The first day of my internship was incredible! I drove up to Bijeljina with the rest of the USAID team for the ground breaking ceremony on a USAID/UNDP project that was providing 150 Bosnian families with new homes. That day when we arrived to Bijeljina, on the Republika Srpska (RS), side we had the chance to meet with the beneficiaries and it was such a warm, positive experience. We were there early to prep for the groundbreaking ceremony that would take place the next day with Ambassador Cormack handing out house keys to five of the families.
After the meeting with the families and prepping the site for the event that was going to take place the next day, we headed back to the hotel for dinner with the Ambassador. Ambassador Cormack was very gracious and I had the opportunity to sit across from her and talk with her a bit, it was a great experience.
The next day we arrived to the site an hour early and kept preparing to make sure the event would go as smooth as possible. Even though it rained a little bit, the event went off without a hitch. The ambassador met with five of the recipient families and it was wonderful to see their faces as they received the keys to their brand new, energy efficient, flood proof homes with solar panels! All five of these families had been internally displaced multiple times since the civil war and the flooding last year had wiped out the little that they had. One woman was a grandmother, head of her household, and she lived with eight other family members; she couldn’t stop thanking Ambassador Cormack and even broke into tears.
An hour later when we were at the small town on the Federation side, the reaction was very similar. One woman that received her new home couldn’t stop crying uncontrollably, and she wagged her finger at the Bosnian mayor present for the ground breaking ceremony stating, “You said you would do this, you said you would come back.” Later she came over to our staff and told us in Bosnian, that if it was not for you all this NEVER would have happened. Again she expressed her gratitude and stayed behind until the very end of the ceremony even though it had started pouring by then.
This was an unforgettable experience. It was fantastic to meet new people in Bosnia (including my new coworkers), but most of all I was very proud to see the type of work our government was doing here. I’m not sure how many people, outside of USAID, know that this happened, but I hope this shines a light to some of the incredible work that our men and women in the foreign service are doing overseas.