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Happy Children

By 2nd Lt. Alexandre Barb
First published in
SFOR Informer#114, May 30, 2001

A school and an institute for mentally handicapped children in Sarajevo received donations from the French April 17. This action has been carried out in co-ordination with the CIMIC unit of Multinational Division - Southeast (MND-SE).

Sarajevo - With a large smile to say thank you, the children helped the French soldiers unload their vehicle of the packs it carried. They were full of the blankets that they've been waiting for a long time. Sadeta Zecic, director of the Mjedenica School Institute for mentally handicapped persons, co-ordinated the delivery. About 70 children, ages 3 to 16, attend special classes there.
"The idea of helping the institute came to me when I attended one of their shows. Then, the director talked to me about their needs," explained Oxana Soldin, who works at the French National Support Element (NSE) at Camp Butmir.
The blankets came from various donations collected and gathered in France in the area of Nantes (west). These donations were conditioned and then chartered on a ship to Ploce (Croatia) where they were unloaded in April.
"The containers carried many things: food, clothes, a dentist chair with accessories, notebooks and also hospital beds. The CIMIC battalion of MND-SE distributed most of them. But I managed to get those blankets for the institute," declared French Col. Patrick Allix, CIMIC advisor at the French NSE in Butmir.
Thus the blankets have been driven by road to Butmir where they were unconditioned before being distributed. But the initiative of the French didn't stop there. The Mjedenica institute has been built on the hillside and had many problems because of stormy weather.
"So we asked an engineer to come and assess the property. For the time being, he's making a plan to maintain the ground and avoid gulling. Planting trees could be a good solution," Allix continued. "Unfortunately, we don't have the means to achieve those works, but we'll try to help you by founding the project," he affirmed to the school director.
And beds as well
The children quickly covered their beds with their brand new blankets, sometimes playing with them. "The institute was created in 1948, and since 1951 it has been dedicated to teach mentally handicapped persons. It has always been based here," Zecic reminded. "The children also have manual activities after their lessons. We have more and more requirements to keep spastics, but we don't have the means to perform it," she highlighted. That's why the soldiers of the French NSE should come back soon with new equipment. The hospital beds that had been unloaded in Ploce have still not been distributed by MND-SE. Allix will get them for sure and give them to the institute.
On the same day, Staff Sgt. Lionel d'Auber de Peyrelongue and his colleagues fulfilled the promise they made to the director of Hrasno School (Novo Sarajevo) last March (SFOR Informer no. 109, March 21, 2001). They delivered about 1,000 notebooks to the children, as they were having lessons, and didn't know about the good surprise that was waiting for them after class.
From the Vosges to Sarajevo
"I phoned the firm, based in the Vosges (East of France), and explained my project to them; they agreed to give notebooks," d'Auber de Peyrelongue explained. "Those notebooks arrived at the same time as the blankets, on the same ship in Ploce. There were three full pallets of notebooks. Two of them have been distributed by MND-SE, and we got the third one," Allix added. Some boxes contained envelopes as well.
"All of this will be very useful - the notebooks for the pupils, the envelopes for us. For example, for the last show of the school we had to buy some," noticed Sabaheta Jugo, director of the Novo Sarajevo School where 900 pupils, ages from 7 to 14, are studying.
d'Auber de Peyrelongue has already gone back to France, but he hasn't forgotten to remind his successor about the ongoing actions. The baton has been handed over.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
Humanitarian Aid