In September 2004 my friend and I went to Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia as volunteer complementary therapists for the charity Healing Hands Network.
I practise advanced reflexology, massage, Indian head massage and reiki. Other therapists there were a Bowen practitioner, masseuse and an aromatherapist. Two new therapists come out every week, covering a whole range of therapies.
These people are still suffering in the aftermath because their lives were so devastated by the horror of war. It would be so easy to forget them.
Not only did these warm, open-hearted, people have to suffer the humiliation, degradation, physical pain, torture and suffering during the war, but their spirit, mind and bodies are continuing to suffer years after with the memory, the shrapnel, the lost and maimed limbs, the loss of their dear ones, many of whom witnessed their terrible demise. The lack of the facilities we take for granted, water, electricity, food, shelter, and the continual eviction from one makeshift home to another, with only the clothes they stand up in, is hard to imagine.
Many live in refugee areas, given a few pounds a month to live on by their government. Their lives are still in ruins and they look forward to our gentle, loving therapies so much. We have to go on outreach to them because they cannot afford to take the bus to get to the house Healing Hands rents, and many of them find it difficult to walk because of their injuries.
The house in Sarajevo, which is surrounded by beautiful mountainous countryside, is a peaceful refuge with two therapy rooms. It is close to the Turkish quarter, with cobbled streets, restaurants, cafes and a bazaar atmosphere. There are markets and shops with fresh food so eating is cheap and easy. Tourists and travellers abound and there is no need to fear being on the streets. However, signs of the war are everywhere; burnt out buildings, walls riddled with bullet holes, pavements where shell and bullet holes have been filled in with red cement as a reminder of the slaughter that went on. The local people call them 'roses'. Areas in the countryside are cordoned off with mine warnings. It is very difficult to erase the memory of the war.
The second week was spent in Mostar, where the bridge that had been blown up had been recently rebuilt and opened. We went from Sarajevo to Mostar by bus, the scenery was spectacular, rivers and lakes, and a gorge. The countryside changed from green to dusty brown as we neared Mostar, which is lower and hotter than Sarajevo. The accommodation there was very small but comfortable, but the therapy room was on a busy road, so it was less peaceful than Sarajevo. The clients did not seem to mind because they had already been through such trauma, traffic seemed to be of little consequence.
My colleagues and I felt honoured to be able to ease the pain of these people just a little. We were humbled by their spirit which shone through all their hardships. The love that was poured into the treatments was repaid by the look in their eyes and the hugs they gave at the end, and the words 'Super' and 'Dobro, dobro", "good, good". It was so rewarding.
Working with other therapists was a valuable experience in itself, sharing treatments and learning from each other. I'm sure my work here in England will benefit from this experience and I found it so rewarding that I intend to offer another two sessions in the spring and autumn of 2005 if I can raise the necessary funds.
Healing Hands Network are always looking for new volunteers and financial support and if they had enough, the work could go on throughout most of the year. If you are a complementary therapist, healer, osteopath etc, and would like to offer your services or you are someone who could offer financial support, please contact us.
By Lynda Jakiro
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