Mine Detection Dog Program
Current need: in 2017, MLI will donate two mine detection dogs, Rex and Zico, to two indigenous demining organizations: Office of Civil Protection – Republic of Srpska and Pro Vita. These MDDs will continue helping to increase the demining capacity of Bosnia and return of land to its people.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is considered the most heavily mine affected nation in Europe; remnants of the conflict related to the break up of former Yugoslavia. Many of the mine-impacted communities in Bosnia are rural and the inhabitants depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
To date, MLI, with the support of the U.S. Department of State and private donors, has donated 32 fully trained mine detection dogs to Bosnian mine clearance organizations. Almost all dogs were trained at the regional Mine Detection Dog Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina, resulting in a twofold increase to indigenous capacity for humanitarian demining: first, by utilizing the local training program and, second, by providing the MDDs to Bosnian organizations.
MLI launched CHildren Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007. Through CHAMPS, students throughout the U.S., including in the DC area, speak regularly via Skype with youth in Bosnia Herzegovina, not only befriending each other and learning about each other’s cultures, but working together to help mine survivors and raise awareness about the dangers of mines.
Participating Bosnian schools befriend landmine survivors in their community, identify their needs, and introduce the survivors to American students, who organize campaigns in their communities to provide medical assistance and other rehabilitative care. Each year, CHAMPS schools raise funds to provide medical care and prosthetic limbs to dozens of landmine survivors in Bosnia.
Beginning in 2010, MLI, the Mine Detection Dog Center in Bosnia Herzegovina, the ITF Enhancing Human Security, and the Fantomi Sitting Volleyball Team partnered to implement an interactive Mine Risk Education program that utilizes the sport of “Sitting Volleyball” to engage mine-threatened populations throughout Bosnia. The Fantomi Sitting Volleyball Team is comprised primarily of landmine survivors and is an inspiration to watch. The main purpose of the program is to protect children from the dangers of mines by delivering mine risk education lessons in an interesting and unique manner, and promoting safe behavior in and around mine fields.
Despite the war ending more than twenty years ago, tensions remain high between the different ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Building on its successful CHAMPS project, in 2014, MLI expanded the program so that it promotes interaction and friendship between youth in the three majority ethnic groups: Bosniak, Croat, and Serb. It builds on previous CHAMPS projects and is working to develop tolerance and reconciliation between the ethnically and geographically diverse communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not only does the program link American students with Bosnian students, but it is also connecting children within Bosnia and Herzegovina to help promote interethnic reconciliation. Children attending a school in an area that is majority Bosniak are being linked with children living in other regions of the country that are majority Serb and Croat.
The youth communicate on a regular basis via video messenger and are working together on service projects to help mine survivors in their communities. Together with the American CHAMPS youth, they have assisted 10 mine survivors, providing them with prosthetic limbs and volunteering to help them in whatever capacity they need, such as helping in their home, gardening, baby-sitting, etc. Throughout 2015-2016, the Bosnian CHAMPS youth gathered for weekend field trips that have built trust and friendship. In the 2016/2017 school year, MLI expanded the program even further to include six Bosnian schools and six American schools. The CHAMPS children will continue to work together to identify and assist landmine survivors. MLI plans to expand this successful program to other post-conflict countries around the world in future years.
MLI has helped hundreds of mine survivors in Bosnia Herzegovina. Below, you may read a few of their stories:
Admir lost his leg in a mine explosion several years ago as he was chopping firewood in the forest with his father. Unable to afford a prosthetic leg that fit him properly, Admir suffered immensely and could barely walk. Found by MLI’s CHAMPS managers in Bosnia, Admir recently received his new prosthetic leg, which was funded by schoolchildren in the U.S., and was finally able to walk down the aisle to marry his high school sweetheart, Ida, and dance with her during their wedding. He is incredibly grateful to all of the CHAMPS students for helping his dream come true!
Left photo: Admir undergoes physical therapy for his new prosthetic leg.
Middle photo: Admir and his wife, Ida, enjoy their first dance.
Right photo: Handmade card for Admir from a CHAMPS student in the U.S.
10-year old Anita lost her right leg after stepping on a landmine while walking with her aunt and little cousin. Shortly after her injury, people in her village put all of their funds together to purchase a prosthetic leg for Anita. However, as Anita continued to grow, she soon became too tall for the prosthetic. Anita’s parents were only able to provide her with an inexpensive prosthetic, which Anita broke when she tripped and fell walking down the street. Heartbroken, the beautiful little girl lay on the street in tears unable to get up until someone came to help. Taping her prosthetic leg back together, Anita was forced to continue using the broken limb, as she had no other options. As she continued to grow, her uneven gait became increasingly painful. CHAMPS learned about Anita and her need for a prosthetic leg and the Vermont Girl Scouts eagerly took on the project of helping Anita! Raising funds through bake sales and walkathons, the American children raised several thousand dollars for a good quality prosthetic leg for Anita, giving her new hope and a future. With her new limb and mobility, she was able to finish school and has now graduated from university and is working as a teacher in Croatia.