Balkan Peace Team - Kosovo/a

Monthly Report No. 16
June, July and August 2000


CONTENTS


WORK OF THE TEAM

1. Staffing

June and July brought several staff changes within the team. After a year with BPT, Robert Sautter departed at the end of June and returned to the United States. Kajsa Svensson made the decision to leave BPT and return home to Sweden; she left in early July. The team thanks them both for their wonderful contribution and commitment to BPT's work and wishes them the best of luck in their new endeavors!

Andrew Nussbaum joined the team in late July, bringing our number up to four. He arrived from London after having just received certification to teach English as a second language, a valuable asset for the team's work in Dragash/š! Andrew brings many new skills and talents to the team and we all look forward to working with him.

The team was also fortunate enough to have a temporary volunteer with us for five weeks, beginning in mid-July. Jane Vernon is an American who works as an English teacher in the German school system. She has shared her expertise in teaching English with team members and taught two intensive English courses in Dragash/š. Jane was also kind enough to donate some sports equipment to the Dragash/š Youth Centre project. Thank you, Jane, for all of your efforts!

2. Workshops with Campagna Kossovo

Team member Kajsa Svensson continued her cooperation with Campagna Kossovo in June, serving as a co-trainer in their workshop series on "reconciliation and interethnic dialogue." This series is sponsored jointly by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Campagna Kossovo. Kajsa'a fellow trainers were Professor Alberto Labate (Italy), Pat Patfoort (Belgium), and Hildegard Goss-Mayer (Austria). The workshops took place in Prishtina over three weekends in May and June. The workshop participants were local staff members from OSCE and members of local NGOs: Peter Bogdani-Albanian Youth Action; Postpessimists; the Women's Media Project; Handikos; and the Pedagogical Institute in Prizren. Participants were drawn from around Kosovo/a, including Mitrovica, Peja, Prizren and Prishtina. One Serb participant from Mitrovica joined the predominately Albanian group during the first weekend, and a Turkish participant was there during the second and third weekends.

The workshops provided basic training in forms of nonviolent interaction and demonstrated examples of nonviolent struggle and reconciliation. Discussion among the participants was emphasised during the workshops. The final weekend introduced ideas about training others in the issues raised in the earlier sessions. Notwithstanding some organisational problems during the preparation phase, the workshops were well received by the participants.

The next phase of the workshop series will be for Serb participants, both from Kosovo/a and Serbia proper, and is scheduled for September in Macedonia. Following that session, the following phase will be a "mixed" workshop that brings all of the various participants together in Florence at the beginning of February 2001.

3. Meeting with Don Lush

Kajsa also accompanied Alberto L'Abate from Campagna Kossovo and Hildegard Goss-Mayer to a meeting with Don Lush Gjergji, a Catholic priest working in Bince, near Vitina, Kosovo/a. Don Lush, as well as Hildegard and Alberto, spoke to a large gathering of people at the Bince church. Hildegard and Alberto both spoke about nonviolence and reconciliation while Lush related experiences where Serbs helped Albanians during the war.

Don Lush's masses are very well attended, with people even travelling from Prishtina every Sunday to hear him speak. It was clear that reconciliation was a frequent topic at these gatherings with Lush. He spoke openly and positively on the issue: " Kouchner and Thaci say it's too early for reconciliation, but I think we have to start now, otherwise we will never get there." Some of the older Albanian youth present at the meeting expressed their readiness to forgive Serbs, but also expressed doubt that the Serbs were prepared to take this step.

4. Meeting with Operazione Colomba

In July the team received a visit from the Italian organisation Operazione Colomba, who has been active in the Balkan region since 1992. The organisation has been carrying out a series of initiatives aimed at fostering dialogue between different ethnic groups in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo/a.

In Kosovo/a, the organisation's volunteers have been present in Suva Reka/Suhareke, Pec/Peje, and Mitrovica/Mitrovice since 1998, working both with the Albanian and the Serbian community.

After a period of assessment, Operazione Colomba has now decided to withdraw from Mitrovica/Mitrovice due to the organisation's lack of resources to sustain a long-term commitment to this particularly sensitive part of the region.

5. Dragash/š Update

English Language Classes

During a two-week break at the beginning of June, the team assessed the results of the first round of English language lessons and incorporated new ideas into the developing curriculum. Four more English language classes then began the first week of July: two new beginners classes (one for Albanians and one for Gorans), and two follow-up classes for the Albanian and Goran students who attended the first round of classes.

With the help of local contacts, the team registered fifteen students for each of the two new beginners' classes. During the last week of June, much time was also invested in traveling from village to village, both in Opoja and in Gora, to inform former students of the time-table of the new course. The students were eager to continue learning English with BPT, but expressed some concern over transportation to and from Dragash/š Town. The lack of regular public transportation has always been an issue in this area, but more so in the summer months when schools are closed and transport possibilities are even further reduced. However, classes were well attended in July. Students who live in villages outside of Dragash/š Town apparently ask for lifts from relatives and friends who regularly travel to Dragash/š.

Jane Vernon joined the team in mid-July as a short-term volunteer and a professional English teacher, to help us with the English classes. She started two intensive four-week courses. One class was for the same mixed group of Albanian and Goran secondary school teachers who had attended BPT's first English course in April. The other class began with a mixed group of women, five Albanians and five Gorans, who are members of the local women's organisation, Flaka.

Classes were held in a positive and relaxed atmosphere. The interactions among Albanian and Goran teachers has been facilitated by the years they have spent working together and their familiarity with one another. On the other hand, the women experienced their first attempt at working together during this class . They required a period of adjustment to get used to each other's presence. In general however, it was very positive and encouraging to have them in the same space learning new skills together.

Temporary Space for Youth Centre Activities

The team began the summer in need of a space where we could hold classes and activities. The schoolrooms we had used for the first session of classes were no longer available. In early June, the team learned that some members of the Albanian community, who were involved in the Dragash/š Administrative Board, had found a short-term solution to the our need. A private building was donated for the team's use during July and August. This gesture allowed English classes and other activities to continue, while the team and the Administrative Board continued looking for a permanent location for the Youth Centre. In another cooperative effort, the principal of the Dragash/š secondary school loaned the team the chairs needed for the temporary space.

Interview on Radio Sharri

In June, two team members, who have been actively learning Albanian for a number of months, were interviewed on the local radio station in Dragash/š, Radio Sharri. The interview focused on BPT's activities in Dragash/š and its plans for future work.

Potential Cooperation on Youth Centre Project

The team began consultation in July with two other international organisations, Children's Relief Association (CRA) and forum Civil Peace Service (forum CPS), which are interested in carrying out youth activities in Dragash/š municipality. They two organisations, both based in Prizren, have been extremely helpful in sharing information and exploring possibilities to work cooperatively in Dragash/š. They are both interested in working with BPT to secure a space in which Youth Centre activities could continue and expand.


Balkan Peace Team in Kosovo/a
Rruga Nëna Tereze 72-A/9 or Vidovdanska 72-A/9,
Pristina, Kosovo
Tel/Fax: ++381-38-42 708
E-mail: BPT-K@BalkanPeaceTeam.org

If you wish to use or require clarification of any of the information included, please contact Balkan Peace Team FRY at the above address. Please forward this report to anyone you think may be interested.


International BPT Office
Ringstr 9a,
D-32427 Minden,
Germany
Phone: +49-571-20776
Email: BPT@BalkanPeaceTeam.org