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Gračanica Summer School

 


                                                                      

Our work in the small town of Gračanica has been the longest lasting and perhaps the most rewarding.  The connections that we have made continue to this day and we look forward to meeting with old friends again. 

Gračanica.   This was the fourth summer that we held our English Summer School for high school students in Gračanica, near Tuzla.  The summer school was under the direct supervision of Lis Garassino, a graduate of Holy Cross College, who had been a volunteer in 2003 and subsequently spent a year in Rumania on a Fulbright.  As usual we offered three levels of English, emphasizing writing as well as conversation.  In addition, we held a Workshop On Youth Issues two afternoons a week, and worked as volunteers in the Smile (Osmijeh) Center for Children.

Lis Garassino recruited two experienced teachers as volunteers: Gwendolyn Holley, who teaches special education in the Maryland Public School System and is a graduate student in Conflict Resolution at the University of Baltimore, and Deanne Moore, an experienced teacher of English Literature in Hingham, MA high school. We also had Sonia Lowman, a 2006 graduate of Boston University in English, as well as Kevin Feeney and Nina Catalano, both juniors at Harvard College.

This was the smoothest year so far for our high school program—surely a compliment to Lis and her team.  I had the opportunity to visit the classes and was struck by their liveliness.  Gwen Holley’s class for beginners grew from 10 to 24 by the end of the summer, a token of her skills.  Our school is growing in prestige in the community.  The mayor’s daughter and the principal’s son, as well as the son of the local radio station announcer all take our courses.  The fact that our classes are free and open to everybody is our strongest justification, however.  I gave out 80 diplomas this year, which is ten more than usual.

                                         Summer School in 2006

When the American Ambassador came to Gračanica to talk with the mayor, Mr. Helić told him about Builders For Peace and how happy he was to have us in his community. The social interaction between our volunteer teachers and the high school students and their families is richly rewarding for all sides.  Perspectives on life and the world are changed, as the participants’ letters show most dramatically.

I received many letters from the pupils begging us to come back next year.  I have promised that I will return, as have at least two of our volunteers. 

Several of our volunteers also worked at the “Osmijeh” Children’s Centre one day a week.  They played games with the children and helped with those who have special needs.  We also made our annual pilgrimage to Srebrenica, as well as to the town of Srebrenik where we heard a lecture by the artist-visionary, Nijaz Omerović, and sampled the greatest pastry in the world.  Tom Butler also went to a Sufi lodge in Spionica, where he took part in the prayer ceremony (zikr).