Potatoes, payback, and peace dividends in the Balkans
As the embers from the Balkans wars continue to cool down, and the region settles into a still somewhat tenuous peace, UCC/Church World Service is moving away from emergency-related work and into longer-term development projects. "We know what the risks are in creating dependence on paternalistic relief aid," said Vitali Vorona, CWS Balkans Director. "That is why we focus on assistance that empowers people and helps them generate their own resources."
Among the empowered people were 250 families in three villages near Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina—Lokve, Bivolje Brdo, and Gradina-Pocitelj—who received agricultural assistance in the form of 22,000 kilos of seed potatoes.
To "payback" the seed potatoes loan, the communities sent more than 35 tons of potatoes to seven soup kitchens throughout the country, where more than 6,000 people received food—based on need, not on ethnic background. The families are on their way to independence, and in the process, they are helping to build peace in a country still struggling with the legacy of war.
UCC Wider Church Ministries, through One Great Hour of Sharing, has pledged $50,000 annually for three years (2002-2004) to support CWS's continuing work in the Balkans.
All gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing are tax deductible and 100% of designated gifts go to the designated area of response. Non-designated funds are encouraged. They allow One Great Hour of Sharing to address future hidden and forgotten emergencies around the world.