Stories from Sarajevo: Strategies for a Civil Society

An internationally recognized social activist, psychologist, and catalyst for social change during and after the Siege of Sarajevo – Dzenana Rustempasic – will visit the United States for the first time this summer. She will be available for speaking engagements and meetings from June 4 – 12, 2012.

Ms. Rustempasic ignited hope in a generation of young people who lost homes, families, friends and dreams during the devastating 1992‐1996 Siege of Sarajevo.

“In such a terrible war situation, watching unimaginable pain and suffering of [my] own nation, I started to work as a volunteer in refugee camps for women and children,” Rustempasic wrote in an email.

Ms. Rustempasic’s engagements will feature her work as an activist in Bosnia and Herzegovina that grew into the creation of an internationally recognized non‐profit, Heroes Children. Rustempasic will share how she sustained her non‐profit organization during the siege and after the war. She will also discuss
the work she’s done to bolster similar organizations since then.

“These field‐tested lessons are transferrable to others working to create a more civil society, be it to strengthen a community‐based organization, advance a strategic social policy at the national level, or promote civic engagement in emerging democracies, around the world,” said Linda Brown Rivelis, president of Campaign Consultation, Inc, the sponsoring organization of Ms. Rustempasic’s trip.

Heroes Children began as an open door to the apartment Rustempasic and her sister, Selma, shared in Sarajevo. Forced to leave the refugee camps where she volunteered at the beginning of the siege, due to heavy bomb shelling, she continued her work with youth who were pushed/thrown out of their homes in Serbian occupied neighborhoods.  Rustempasic and her sister helped these “thrown away” children by providing counseling, using art as therapy, and – what she says was most important –
helping them dream again.

“There was no single safe place in Sarajevo in those four years,” wrote Rustempasic. “While grenades were hitting the town and killing people we were still gathering and pretending that our apartment [was a] safe space, just because we were together.”

Rustempasic will come to the U.S. with a portfolio of work and recognition in the international NGO [non‐government organization] community. Her voluntary work to create Heroes Children gained support from the International Rescue Committee and George Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute. The success of Heroes Children was also presented in the World Economic Forum’s Handbook.  Rustempasic served as a member of the Forum’s task force, presenting her organization’s achievement
as a model for other countries.

Dzenana Rustempasic’s visit of the U.S. this summer, from May 30 to June 13, is made possible by Campaign Consultation, Inc.’s annual Give 5 Initiative. Through this initiative, Campaign Consultation donates 5 percent of its yearly profits to social causes and social profit organizations. This year, part of the contributions went to support bringing Dzenana to the U.S.

Campaign Consultation’s CEO, Steven Rivelis, first met Ms. Rustempasic soon after the Siege of Sarajevo as an invited consultant to Bosnia and Herzegovina working with a gathering of NGO leaders and civic stakeholders dedicated to rebuilding their nation.

“Dzenana humbled and inspired me with her ability to speak truth to power; her commitment to help women and girls affected by the violence directed toward them during and after the war; and her leadership and skills to forge a civil society from the torn fabric of her nation,” said Mr. Rivelis.

“We look forward to hosting Dzenana, in her first visit to the U.S., with the hope that her wisdom and knowledge may benefit others who seek to build stronger communities and more meaningful connections between diverse populations.”

Campaign Consultation, Inc. are entrepreneurs for social change, working with individuals and organizations at local, state, national and international levels to achieve community development, fund raising, diversity utilization, issue advocacy, media & marketing, public policy as well as organizational and business development success.