WINGS OF HOPE INTERNATIONAL: NEVER AGAIN
Wings of Hope International was developed in 1994 by children that had been imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp. As adults, these people were horrified by the challenges facing children in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Pieter Dietz de Loos, the founder and original president of Wings of Hope International explains the problems facing young people after war and the foundation’s aims:
“Treating war trauma is a long process. It will take generations. I see the mind’s reaction to this trauma as sound reactions to those unsound happenings. We therefore need not feel ashamed when we feel unhappy or guilty for being alive, or when we cannot enjoy life, which we do from time to time. Or when we have nightmares and other unpleasant reactions. Wings of Hope, established for this purpose, is committed to this work”.
The founders named Wings of Hope after a drawing of a girl who had been expelled from her hometown. She entitled her picture “butterflies have short lives”. This had a strong impact not only in naming “Wings of Hope”, but in the direction of the organisation: to prevent further children from having such a tragic view of life. Wings of Hope International was based in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, and branches have since been developed in Sarajevo, Munich, Iraq and Palestine/Israel.
WINGS OF HOPE, BiH
VISION: For the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be prosperous and have a high level of respect for human rights, protection and promotion of mental health and support for education of women, children, youth and other vulnerable groups.
MISSION: Improving the social inclusion and strengthening of women, children, youth and other vulnerable groups by promoting and protecting human rights, mental health and support in education.
Wings of Hope has a long history. It began its work in early 1995 with the main focus of helping children. Young people were disproportionately affected by the war, with childhoods being disrupted, access to education severely harmed, and the constant fear of death or injury causing mental strain. Many lost their lives; in Sarajevo alone, 1600 people under the age of 16 were killed in the conflict. The war also affected children’s lives by destroying their homes or causing loss of a parent. This meant that young people’s psychological development was hampered by the absence of family, as well as many having to find shelter in homes. Bjelave and Mjedenica were two institutions that housed children, and the primary project for Wings of Hope was to renew these.
In 1996, programs of psychosocial aid were started and aimed at a range of groups. The project “Reintegration of Pupils: Returnees into the School System” was key in trying to reverse the damage done by the absence of schooling during the war. One of the most successful outcomes of this was the rebuilding of a primary school in Rizvanovići, a village near Prijedor.
Further projects involved the intensive programme “Reconciliation through Detraumatisation” that was launched in 2000. It worked with severely traumatised primary school children from Banja Luka, Mostar, Sarajevo and Tuzla.
As the programme progressed, it set up the first international Peace-Education Summer Camp with 250 participants from BiH in 2002. This camp has now become an annual event.
The organisation continued to grow, with the centre for psychosocial aid for children and youth opening in 2003. It focused on the importance of continuous education of psychologists, pedagogues and neuropsychiatrists within Wings of Hope and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in general. This centre enabled excellent therapeutic assistance to be provided to war-traumatised youth.
Since the organisation received its independent status in 2004, it worked over the next 10 years to provide support to approximately 17,000 people. It has employed 700 workers, and has partnered with 60 nurseries, schools, local and international NGOs, home and foreign universities and research centres.
Thus far, 2015 has remained as busy as the previous years. Wings of Hope continues to provide assistance to its current project participants, and works to extend this help to anyone who is in need of it.