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Smiles for Christmas

By Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#129, December 26, 2001

Dec. 22, the United Kingdom (UK) National Support Element (NSE) took 25 boxes of aid to their adopted charity, in time for Christmas. The collection had been carried out by two private soldiers of the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC).

Ilijas - A large van, packed with goods, arrived at the Holy Ground Mission, much to the delight of a crowd of children who streamed out to greet the people unloading the boxes. The children quickly lost their initial shyness and were soon laughing, joking and playing snowball fights with the soldiers. The delivery was the culmination of months of hard work which began at a British army base in Gutersloh, Germany.
"It started with us sorting out football kits. Sgt. Best said we could have them to take out to Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH). We asked people in the block for spare kit (and it) continued from there: on camp and with families in Gutersloh. After two months’ collection we had to stop it, we couldn't get anymore out here," said British Pvt. Gemma Starkey of 98 Postal and Courier (PC) Squadron.
"We were really surprised at how generous people were. It was not just old stuff, but new toys as well," said Pvt. Toni Hill of 98 PC Sqn. "We just wanted to see people's faces and to make a difference to people's lives…to give them a bit of joy over Christmas."
The mission was started during the war in BiH by a couple from England. They continue to be involved, although local people also play a key part in the running of the organisation.
"We have 1,800 families, or 5,000 people, registered," said Juso Kadric. Both Kadric and Ljubica Niksic have devoted themselves to the mission. They explained that they "cover all social problems" and in doing so they provide people with food (staples and cooked meals), care for the elderly, provide hot showers, medicine and act as a hospice for the terminally ill.
"It would be impossible without the encouragement from the private person, because no government or church is involved (all donations) are through private people," said Kadric.
British Sgt. Scott Baird, the UK NSE chief clerk, was quick to point out that many nationalities are involved in supporting the mission. The British contribution has been wide and varied, however, charity concerts have been held as well as collections of goods. These went towards paying the mission's heating, electricity and fuel bills.
"With the boxes received we are preparing packages for (Christmas), for the mothers and children, all will be shared, everyone will get something. No child who comes here will be turned away," said Niksic.
The Reward
"(The collection) was hard work, but it was worth it to see everyone smiling. The kids were great, of all ages, boys and girls, they don't have much but they are still fine and are all happy enough," said Hill.
As the soldiers left, the children were still smiling as they waved them away. Kadric thanked all those involved in the collection and wished all "A blessed and peaceful Christmas and Happy New Year."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Humanitarian Aid