Healing Hands in Sarajevo

Thank you to Kate Carfrae for sending in this moving account of her work in Sarajevo:

At the Craft Fair last November, I sold Neal’s Yard Remedies to raise funds for Littlehempston Church and also the Tear Fund, a charitable project in Bangladesh, helping communities become more resilient to natural disasters such as flooding.

At the 2013 Craft Fair, I was raising money to fund an assignment in Sarajevo with the Healing Hands Network, set up in 1997 by two therapists visiting the recently besieged and devastated city of Sarajevo. They decided to dedicate the charity to the relief of suffering from the after-effects of war, through offering massage and other complimentary therapies. (It has been well-documented that these therapies can offer relief of physical and emotional trauma.) The Network works alongside local organisations, running professional clinics – free of charge to clients, both in the city and in pop- up clinics in the suburbs.

During my time there, I massaged 69 people of all ages and backgrounds. Clients were nominated by the local association for survivors of war and concentration camps. Even though it’s almost twenty-four years since the start of the conflict, the evidence remains – mental and physical like the scars of bullet-holes in the buildings on most streets. The people I saw had experienced a variety of shocking things, prison camps, kept under house-arrest, beatings, rape and torture. There was the daily struggle to survive the shelling and sniper attacks, going without electricity and water. Many had been cold and malnourished, deprived of sunlight, lacking medication, which had a knock-on effect on physical as well as mental well-being.

Most clients don’t discuss their troubles, they tend to ‘keep a lid on it’. It is heartening to think that, although there is still a lot of poverty (unemployment is 45%) and heartache, these are proud and generous people. They were full of praise and gratitude for their treatments and would always bring a gift, produce from their garden or something they had made.

Health services in Bosnia do not extend to complementary therapies (yet), and there is a pressing need for further awareness and training in this field. I have a vision of the future, with a massage training school that is also a treatment centre in Sarajevo. This would allow people an independent means of income from tourists. I hope to return to Bosnia to volunteer once again, but I think I will wait until 2016 as, being self-employed, my income suffers while I’m away.

I raised money for both causes by selling Neal’s Yard Remedies at events and in people’s homes – think Tupperware parties but more fun and less pressure. If you would like such a party, please contact me, I am always looking for hosts. The hosts are well-rewarded too. Contact me on 07941 489586. To find out more about volunteering in Sarajevo, visit www.healinghandsnetwork.org.uk.

Thank you very much for buying your NYR Organics items from me – I hope to be back again at the 2015 Craft Fair.