Healing Hands Network was formed in 1996 to send volunteer natural medicine therapists to Sarajevo, Bosnia.
The Statistics of War
In a statement to the UN, it was estimated that during The Balkans War, a total of 200,000 people died including 12,000 children. 50,000 women are believed to have been raped and 2.2 million people were forced to flee their homes.
Sarajevo had been encircled by 13,000 troops in a siege that lasted from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996. More than 9,500 people died there during the conflict, including more than 5,000 civilians. The number of wounded exceeded 13,000.
The City in 2000
In the summer of 2000, I volunteered with Healing Hands Network and fund raised for my fare and the charity’s expenses. It was to be a life changing experience.
The city of Sarajevo was still bearing the scars of war. Numerous buildings were pockmarked by shelling, and a sea of shimmering white headstones lined the surrounding hillsides.
I soon learned that landmines littered the countryside, and it was incredibly dangerous to go walking in open areas.
Despite its outward appearance, Sarajevo held the most beautiful energy. It felt like angels or other heavenly beings embraced the city and its people.
The charity’s clinic in central Sarajevo, contained several treatment rooms, a sitting room cum office, a small kitchen for cooking plus accommodation for their volunteer therapists.
Our clients spoke little English so we relied on the skills of an interpreter to discuss each person’s medical history. We never questioned them on their ethnicity or religion; each and every person was treated equally.
I practised spiritual healing also known as the laying on of hands, although I was also qualified in reflexology, aromatherapy, nutrition…
The gratitude of the Bosnian people was overwhelming. Every day, they brought small gifts of food to our clinic, and I for one felt incredibly humbled.
One day a week we journeyed by tram or bus to outlying areas, to visit those who could not travel. On our first outreach visit, we climbed a long flight of stairs in a battle scarred block of flats, to reach an elderly man who was both paralysed and housebound. His eyes shone brightly and I sensed a very special energy around him. Despite his challenging circumstances, I believe he had found some form of inner peace or perhaps enlightenment.
However, many others remained extremely traumatised.
I felt incredibly tearful on leaving Sarajevo, and I vowed to volunteer again the following year.
A Lasting Impression
Sadly, my health deteriorated and I was unable to return, but I often think of the brave people that I met in 2000.
Man’s inhumanity to man still continues; I wonder will we ever learn?
Sarajevo 2000 was originally posted on writing.ie
Adapted from my memoir “Watching the Daisies – Life Lessons on the Importance of Slow” available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/r5GCjaetgZk