History of the foundation SAVIE (Students Abroad Volunteering in Eastern Europe)
In 1992 the news broke about the existence of camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In these camps people were tortured, starved and even executed, a terrible sight reminding us of the concentration camps of the Second World War. After this war and the promise to never create such camps again, they were back in Europe: camps where people were banished to because of their religion, heritage or other markers. Around 600 survivors came to Haarlem. Sten Fierant, a student from Leiden, visited these people and started a social programme to create some distraction for the survivors. He eventually joined Leiden-Dalmacija, a refugee project. He visited the island Ciovo near Trogir in the summer of 1993, in order to establish contacts there. He came across a tentcamp near Split in the village of Stobrec, where Bosniacs were living that were about to be transported to Pakistan (Bosniacs are people from Bosnia-Herzegovina with a Muslim background). Even though they shared their Muslim beliefs, Pakistan was a long way from home and there were several big cultural differences. Sten Fierant was horrified and placed an add in a student-magazine when he returned home. A meeting was held on the 11th of November 1993, where the idea of the foundation was born, and within a week the organisation ‘Wij Helpen Daar’ (loosely translated ‘We’ll help there’) was made official. In 2018 we decided to change the name to SAVIE (Students Abroad Volunteering In Eastern Europe).
The current foundation
Over the years, the foundation has grown quite a bit, and it is now fulfilling the idea of Sten Fierant by organizing five projects in former Yugoslavia each summer. We offer personal attention and material support to mentally disabled children and adults in Stamnica (Serbia), to children of the Roma population in Veliko Gradiste (Serbia), to the children of the poorest families of Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), to children of multi problem families in Zenica (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and to physically disabled children in Rozaje (Montenegro). In all these projects the center point is to give personal attention and affection to the children, young adults or elderly. This attention is often missing due to a shortage in personnel and financial means. Every year 50 students from Leiden travel to these projects, and give their all during two weeks in order to entertain and just be there for their target population.
Besides these projects in the summer, we also try to offer structural material support. Some examples: In Stamnica we realized a music room for the disabled, bought new furniture and shoes and installed air conditioning in several buildings. The main goal of the foundation remains to give personal attention and to organize several fun activities during the two weeks that the volunteers stay at the projects.
The volunteers of our foundation, the students, are selected each year by our board and placed in one of the projects. To protect our vulnerable target populations, we require all our volunteers to sign a participation contract and we request a Verklaring Omtrent Gedrag from the city counsel for each of the volunteers. This document states that according to a background check, there is no objection for the volunteers to work in this setting. The volunteers raise their own money for the projects by organizing all kinds of fundraising activities. This way they get to know their fellow project members before they leave in the summer, and it ensures that they feel a connection with their project before they arrive.
If you want more information about the foundation, our projects or on how to become a volunteer, please do not hesitate to contact us! You can reach us by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.