of being a refugee, living in one of  hundreds of camps does not
have to be.  That is where we can help.

What is Social Aid
Social aid is the act of providing community structure to those who have no
community. It is community Building. It is the process of  restoring some
measure of normalcy to those who's lives have been destroyed.

Purpose
Balkan Sunflowers organizes volunteer efforts throughout the world,
providing the opportunity for non-medical and non-technical people, as well
as those with medical and technical backgrounds to participate 'hands-on' in
the humanitarian relief effort.  This effort is essential to the survival of
the refugees of the conflict in the Balkans, particularly for the thousands
of displaced women and children.  Our goal is to set up community centers
within the refugee camps to aid in the establishment of a sense of community
and normalcy by providing a place for social and organizational gathering,
schooling, classes (such as arts and crafts, English, music, community
theater, pottery, painting, etc.), organized sports and many other
activities.  In the beginning there will also be a need for basic
facilities such a toilets and shelter. Volunteers with construction
experience will organize refugees and materials toward the fabrication of
such facilities.

Methods
Balkan Sunflowers relies on it's volunteers, who do all of their own fund
raising, to achieve it's goals.  Volunteers, must pay for their
transportation to the field and living expenses.  Each is challenged to
design their own classes based on each volunteer's individual talents and
provide their own materials.  World-wide 'core'       fundraising is
conducted at our Headquarters in Germany. Those funds are used to build up
our infrastructure, pay salaries and secure necessities such as housing for
volunteers.  We also work hard to cooperate with other humanitarian
agencies, both governmental and private which serve the same populations.
By combining efforts and sharing resources, all groups are able to be more
effective.

Scope
The project has a long term focus.  All, if not the majority of the
facilities and centers founded will remain staffed until such time as the
camp itself is disbanded and it's residents returned home.  From experience
we have seen that mass exoduses such as the one now underway in the Balkans
leave behind camps that remain in place for years.  Many refugees' villages
have been completely destroyed and therefore, they have nothing to which to
return.  Many fear for their lives if they were to return home. For some,
their homes and villages have been occupied by other people.  Four years
after the Dayton  Accords ended the conflict between Serbia,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and  Croatia, hundreds of thousands of people remain in
refugee camps.  After WWII, it was not until 1959 before the refugee problem
was considered solved.

Plan
In May 1999 our first group of 'pathfinders' is scheduled to arrive in the
field.  Their task is to assess the situation, establish a local office,
network with other relief organizations in the field looking for
opportunities to work together, and set up facilities in one or more camps,
thus paving the way for larger groups of volunteers to come over and serve
the population in a more structured environment.

June 1st should see our first group of volunteers arrive to staff and expand
the facilities arranged by the pathfinders. This will permit our pathfinders
to scout out new opportunities in new locations while managing incoming and
outgoing groups of volunteers, communicating with our headquarters in
Germany and performing all of the administrative tasks associated with the
facilities and volunteers.

The History of Our Group and it's Founder, Wam Kat
Balkan Sunflowers was founded by Wam Kat, a Dutch peace activist, professor
of sociology and father of three children.  Wam traveled to Croatia in 1992
,during the Balkans War, to work with an organization called Anti-War
Campaign Croatia (ARK in Croatian).  While there, Wam began a project called
ZaMir (for peace) to facilitate communication between relief organizations,
as well as between the warring parties. The system began with a fax relay
network used to disseminate information. Wam and his co-volunteers
subsequently grew the network into a working e-mail and BBS system with
nodes in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Next, Wam helped organize Volunteer Project Pakrac.  The project, composed
of international volunteers and locals, worked to rebuild a town that was
divided by the cease-fire line and facilitate the peace process by returning
some normalcy to the lives of those who called the town home. During this
time, Wam kept a diary about his work and experiences in the war-torn area
which he uploaded to the Internet on a daily basis. The diary quickly caught
the worlds attention and was
reprinted in papers such as USA today.  It was eventually published in it's
entirety in book form with all proceeds benefiting Wam's peace projects.

The ZaMir Transnational Net and Project Pakrac were such a success that it
caught the attention of Vice President Al Gore who stated in a 1997 speech
before the International Telecommunications Union Development Conference:

               '..it (the Internet) has brought us images of war and peace,
of
               tragedy and joy, in which we all can share.  There's a Dutch
               relief worker, Wam Kat, who has been broadcasting an
electronic
               diary from Zagreb for more than a year and a half on the
               Internet,
               sharing his observations of life in Croatia.  After reading
Kat's

               Croatian diary (the Zagreb Diary), people around the world
began
               to send money for relief efforts. The result: 25 houses have
been

               built in a town destroyed by war.  Governments didn't do
this.
               People did.  But such events are the hope of the future.'
                                                                     Al
Gore,
Vice President of the United
               States

In his next venture, Wam and another ARK member began their first project
recruiting international volunteers to work in refugee settlements.  Within
a year, the organization had grown to encompass  37 locations in Croatia and
Bosnia-Herzegovina, 4,000 international  volunteers and a paid staff of 60
supported in large part by the UNHCR  (United Nations High Commission on
Refugees).  It had become so large in fact that it separated itself from ARK
and established itself as an independent NGO (non-government organization)
known as SuncoKret  (sunflower in Croatian).

The name SuncoKret/Sunflower was chosen as a name in memory of a lesser
known project of Wam's.  When spring came to Zagreb in 1994 Wam took it upon
himself to run around injecting sunflower seeds into the sandbags that
formed bunkers all around the city.  By summer, sandbags and bunkers
throughout Zagreb sprouted with the giant yellow flowers in one of the most
poetic anti-war statements in the long history of war in the Balkans.

After the signing of the Dayton Accords brought and end to the fighting in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wam decided to take a break and moved to Germany.
SuncoKret was left in the capable hands of the Croatian people and evolved
into an organization composed of  many social workers and psychologists that
deal with trauma and other  effects of war on children and adults.

Let the Sunflowers Blossom Again!
Less than four years after Wam left the Balkans, fighting has again broken
out.
This time in the area known as Kosovo to Serbians and Kosova to Albanians.
We prefer to use the term Kosov {AT}  or Kosovo/a to acknowledge the disagreement
over the region's proper name.  This new fighting and the unprecedented
flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Albania, Macedonia, and
several other nations has caused a humanitarian catastrophe of epic
proportions.

In response to this new Crisis, Wam made the decision to wake the sleeping
giant that was SunooKret.  The new organization known as the Balkan
Sunflowers will focus it's efforts, in much the same way it has done
historically, on the new Balkan refugee situation.

How do I Contribute
Each volunteer is responsible for raising their own funds.  To contribute to
they're efforts, just make out a check to the volunteer requesting the
funds.  100% of your donation goes toward financing the volunteers' travel
and living expenses while they serve the refugees. If you wish to donate to
the core account in Germany, make your check payable to Balkans Sunflowers
and mail to:

      Sunflower
       Postfach 1219
       D-14806 Belzig, Germany

       Account information:
       Account #:                  160 160 1
       Account Name:            Sunflower
       Bank:                    Oekobank Frankfurt (Germany)
       Blz                      500 901 00

       Contact Information

       Web Page
       www.balkansunflowers.org



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