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Pakrac Projects
Overview and budget '96

Pakrac November 20, 1996

Project Update

It is over a year since Operation Flash reintegrated all of the Serb-held areas of Western Slavonia into Croatia. The town is rebuilding and there is no sense of military tension though the town hasn't yet recovered from the war in any way. The atmosphere is still of a devastated region with a myriad of unresolved issues that lead to social and political tension. The primary issue in Pakrac at this moment is the potential return of displaced persons to the area. This has slowly began to happen and international pressure has forced the government to accept the return of thousands of more refugees. Whether or not they will come is another question. How they will be received is an even larger one, and the possible repercussions for the town and the project are very significant.
While the military action in May 1995 was counterproductive to peaceful resettlement and reintegration of the area it did, paradoxically, open up many opportunities for real peace building and trust recovery work which would not have existed had the town remained divided. The project is now concentrating its efforts in the reconciliation field. For two years, international volunteers were the only foreign civilians who lived and worked on the former Serbian side. We have numerous contacts and a large reserve of trust on both sides of the town which puts us in an excellent position to lay the foundation for returnees and help with the reintegration process.
The more intensive social work is one reason that the project is moving in the direction of more involvement by locals. The ultimate goal of the project is to turn itself over entirely to locals in the Pakrac area. However, international volunteers continue to have a place here in Pakrac, volunteers help to increase awareness and understanding of different cultures, they also have awareness and understanding of the crisis in all of Former Yugoslavia, and of communication and peace-building skills. In addition the project hopes that these skills will be taken back to the volunteers' home countries and shared with their communities.

Puppet Theater

A sub-project of Volunteer Project Pakrac, the Puppet Theatre Project began in Pakrac in November 1995 as a non-threatening method of reintegration and reconciliation. In particular, it seeks to address the reintegration of Serb children into the local school system. No extra curricular activities were available to children from both the Serbian and Croatian sides of the formerly divided town. The Puppet Theatre was one of the initiatives developed to address this problem and facilitate the recovery of the war traumatised communities. It offers children a creative avenue to develop communicative and cooperative skills and to build self- confidence and esteem in a non-threatening environment.
The Puppet Theatre Group is designed to be entirely dependent on the children's participation. By encouraging the children to make the puppets, construct the stage and play all the roles in the performances, they learn to take initiatives, handle responsibility and work well with others.
The children conduct themselves as professionals, constructively criticising their performances as well as taking over some additional roles in the production.
In light of successful attendance and an on-going enthusiasm from children in the community we will continue to use the theatre to facilitate the normalisation and reconciliation processes.
Through the theatre, the project aims to support the rebuilding of trust between the two communities as the parents and children from all sides of Pakrac engage in this non-threatening activity. It is our immediate goal to continue and expand our work. Additional activities include pantomimine and shadow theatre as well as combining elements of classical theatre.

Children's Centre/Kid Space

Originally, the idea for Kid Space grew from the success of the Puppet Theatre sub-project.
Kid Space would cater to children from the ages of 6 to 12. It is envisioned that it could act as a meeting place where children could spend their free time and enjoy both structured activities and leisure time, and it would also be the venue for games, workshops and special days. Volunteers would provide supervision while engaging the children to help take responsibility for their space. Working together, volunteers, parents and children would work to coordinate both the activities and free time within the centre. In the future, we would like to expand Kid Space by establishing an art program and library.
Children who are interested in pursuing artistic outlets of expression have very few oportunities in the Pakrac area. In order to help provide them with an avenue for expression and development, we plan to start an art program, which would entail various mediums: dance, drawing and painting, singing, sculpture, music lessons, literary discussion groups and a writing forum.
The library facilitates in Pakrac are also unsatisfactory for children and we hope to fill that void by establishing our own. The Kid Space library would be aimed specifically at the children and contain books ranging from children's stories and novels to non-fiction educational works on the sciences, history, etc. Through this we encourage the children to explore and develop their interests on their own intitiative. In addition, we plan to offer special courses on a wide variety of topics based on the children's suggestion in order to provide another way for them to pursue interests outside school.
Through working with the children and allowing them to take personal control of their surroundings, it is hoped that they will begin the slow process of recovery and readjustment. The volunteers will be dealing with a variety of issues such as socialisation, recovery and normalisation. In addition, they will be work to aid in the development of self-esteem and confidence building within the children whilst ensuring a stress-free environment away from the pressures of homelife and parents.

E-Mail Project West Slavonia

The e-mail project was implemented in January 1996 after a full year of preparation and fundraising. In conjunction with the Pakrac secondary School and skilled local individuals, Volunteer Project Pakrac has provided modems and e-mail software for schools in the Western Slavonia region of Croatia and has set up a Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Pakrac itself. The e-mail lessons began with a core group of 25 students and have now grown to 75 students and 4 teachers taught during weekly classes. We now offer beginning and advanced classes to students and teachers. Several schools from Western Slavonia have contacted us about E-mail training. Pursvant to request from school teachers from the occupied area of Croatia, we are offering technical support and email training. The interest is growing quickly and more teachers and students are showing interest in participating. As of July 1996, we are a part of I*EARN (International Education and Resource Network)
The aim of the project is to provide local youth with the opportunity and skills to contact young people from other areas of Former Yugoslavia as well as individuals from other countries around the world. By establishing open lines of communication in a neutral forum (i.e. e-mail), it was hoped that discussion would replace stereotypes and common interest would replace surface differences. Children could communicate with other children from other area of the Former Yugoslavia, they can transcend their ethnic, religious, gender related or socio-economic differences and begin the process of healing. By initiating open conferences on Music, Sports and Games, it was anticipated that youth would discover these common interest in a non-threatening way. By encouraging and adhering to on-line netiquette as well as providing private communication lines, students feel safe to express their thoughts and feelings in a constructive way without fear of any consequences.
The project's vision has been expanded recently to include children from refugee centers. E-mail serves to break up the monotony of refugee camp life as well as provide an opportunity for the refugee children to meet students from other areas of the country. And as it does for young people in Pakrac, this project introduces a sense of normalization to the children of the camps by informing them about life outside the refugee camp. The E-Mail Project is also organizing workshops to bring children from the refugee camps to Pakrac. Pakrac students will be primarily responsible for teaching the fundamentals of e-mail to a local group of young people from the refugee centers who will then return to the refugee centers and hold their own seminars for the other children.
In addition to the social healing aspects of e-mail, the practical side of e-mail is very important as well. The training in computer skills and the English language (as most of the outside contacts are written in English) a useful for these children as they become older and wiser to seek employment either in the Former Yugoslavia or abroad. Writing letters and exchanging thoughts over e-mail introduces these skills in an enjoyable way. The contacts that these youth can make over e-mail, especially the refugees, some of which will resettle in other countries, are helpful in alleviating the difficulties of traveling out of the Former Yugoslavia.
In addition, we have also been connecting NGO's from Eastern, Western Slavonia and Baranja to email, as email is a economical and viable form of communication, therefore many NGO's are anxious to be connected (For additional information, please see attached brochure).

Photo Group

The Photo Group was initiated in the beginning of July 1995, on the former Serbian side of Pakrac. During the first two months of the project children participated consistently, and in the first four weeks of work the children (ages 7-14) produced approximately 1000 pictures, of which 170 were exhibited at a public showing. The exhibition was an avenue for establishing better connections between the parents and children within the community. We continued with our work and have now formed new groups on the former Croatian side of the town, and in Lipik Orphanage ( Pakrac's neighbouring town )
. Due to the fact that we work with highly traumatized children, our first task is to help them to regain a sense of control over their lives. This can be achieved through work and group facilitation which will encourage the development of their self- esteem and self-reliance. After initial "lectures" on the usage of cameras, film and equipment inside the darkroom, the children are provided with film and cameras. The content of the photographs is completely at their own discretion and they develop the photos of their choice on their own (however, the help of our skilled facilitators is always available when needed). In this way the children have control over the whole technological process, and the photographs give a fairly accurate representation of the children's emotional state.

Community Visits

From the very beginning,, the idea of Community Visits was not to provide the services or support of the Croatian Social Service, but rather it was created to fill in the cracks by bringing extra help to those in greatest need. The project has aimed to visit an equal proportion of Croatian and Serbian people, and to engage in minor physical work and to show solidarity with members of both communities. Recently, together with the gradual normalization of life in the Pakrac region, the main goal has broadened towards more in depth work on reconciliation through building communication skills and supporting the people in the community as well as introducing alternative ways of communication and lifestyles. Local people or internationals with excellent language skills help members of the communities to overcome their war traumas and contribute to the development of the community. Helping people became a means for reaching people. By encouraging local youth to work in the Sub-project we hope to facilitate the creation of stronger links within the two communities.
Eighty percent of the people we visit are families with people over 60 years old. They basically need physical help, but also simply someone they can talk with. The other twenty percent of the families are younger, and are with children under 18. The empahasis with these families is more with psychological support than with actual physical work, and at present we plan to increase the percentage of younger families who, in the long run, are more influential in molding the general atmosphere and politics of the town We now have a local Serbian and a local Croatian woman directing our Community Visits Program, who are working together with both nationalities. Our community visiters are also trained nurses and they are able to offer medical support to the beneficiaries of the Community Visits Program, many of whom are either elderly or young mothers with children.

Small Repairs

The aim of the Small Repairs Project is to restore to the recipients a feeling of security and trust in their homes. Although over half the homes in Pakrac were completely destroyed, many suffered only minimal damage which can fairly easily be repaired by volunteers. For many inhabitants this is the only way work will be done at present because the war devastated the local economy, and scattered the family members who formerly would have assisted in this process.
At present our work consists of repairing widows (broken during the fighting), sawing and chopping firewood (the main source of heating and cooking energy), doing other small repairs and cleaning ruined houses to make them ready for rebuilding. Development of a co-operative tool lending library, encouragement of community education opportunities like workshops for young people, and support for grassroots community projects such as the building of a kindergarten playground close to the former cease-fire line are some of our future activities.
At present we have a long term volunteer co-ordinating the work. Our long term volunteer is from Sweden, but he spent many years living in Croatia, and hence his knowledge of the language and the country are a great asset to our work.. The work of small repairs is being integrated more and more into the Community Visits Sub- Project as the volunteers involved with the visits in the community come across a lot of work, not only with the families that they visit, but also with neighbors and friends of those families. Our network in the community is thus expanding each day. In the near future we will not have any short term volunteers to assist the small repairs volunteer and for this reason, we would like to attract one more long term volunteer for the Small Repairs Sub- Project.

Pakrac Project Newspaper: Kako Si?

Our bi-monthly Project newsletter, Kako Si, attempts to present a coherent and fairly comprehensive picture of the entire Project both to the local and international community including: (former) volunteers, sponsors, locals, partner projects, peace groups, NGOs, officials, politicians, press, parents, and children around the world. Kako Si first appeared in 1994 with two issues geared towards the international community. Two years passed without the newsletter due to funding difficulties.
Recently, we received funding to produce Kako Si for an entire year and have produced two "new" issues in September and November. The new Kako Si is printed with many more copies in Croatian than English (the past issues were all in English) as the Project moves towards deeper communication with the local community. Many citizens of Pakrac do not come into direct contact with the Volunteer Project Pakrac except by reading Kako Si, thus we can reaffirm our link between Project and community through media. Kako Si can also help work towards reconciliation by fostering independent thinking and by providing alternative viewpoints not found in the local or national press. Kako Si is also one of the only places that a Serb and Croat can appear side by side in something approaching dialogue.
Kako Si provides information on the general context of Project life such as sub-projects, fundraising, editiorials, etc.. Besides information, Kako Si also tries to offer some reflections upon life in Pakrac through thoughts and impressions of a personal, philosophical, artistic, cultural or even political nature. We are attempting to involve more locals in Kako Si and the direction the newsletter takes in the future is largely up to them.

Short Term Volunteer Camps

For the last three years, the Project recruted short term volunteers who came for three weeks to do both physical and social work. Over 500 international volunteers from 23 countries have participated in the workcamp. STV camps will be on hold during the coming winter months, but we anticipate that the STV camps will resume in spring 1997.

English Lessons

Project volunteers are also giving English lessons at the orphanage in Lipik. One to three STVs may accompany the LTVs and help teach the class. The children study grammar in school so the focus here is on games and contact with international people using English.. It is useful for both the children and volunteers to be in contact with people from different circumstances to those in Pakrac, Lipik and the rest of Croatia. Volunteers will also commence with English lessons to the community on the former Serbian side and on the Croatian side of Pakrac and the surrounding villages.

Other Activities

Despite the fact that the STVs will probably have no direct contact with the other activities linked to the project, it is valuable nevertheless to have a basic awareness of what else is going on in Pakrac. In accordance with the project aim to allow as much work as possible to become self-supporting and independent of international volunteers, there are an increasing number of activities which are being turned over to the local community.

Annual Budget for 1996

This Annual Budget includes all sub-project costs in DM.
Project Infrastructure
Rent @200DM per month                               2,400
Electricity, Gas, and Water @210DM per month        2,412
Telephone Bill @300DM per month                     3,600
Office Supplies                                       700
Postage Costs                                         345
Maintenance of the Office                             800
Honoraria for Project Manager                       4,800
Honoraria for Project Coordinator                   7,200
Per Diem for Int'l Fundraiser                       2,520
Rents for Long Term Volunteer Houses                9,600
Electricity, Gas and Water @730DM per month         8,760
Infrastructure Total:                              43,137
Community Visits:
Participation in Office Costs                       1,620
Honoraria for 2 Coordinators                       14,400
Fee for Supervisor (8 hours per month)              1,920
Transport Costs                                       660
Supplies                                            1,200
(occasional medicines and supplies for families)
Sub-project Total:                                 19,800
Honoraria for Sub-project Coordinator               7,200
Honoraria for System Operator                       7,200
Per Diem for Int'l Volunteer                        4,200
Telephone Bill                                      1,345
Crosspoint Manuals                                    700
Additional Manuals                                    812
Consultant Travel Costs                               400
Conference Costs                                    1,400
Sub-project Total:                                 23,257
(note:  additional costs of installation and equipment not
Puppet Theater
Per diem for Int'l Volunteer                        4,200
Rent                                                1,800
Materials                                           2,910
Tour for 20 children                               13,800
Training for Facilitators                             830
Sub-project Total:                                 23,540
Photo Group
Honoraria for Sub-project Coordinator               5,400
Per Diem for Int'l Volunteer                        4,200
2 Dryers                                              800
Materials                                          21,000
Maintenance of Photo Equipment                        800
Consultant Travel Expense                             620
Sub-project Total                                  32,820
Youth Development
Honoraria for 2 Sub-project Coordinator            14,400
Youth Newspapers                                    3,456
Video Evenings                                        660
Dance Classes                                       1,648
Mentor Group for Young Women                        1,850
Mentor Group for Young Men                            950
Ecology Group                                         950
Conflict Resolution Workshop                        2,016
Sub-project Total:                                 25,930
Men's Group
Honoraria for 2 group Facilitators                 14,400
Training for Group Facilitators                     1,440
Materials for Group                                   160
Sub-project Total:                                 16,000
Kako Si?
Honoraria for Editor                                1,800
Photography Costs                                     120
Telephone/Fax                                         370
Layout Honoraria                                    1,200
Printing Costs                                      6,800
Distribution                                        2,500
Travel Budget                                          90
Sub-project Total                                  12,880
Small Repairs Program (Incl. Tools Library)
Honoraria for Sub-project Coordinator               7,200
Per Diem for Int'l Volunteer                        4,200
Materials                                           7,908
Transport                                           1,020
Administration                                      1,620
Tools for workshop                                  8,000
Rent for workshop facility                          2,400
Electricity, gas, water                             1,800
Sub-project Total                                  34,148
Workshops, Round Tables, Expositions and Concerts
Three Workshops
Rent for Premises                                     165
Materials                                             240
Food for Participants                                 960
Honoraria for Facilitators                          1,920
Facilitators' Travel Costs                             80
Three Round Tables
Rent for Premises                                     240
Honoraria for Facilitator                             240
Facilitator's Travel Costs                            240
Materials and Marketing                                32
Two Expositions
Rent for Premises                                     480
Materials                                           1,120
Marketing                                             320
Two Concerts
Rent for Premises                                     250
Honoraria for Performers                            1,600
Travel Costs                                          160
Equipment Rental                                      800
Marketing                                             160
Sub-project Total:                                  9,007
Project Total:                                    249,279

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