The Christine Witcutt Day-Care Centre in Sarajevo
(a day care centre for children with special needs)

Background, 1993-2006
Even in the richest countries really good facilities for children with disabilities are few and far between. Bosnia, with its war-traumatised people and ruined economy, does better than might be expected. They have made the first steps towards moving to a more inclusive model, but many children are still in institutional care. Such homes are compassionate and slowly improving, but still heartbreakingly poor, overcrowded and understaffed.
For parents trying to care for a disabled child at home life can be difficult in the extreme. Welfare payments, pensions and personal savings virtually disappeared in the bonfire of war and governments. Coping with a child with special needs brings stress and strain everywhere, but it’s hard to exaggerate the struggle and hardship of doing so in Bosnia

Kids Computer

The Christine Witcutt centre brings some light and happiness to the lives of the children of Sarajevo most needing help, and some respite to their hard-pressed parents.

The Christine Witcutt Fund is an independent body closely linked to Edinburgh Direct Aid. Both charities are registered in Scotland and in Bosnia. During the years of war and siege, Edinburgh Direct Aid volunteers delivered thousands of tons of food and medical aid to desperate people in many parts of Bosnia. Christine Witcutt was an EDA volunteer from Wishaw who was killed by sniper fire in Sarajevo in July 1993.

The Christine Witcutt Fund was set up by EDA with the object of creating a living memorial to Christine in Sarajevo - something that would benefit the people of the city and also be a fitting tribute to the ideal of selfless service to others which Christine embodied. Alan Witcutt, Christine's husband, and other Trustees of the Fund, agreed that this should take the form of a day centre that enables seriously mentally or physically disadvantaged children to receive professional care and education while continuing to live in the love and warmth of their own family.

The Centre is located in the grounds of the Vladimir Nazor special needs school, a pre-existing school providing facilities to less severely disabled children, to a remarkably high standard. It is housed in a building provided by a Turkish benefactor while the Turkish Battalion of the United Nations forces was in Bosnia.
Lord Provostof Edinburgh and Director Majuhedin Džudža
Director Majo Džudža greets Edinburgh's Lord Provost Lesley Hinds at the 5th anniversary celebration of the Christine Witcutt Centre
In January 2001 a tripartite agreement was signed by EDA, the Vladimir Nazor School and the municipality of New Sarajevo, under which the School administered and ran the Centre; Edinburgh Direct Aid was to meet all running costs for a period of 5 years; and at the end of the five year period the Municipality of New Sarajevo was to assume financial responsibility for running the centre in perpetuity.

2007: Sarajevo Takes Over

Before opening the Centre in 2001 an agreement was signed with the City of New Sarajevo, stipulating that if EDA could keep it open for 5 years, they would take it over after that. That 5-year target was met, at a cost of around Ł100,000 per year. Many individuals donated time and time again: small and large private donations taken together with several substantial donations from Christine's church, the Christadelphians, and events like husband Alan Witcutt's interview on the late John Peel radio programme, enabled EDA and CWF to keep the Centre well-supported for the full five years.

The agreement was signed by the then Mayor of New Sarajevo, Želko Komšić who in 2006 became President Komšić after his election to the tripartite rotating presidency of Bosnia Herzegovina. True to his word, Mr. Komšić , having helped to arrange the donation from New Sarajevo, made a substantial gift from Presidential discretionary funds, which with private donations and other support will be enough to see the Centre through 2007 and 2008.

In the long run however, education and social care are not responsibilities of the City government nor of the President's office, but of the Cantonal (regional) government. The important development of 2007 was that Sarajevo Canton agreed to fund most of the professional "Pedagogues" on the staff of the Centre. The future of the Centre is not yet completely assured beyond 2008, but there is every reason to think that it will continue in its role as a memorial to Christine, and as a widely acknowledged centre of excellence in special care in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mother and Child Duet (497K)
A child with learning difficulties plays a duet with her mother at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Vladimir Nazor School. Her mother graciously thanked the Christine Witcutt Centre for the patient loving work which made it possible to realise a long-standing dream.

Today: The Christine Witcutt Outreach Service

Sadly, Director Majudin Džudža died after a long illness in early January 2008. He is sorely missed,but the Centre carries on, with Marko Grujićić, one of the professsional staff of the Witcutt Centre, as acting director of the containing Vladimir Nazor and Christine Witcutt centres.

EDA/CWF are no longer financially responsible for the support of the Centre: but from the start of the project, in addition to the on-site facilities, domiciliary visitors were funded to provide specialist help to the families of children who could not be accomodated at the Centre, or whose circumstances made attendance too difficult. This project, now known as the "Christine Witcutt Home Visiting Service" is still entirely dependent on funds from the UK.

The management of this aspect of the work of the Fund was initially entrusted to the Association of Parents of Handicapped Children in Sarajevo, who know the urgency of the need only too well. The service worked well for a number of years and showed clearly the need, and the value, of the help we were able to give.
FamilyAndPhysios (89K)
Special Needs experts from The Christine Witcutt Home Visiting Service tend a child in a family home in Sarajevo.
As from January 2007, the service was taken over by staff based in the Vladimir Nazor center under Director Džudža, with day-to-day professional management entrusted to Selma Ibrišković. Formally, the CWF has placed a 2-year contract with the Vladimir Nazor Center to run the Service.

After being run in its new form for a year, it was thought wise to make an assessment of the work being done. To this end, Ms. Alison Closs, Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education, and Ms. Ruth Bayne, recently retired head of a school for children with severe, profound and complex mental and physical special needs (both members of the CWF steering committee) travelled to Sarajevo in April on a one-week evaluation visit. They found much to admire, some things to change, and a great need for more help. Their conclusions, which the committee of the CWF has endorsed, were as follows:
  1. The home visiting service was being run to a high professional standard
  2. By making the facilities of the Vladimir Nazor Centre available to clients of the Outreach Service (bringing children in to attend music therapy sessions for example) more was being done for the client families than hitherto, but for smaller numbers.
  3. We should aim at least at a modest expansion of numbers visited, and therefore of staff hours.
  4. A number of families were coping with the physical burden of moving weighty young adults rather than children without mechanical aids. This should be rectified
  5. As part of their ongoing professional development, staff would benefit from a study visit to Scotland.

Put another way :- we need to raise more funds; obtain donations of expensive and bulky equipment and transport it to Sarajevo; work harder ; and, most important, appeal again to the generosity of all who would like to help.