Mirko, Peace Inc.

Spc. Jessica Abner
First published in
SFOR Informer#159, March 6, 2003

The party doesn't start for more than an hour but children of Banovici line the sidewalks in anticipation outside the doors of the local youth centre. The anxious revellers wait for a fun-filled evening of music, dancing, and karaoke sponsored by SFOR, in support of Mirko magazine. Mirko, which means 'peace incorporated', was introduced to the children of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) seven years ago to encourage peace and tolerance for all.

Banovici - Pinkland is a community centre where kids unleash their creativity through woodcarving, art, paintings, computers, and music. They also have sports teams such as soccer and basketball.
A promotion
This is not the first time Mirko has activities held at Pinkland, according to Sgt. 1st Class Carl Bjornstall. Pinkland community centre was the ideal spot for a party because the goals of Mirko and Pinkland coincide - to seek peace and a way for children to learn tolerance. More than 200 children attended the party. Pinkland's co-ordinator of activities, Tatjana, said having the Mirko party at Pinkland was a promotion for both the youth centre and Mirko.
In the Bosnian theatre, according to Staff Sgt. Scott McIntyre, the information is disseminated to the local populace through posters, pamphlets, and even broadcast radio shows.
"We've got posters as one of our mediums. The Mirko party that we're at tonight is another medium that we use to interact with the locals and improve the way they think of us, the soldiers and the international community," said McIntyre.
The German SFOR contingent
Mirko magazine is a campaign that originated with the German SFOR contingent and their magazine back in 1995, according to Staff Sgt. Brian Hess, from HQ SFOR.
"The purpose was to give the children in BiH an alternative way to learn about what's going on in their country and the rest of the world," said Hess.
"We're going on tour in support of Mirko, having face-to-face contact with the children. Hopefully that reinforces the themes that are presented in Mirko to the children of BiH," said Hess. "We have one of our writers interview the kids. The interviews go into Mirko and the kids have a chance to see their names in print - everyone likes to be a little famous."
For the city of Banovici, this event is very important, according to Tatjana.
"Banovici is a small town that doesn't have a lot of activities and this youth centre is the only place where young people gather and hang out," said Tatjana. "I think what Mirko and SFOR organised here tonight is very significant for this town. You can see that by the number of kids that have come here tonight."
Throughout the night the children danced, sang, and were awarded T-shirts, hats, posters, and Mirko magazines. Karaoke was a hit when a few brave children took centre stage to show off their singing talent.
Soldiers enjoyed the interaction as much as the kids did.
"It's a lot of fun. It's a chance to get out and play with the kids and interact with the locals and see what's going on with them," said McIntyre. "You have fewer problems if people like you. It's common sense that if people like you they don't cause problems for you."
Soldiers and locals both walked away satisfied with the outcome of the Mirko party. "It's a lot of work, but when you see the kids smile and they go home with Mirko on their mind, it's always a good feeling," concluded Hess.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: US

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Photos: Spc. Jessica Abner

Sgt. 1st Class Carl Bjornstal distributes Mirko posters to the children, who attended the party at Pinkland.

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Children danced to a variety of music during the Mirko party.

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Spc. Steven Connelly also helped with the distribution of the Mirko magazines and posters.

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A little girl is the centre of attention as she shows off her singing talent.