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.
|Director Majo Džudža greets Edinburgh's Lord Provost Lesley Hinds at the 5th anniversary celebration of the Christine Witcutt Centre|
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.
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.
|Special Needs experts from The Christine Witcutt Home Visiting Service tend a child in a family home in Sarajevo.|
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.