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Initiative gains more than expected

by Capt. Arjan Hilaj

First published in SFOR Informer #31, March 11, 1998

Photo 1T.JPG (10500 bytes)Refugee Centre, Sokolac - "The idea to do something for the people of Bosnia crystallised when I was participating in a meeting with NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) in Italy last December," stated Deputy Commander of Brigade North, Col. Vittorio Biondi. "I remembered the old adage: ‘It’s easier to say things than do them’."

After returning to Bosnia and Hercegovina he started to contact friends of his who produce rice in the region of Pavia, Italy. Initially, the idea was to collect at least two tons of rice. Then the Pavia Trade Chamber headed by Mr. Geometra Paludeti began a campaign to get others involved with the project. This initiative also sparked the interest and involvement of the National Alpine Association, Pavia Section, which is an organisation of veteran Alpine Troops. In the end eight tons of rice, biscuits, 250 pairs of shoes and shirts and toys for children were collected. All the items were then shipped from Genova to Bosnia and Hercegovina with Italy supplying the ship for transportation.

To better aid distribution of the donated items colonel Biondi contacted the Brigade’s G5, Lt. Col Luigi Vivona. "When the aid came from Italy I planned the distribution to several refugee centres based upon the number of people living there," said Vivona.

On the day the lorries entered Sokolac Refugee Centre they were encircled by many children and elderly people.

The aid apparently arrived at just the right moment. "We have had no help since December, and the government only gives us $8 per month per each person and that makes life very difficult to manage," explained the Director of the Centre, Dusko Sutanovic while greeting the Italian soldiers.

The children were more concerned about the toys the Italians brought for them than anything else. For a moment they were happy and it was nice seeing them laughing. " If they are happy, we are happy too," said a smiling Col. Biondi.

[Italian soldier]

[Humanitarian Aid]