Ana Mihajlovic '14 (left) designed a multinational website that lists free aid and information about legal rights pertaining to the disabled populations of her native Bosnia and Herzegovina. With funding, she also purchased and distributed computers to five non-profits and non-government organizations that serve the handicapped.

Peace for handicapped populations in Bosnia and Herzegovina

October 25, 2013

Ana Mihajlovic ’14 created a multinational website to serve the handicapped population of her native Bosnia and Herzegovina that offers access to information about social services and free legal aid.

“Bosnia is a poor country and social services are really limited. I really wanted to help the handicapped, to empower them, because of their lack of finances and adaptations in society,” Mihajlovic says.

Ana MihajlovicMihajlovic’s work was conducted over four months last summer in the northeast region of the country through funding provided by the Davis Projects for Peace program, which awards $10,000 grants to a select group of students nationwide each year.

Mihajlovic, whose mother is a paraplegic, arrived in Europe in May and conducted her project, “Stepping Out From The Shadow,” in two phases. The first phase concentrated on delivering computers to five non-profit and non-government organizations that offer free aid to the handicapped. The second focused on developing a website and fliers that promoted the services available to people with handicaps and their rights to those services.

“I really wanted to make something sustainable, something that is not going to just impact the northeastern region of the country, but trigger the greater change across Bosnia,” she says. “By creating the website and just grabbing all of the information about legal rights and places where they can obtain legal aid, I thought I could help them.”

Project’s contribution to peace

Mihajlovic says the project can unite the disabled populations from different ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina by empowering them to share common stories about issues of discrimination.

“This project seeks to establish a more just society and mutual tolerance as a basis for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in several ways,” she says. “First, it informs the disabled population in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina about their legal rights and organizations that provide legal aid. Second, it launched communication and collaboration between Serbs and Bosniaks, and thereby is creating stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina by helping these groups to overcome their ethnic differences and build community spirit.”

The journey

Mihajlovic identified five regional agencies that would benefit from the project. They include the Information Centre for Persons with Disabilities “Lotos” in Tuzla; Muscular Dystrophy Association of Brcko District; Paraplegic Association from the Doboj region; the Regional Muscular Dystrophy Association of Bjelijina; and the Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired in Zvornik.

Each organization received computers, which Mihajlovic purchased from ZiComp Company in Tuzla because they offered the best long-term guarantee in case of a defect.  With the help of “Lotos”, Mihajlovic distributed the computers to each organization personally and received positive feedback from representatives at each site.

“It was a very touching moment because they were so happy to receive the computers,” Mihajlovic says. “What we achieved meant so much to them. It was almost like a sign that, ‘yeah, there is hope’ because many of the people who worked there were volunteers and had poor working conditions.

“They were fascinated by the fact that I was just a student.”

Mihajlovic then set to work contracting with a different company in Tulza who provided the best offer to design a website, fliers as well as provide web hosting for five years.

The site, which is published in Bosnian, is available at www. Iskorakizsjenke.ba. “Iskorak iz sjenke” means stepping out of the shadow.

A sixth organization, a website called “Your Rights,” also participated in the program but did not receive a computer. The organization agreed to post a link to Mihajlovic’s site and provide free legal assistance to members of the five other associations that participated in her project.

Social change on a global scale

Earlham Assistant Professor of History Elana Passman said Mihajlovic’s project required little oversight.

“She came to me with a design for her project already in place,” Passman says. “And I worked with her simply on turning it into the best possible grant applicant she could put together. Really, she was the impetus behind all of it.

“She figured out a way to implement change at home through what she has learned in the classroom here,” she says. “What she has done is brought back a little slice of Earlham to Bosnia and I think that’s wonderful. I think she made a huge difference in people’s lives and I think it’s something that will continue to have an impact on people’s lives.”

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at (765) 983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

To learn more about Davis Projects for Peace, visit davisprojectsforpeace.org.

 

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