A Gift From Scotland
Capt. Ian Hamilton
First published in
SFOR Informer#166, October, 2003
70 war orphaned school children from Babanovici are today
playing football for the first time, thanks to the warm hearted
generosity of the men of the 1st Battalion, The Highlanders.
Babanovici - The orphanage, run by Scots VSO (Voluntary Service
Overseas) volunteer, Sarah Cumming, 21, from Forfar, is in
one of the most poverty stricken areas of war-torn Bosnia.
In a predominantly Serb area, Sarah runs one of the few inter-ethnic
facilities in the area, taking in kids from all backgrounds
and religions, Bosniac, Serb and Croat, trying to encourage
peace and harmony in tomorrow's generation.
"It's was a real uphill struggle" says Sarah. "We
didn't even have enough paper to give every-one a jotter.
The kids shared pencils, rubbers - even the very basic stuff
you take for granted in the UK was impossible to find out
The poverty is real enough. In an area still littered with
the ruins of burnt-out houses, destroyed by war, there is
little no industry. In a country where the average income
is £120 per month, it's barely half that in Babanovici.
"Seeing the British was like a miracle," Sarah adds.
"We were in the classroom, when we heard the sound of
heavy trucks outside. When I looked out the window, there
were our guys, coming up the hill on a patrol".
Lt. Tom Hawkins, 24, from Stirling, takes up the story: "We
were on a routine route clearance through Babanovici when
a very animated local lass came running up babbling in a strange
tongue. Luckily, we had a few cunning linguists in the patrol
who were able to identify the language as a strange Scottish
.and that's how we met Sarah".
A quick inventory check later and the Highlanders sprang into
action. Calls to SFOR headquarters in Sarajevo resulted in
the delivery of footballs, while the Ops room donated a selection
of pens, pencils and notebooks. Most highly prized of all,
though, were 2 computers, seized in a raid on arms smugglers.
"It's great to be able to do something to help these
people" says Tom. "Frankly, it makes a long tour
away from home worth it when you see the faces light up at
the gift of such simple items".
For Sarah, it's a chance to properly do the job she came out
to do. "I can't thank the Highlanders enough," she
says. "Without them, I'd be trying to teach with one
hand tied behind my back. These kids will always remember
the soldiers from Scotland - and, just maybe, that will help
them live together in peace".
Nations of SFOR: UK