History

Each summer since 1999, four to seven William & Mary students have been selected to teach English and nonviolent communication skills to children and teenagers in Bosnia (in 1999-2008 in Zenica and in 2010-present in Sarajevo). The Bosnia Project originally grew out of a year-long initiative sponsored by the Reves Center in 1998-99. Yugoslav scholar Mihailo Crnobrnja came to campus as a Borgenicht Scholar-in-Residence to teach a course on the breakup of Yugoslavia and co-organize a conference on Bosnia and the troubled Balkan region. As part of his course, Dr. Crnobrnja invited seven students from different parts of Bosnia to spend a month at William and Mary. They shared their own experiences and worked with William and Mary students to develop grassroots peace projects that could be implemented on the ground. Larisa Kasumagic, a student from the University of Sarajevo, volunteered to facilitate a partnership with the NGO Sezam in Zenica, of which she was a co-founder. That summer, the first team of William and Mary students travelled to Bosnia with Dr. Crnobrnja to lay the groundwork for collaboration with Sezam.

Since 1999, four to six William & Mary students have travelled to Zenica each summer. In Zenica, they worked alongside staff members of Sezam, a Bosnian non-governmental organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children. They spend up to six weeks teaching English and non-violent communication skills to children and teenagers in a day camp at a local school. They have also volunteered at a local orphanage, conducted conversation classes for adults, and painted murals with children. In 2003, a student film crew from William and Mary travelled with the volunteers and produced a short documentary about Sezam’s work. In 2008, a team of four students from Swarthmore College temporarily joined the project, funded by a grant from Davis Projects for Peace .

A Sarajevo branch of the project was initiated in 2008 when BP alumna Kelly Chroninger returned to Bosnia on a Fulbright grant to teach at the University of Sarajevo. There she reunited with Larisa Kasumagic, now a teacher of ESL Pedagogy courses at the university. They made plans for students from William and Mary to travel to Sarajevo to teach English alongside Bosnian education students from the university. This branch of the project began in the summer of 2010. Students who traveled to Sarajevo focused on teaching intercultural communicative competence to children in addition to basic media production skills. A month of English classes culminated in the production of short films that were planned, filmed, and acted in by Bosnian students.

The film component of the 2010 Project was so successful and popular among students that in 2011, five students were sent to Sarajevo to focus exclusively on teaching communicative English, intercultural communication skills, and media. From 2011 onwards, the BP has been based in Sarajevo, partnering with the educational NGO Creativus, which was founded by Larisa, Lejla and Amela Kasumagic.

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