I am a twenty one year old girl born and raised in New England. I am junior at Keene State College in New Hampshire and a member of the college's Honors Program. I am a junior double majoring in math and secondary education. Once I graduate I hope to teach high school math abroad.

          On May 16, 2012 I began a journey that would truly change my life. I left the United States for the first time and traveled to a place that only twenty years ago was devastated by war, ethnic cleansing and genocide. I traveled with nine students and two professors as part of the Honors Program to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). 

          We spent one week working with The Center for Peace Building (CIM) in Sanski Most (Northwestern BiH). We spent time learning about BiH by volunteering and spending time with local and international CIM volunteers, religious leaders, children from a local orphanage, and the founder of a local women's organization. I have never felt a greater sense of purpose in my life. It was in Sanski Most that I learned the true capacity of the human heart. I listened to survivors tell their stories and was amazed at how people directly effected by the war could reconcile with those who tortured them and killed their loved ones. 

     Our second week was spent in the capital city, Sarajevo, meeting with different organizations focused on peace and reconciliation. We also met with international judges from the Court of BiH and policy makers at the United States Embassy. One day was spent in Mostar to see possibly the most photographed bridge in the country. In Mostar we were able to see how the river created a physical ethnic divide for its citizens. 

          As soon as I returned to the United States I began to research the possibility of returning to BiH for an extended period of time to volunteer. With the help of the people I met at CIM, I realized that this dream could become reality for the summer of 2013. So here I am, doing everything I possibly can to raise the funds I need in order to return to the country whose history, culture, and people stole my heart. 

Why is it so important for me to return?

          Before the war, Bosnia and all of Yugoslavia symbolized brotherhood and unity. Everyone went to school together and celebrated all religious holidays together. That all changed when Bosnia declared its independence because one month later, the first shots of war were fired. The country was torn apart and deep ethnoreligious lines were drawn separating people that were once united. 

          As a result of the war, and the international communities effort to encourage minority families to return to Bosnia, schools became segregated based on religious identity. Twenty years later, this plan is still in place. Having segregated schools only exaggerates the differences between the different religions of Bosnia. It is teaching its students that those kids over at that school are different, and to any child in the world, different is usually bad. Combine that with the stories of war their parents pass down and the fact that each religious group teaches a different national history blaming the other religious groups and that is a recipe for another war in Bosnia. 

          I have seen the way CIM has made huge strides in making Sanski Most a more peaceful place and a large amount of credit is due to the local youth involved with the NGO. Children are the future of society and I am committed to helping the children of Bosnia live a full and peaceful life. 

Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]