The non-governmental organization Muslim Aid Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina is celebrating 15 years of successful work this year. We spoke with Executive Director Edina Šehić Saliji about past work, implemented projects and plans for further work.
- This year, MAA organization is celebrating 15 years of successful work in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Please could you go back to the early days and tell us what it looked like at the very beginning and how the organization works today. How much has your way of working and the projects you implement changed?
Muslim Aid Association is a non-governmental organization that has been operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2007. Initially as the Representative Office of the foreign non-governmental organization Muslim Aid Sarajevo, and from 2021 as part of the Muslim Aid family, under the name Muslim Aid Association.
At the beginning of our work, our projects were based on scholarships for marginalised disadvantaged children, seasonal aid projects during the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, and providing one-time assistance to schools, associations of people with disabilities, and returnees and people with no or low income. Also, since 2011, we have launched the "Molly" Mobile Library project, which even today visits returnee schools in 6 municipalities of Srednje Podrinje and delivers reading materials and books for children from rural areas completely free of charge.
We started working with only one full-time employee. In 2020. a total of eight people was employed, and more were hired if the project required. Since we were part of an international organization, we had to follow the goals and tasks of our headquarters in London. Therefore, we gradually expanded according to opportunities and needs of our donors and their requests for the implementation of projects.
Since 2014, MAA cooperation with municipalities/cities and local communities, as well as other donors in the field of sustainable development through agriculture, has gradually become recognizable as a non-governmental organization that creates and implements rural development projects in agriculture with the aim of improving the quality of life of all inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina. So far, we have cooperated with over 80 municipalities/cities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- How many people work on the implementation of the goals, projects and tasks of the organization?
Muslim Aid Association currently has six full-time employees and, depending on the projects, we hire five to seven people per year on a short-term contract or trainers of various specializations.
- What is the status of your organization today is the original goal recognized in society - improving the quality of life of all the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Muslim Aid Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an organization recognized for its socio-economic empowerment projects through agricultural projects aimed at achieving economic independence and improved quality of life of marginalized communities. Every day we receive calls from both local communities and individuals for cooperation and help. I believe that our society recognized our work and that we have responded with very high standards to our original goals.
- As part of your work, you developed four types of programs, how did it turn out in practice and in the field?
Guided by our operating principles, we developed four programs in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Socio-economic empowerment program (projects in the field of agriculture), Education support program (strengthening the capacity of primary schools), Seasonal projects (food packages for Ramadan, meat distribution during Eid al- Adha, winterisation projects) and Emergency responses (assistance to migrants, COVID-19, natural disasters).
Our projects that we do are very specific and come as a result of needs assessment of local communities on the ground. After consultation and research, we create projects that result in direct assistance to users and is of a long-term nature, such as: co-financing of equipment for farming, renovation of schools, insulation of school buildings, donation of school equipment, donation of stoves for individuals and rural schools, scholarships and various trainings both farmers, teachers and children.
- Which projects are you particularly proud of and why?
We are very proud of our projects of economic empowerment of women and people in a state of need through sustainable agricultural projects and rural development. For example: projects such as the greenhouse production, animal farming, beekeeping, fruit growing and others, where we collaborated with over 80 municipalities/cities and were supported by dozens of donors; from foreign international organizations, embassies, states and local institutions, agencies, etc.
Through these projects, we directly helped over 3,200 families. Through the greenhouse production project alone, we helped over 2,600 families through co-financing of start-up equipment (100m2 greenhouse, irrigation system, seeds and seedlings) and skill training for vegetable production in a protected area. In the last seven years alone, around 10 million KM has been invested in economic empowerment projects.
- What motivates you as an organization to continue developing programs and projects that help overcome certain problems in local communities, even though we know how our country works?
We are primarily motivated when we see positive results after 15 of years of our work in the field and the feedback we receive from our users and project partners. When one of our largest donor conducted a five-year analysis of our work and surveyed the users of the greenhouse project after 5 years, over 93% of the respondents were still using the greenhouse and providing food for themselves and their families. Some of the users have a nice income of up to 3,500 KM per year, which is a great success for a 100m2 greenhouse.
We continue to work, as dedicated as we are from the very beginning, because the needs are great, especially in this crisis period when the prices of food and basic items are rising, so the need for such projects is also growing.
- What are the further development plans of the Organization?
Our future plans are to continue doing what we know the best and what we are known for, namely agricultural projects and rural development, through which we help local communities. In addition to those projects, especially in the last 2 years, we have developed a program to help marginalized schools and strengthen school capacities; solving their infrastructural problems, heating for schools, educating teachers and students, donating didactic equipment and books for school libraries, etc.
Our goal is to expand our activities in the field of improving the quality of children's education in primary schools starting next year in cooperation with the Cantonal Ministries of Education. In this regard, our organization will try to contribute to the strengthening of systemic long-term solutions in order to modernize education in accordance with the trends of EU countries.
Written by - Edina Sehic