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SW-Liaison set to help Centre

By Cpl Chris Stone
First published in
SFOR Informer #70, 15 Sept, 1999.

Ilijas - "Has Bosnia been forgotten?" is a question often asked by the local population to members of the Multinational Division SouthWest Liaison team consisting of a British Army Major and two RAF Cpls based in HQ SFOR based in Ilidza, Sarajevo. SFOR has certainly not forgotten and there are events like the recent Summit that shows the world is still paying careful attention to the country. But it was a question they found easier to answer after they met Jackie and Paul Ryalls, two British citizens who founded a mission in 1992 to help bring aid to refugees in Croatia.

The mission "Holy Ground Mission in Faith" carried out 31 missions during the next five years during some of the worst fighting in the war. They delivered hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid through front line action. These missions were not without danger for themselves and their vehicles. On one occasion one of their trucks was hit by several bullets in the body and cabin.

At the end of the war, when journeys became safer, Jackie and Paul became founding members of a Missionary Society and in March 1997 they opened an orphanage and a medical centre in Ilijas. Not far from Sarajevo, on SFOR road Finch just before Visoko. This small town had a population of 5,000 refugees with very little medical support, food or work.

The building the mission took over was derelict, without any windows, doors, electricity or water. Conditions wee so basic that paintbrushes had to be cleaned in snow. It took six weeks of hard work to refurbish the building and furnish the 15-room centre. Everything, down to the nuts and bolts, even the toilets came from donations in England and had to be transported to Bosnia and Hercegovina. The local children immediately named the centre "the house of love".

The mission does its best to help feed some 1,500 people each month. They care for the local children and offer a morning surgery where basic medical supplies are used. Today the mission has extended its medical work by making more beds available for the most needy social cases. People who would probably die alone receive love, compassion and care.

They run a daily English class for orphans and local children, but have very little paper or writing materials. All the work the missions do is without any Governmental of official funding. It runs on faith and donations received back in the UK. The mission will not stop at its centre in Ilijas; they are planning to open another medical centre in Blagaj, just north of Mostar. About a 100 people have been living in containers in this locality for the last five years.

The members of MND-SW LNO TEAM are working to help the mission, any person or unit wishing to support can contact Cpls Stone or Bladen on VSAT 6621 or Euromux 2200002.