Cherish Our Children International (COCI) has expanded its programs into the Serbian Republic of Bosnia as of 2008. After a feasibility study was completed in the county of Kostajnica, a bombed-out kindergarten was discovered and the local mayor agreed to allow the opening of an integration program aimed at the community’s special needs children. After the Bosnian War, the Dayton Accord demanded the return of the school property back to this particular community, however, it was too economically devastated to restore services at the kindergarten.
Private investment provided a bright, new, safe venue and COCI then stepped in to help local parents of special needs children establish an NGO and then began providing educational workshops, speech and hearing therapy, and dental services. Additionally, the kindergarten became a nursery school and thus began a program of integrating special needs children into mainstream social settings.
One of COCI’s vehicles was donated to this program so that the number of beneficiaries could be maximized. Because special needs children are traditionally hidden, ostracized and largely ignored in former communist countries, the number of beneficiaries is difficult to determine. There are over 100 children attending the nursery school and the special needs workshops. More children are also receiving the dental services. However, the hope given to parents and social workers when there is a dependable entity providing services and counseling is the greatest benefit.
Virtually none of the special needs beneficiaries in this program have ever seen anything but a family doctor. Proper diagnosis, treatment and records are non-existent. With COCI’s involvement, these children and parents have claimed their place in society and are reaching their full potential. The success of the program continues to encourage other families to come forward and to include more deserving children.
In Bosnia COCI provides the following:
- Cognitive and creative workshops for special needs children.
- Speech and Hearing Therapy.
- Dental Treatment and Dental Hygiene Training.
- Integration Initiative.
- Vehicle and Transportation Services for Students
- COCI partnerships with Local Mayor, City Council and Social Services.
HOPE SCHOOL is funded by COCI with local government contributions for building security and some utilities. As the program success grows, more and more families are willing to bring their children forward. That projected growth will require additional funding. The rural setting combined with the post-war, post-communist environment makes for a challenging reality.