Ja sam Ljula.

My name is Ljula. A name given to me by my kind hearted and wonderful new Bosnian friends.

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I cannot help but reflect on how important it is to remain open while I am learning here in Sarajevo. This city is a challenging place to live. Each day I am confronted with the reality of living in a post-conflict country slowly rebuilding itself as well as divided on so many different levels. There are many dualities – the layering of new and old buildings, fashionistas and the poor, technology and the old world, and inspiring, radical progress intertwined with governmental corruption and toxic ethnocentrism.

As a foreigner, I am far removed from truly understanding the social, economic, political and environmental problems facing the people of BiH. I want to learn as much as I can while I am here. But, I am also struck with an intense sense of responsibility. I find myself asking the question, “What do I have to offer in this place?”, “Should I even be here?” As I meet more and more people in this dynamic and slow (yet fast) paced country, I think I am beginning to understand my purpose: to learn, experience, share love and compassion, and gain wisdom.

As an American, I have been indoctrinated to think as if everywhere I go there must be an “intervention” (a term all social work students are intimately familiar with). I cannot agree that this philosophy is always accurate. As skilled assessors understand, interventions impact systems on a hierarchy and can have both lasting and beneficial effects. Conversely, intervention can also lead to detrimental consequences.

In BiH, progress is slow. Interventions are occurring all over Sarajevo through NGOs (Non-government organizations) as well as a variety of governmental agencies; for example, the U.S. Embassy. Admittedly, I am not a professional interventionist (whatever that means). I’d like to share with you a small notion: If intervention must be made – the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is a shining star of progress. This agency prosecutes war criminals and they are doing an excellent job.

http://www.icty.org/sections/AbouttheICTY

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Intervention can (and should, more importantly) manifest itself as competent, appropriate and culturally relevant to the area of interest. For BiH, intervention does not always mean grandiose and elaborate systematic change. Perhaps it should, many would say. For me, intervention in BiH starts and continues with relationship. Who and how you interact with others dictates progress. With relationship in mind, the world can learn a lot from Bosnia and Herzegovina. This place can not be forgotten.

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