The Balkans 2004

by on Sep.02, 2004
under The Balkans

Clowns Yvette Feuer and Bruce Macphail traveled for two and a half weeks in Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina doing a total of 27 shows and 16 workshops and reaching just under 2000 children.
We decided to put together this trip to the Balkans in the Spring 2004 and it took 5 months between the time we decided to go and the completion of the trip. Crucial financial support came from the Merdith Russell Travel Grant from Sarah Lawrence College which covered the expenses and the equipment. We are also indebted to support from family and friends to make this expedition possible. For two and a half weeks we did shows and workshops in various locations including schools, orphanages, mentally handicapped homes and refugee settlements.


August

Volunteers: Yvette Feuer and Bruce Macphail 

Duration: August 1st – 20th, 2004
Shows: 27
Workshops: 16
Audience: just under 2,000 children
Location: Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina
Partners: Healing Hearts, Grupa “Haje Da…”, Danish Refugee Council, Caritas, UNMIK, Dis Theatre, The Family, and other local youth workers and volunteers. 

Yvette and Bruce performed for children in schools, orphanages, IDP settlements and mentally handicapped homes.

Itinerary

Serbia
1 August Novi-Sad, SOS Village
2 August Belgrade, House of Dom Zmaj
2 August Belgrade, Orphanage Dragutin Filipovic
3 August Belgrade,Dunavsko Kindergarten
3 August Stamnica, Institute of Handicapped People“Nikola Sumenkovic “
4 August Kuline, Center For Handicapped People “Dragulu Markovic Gidra”
 
Kosovo
5 August North-Mitrovica, Internally Displaced People’s Camp “Branko Radice”-
5 August Zitkovac, Internally Displaced People’s Camp
6 August Liposevac, Internally Displaced People’s Camp
6 August Gazi Voda, Internally Displaced People’s Camp
7 August Livragona, School
7 August Priluzje, Youth Center
8 August Staro Gracko
8 August Stanovc, School 60
8 August Gracanica
9 August Plementina,Internally Displaced People’s Camp
9 August Plementina, School of Balkan Sunflowers

Bosnia-Hercegovina
11 August Banja Luka,
Dom Rada Vranjesevic
11 August Banja Luka, kindergarden
13 August Sarajevo, Dom Bjelave
13 August Sarajevo, SOS Kinderdorf , Drustveni Centar
13 August Sarajevo, SOS Village
14 August Sarajevo, neighborhood show
14 August Breza, show at local festival
15 August Pazarevic, Institution for Mentally Handicapped
15 August Konjic, Center For Children Rights
16 August Ivanica, School
Bruce and Yvette’s Reflections
Clowns Yvette Feuer and Bruce Macphail traveled for two and a half weeks in Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina doing a total of 27 shows and 16 workshops and reaching just under 2000 children.
We decided to put together this trip to the Balkans in the Spring 2004 and it took 5 months between the time we decided to go and the completion of the trip.

The Show

Entitled The Ravioli Family Circus the show’s premise was that we were a traveling Italian family doing circus shows around the world. The family was quite small, simply composed of La Mama (Yvette) a life time performer with a strong inclination towards singing not to the liking of her young son Giuseppe (Bruce Macphail), who had just begun the family tradition of circus performance. The show was completely non-verbal. We also learned a few key words of the local language (different depending on where we were), which was useful.

The Workshop

In addition to doing the show we thought we would leave a longer lasting impact on the children if we lead a workshop after the performance. The idea behind the workshop was to create a mini-circus with the children. We started with a circle dance in a circle, led by Yvette and Bruce, and then split the children into two groups, acrobats and animals. The smaller ones would go with Yvette to do animals and Bruce would take the older ones to learn basic partner acrobatics moves. After learning of a number of animals (elephants, frogs, and lions) and acrobatic moves, each group would show each other what they had learnt and we would then do a final dance. Afterward we would perform the whole show as a mini-circus for the adults that were around. This was the basic structure of the workshop, although it changed at times depending on the number of children (usually 20-60), their ability to focus and the amount of communication that could be established. When possible we had some people translate for us while leading the workshops but as we picked up more of the local languages we managed to learn enough key words to lead a whole workshop with no translation, which was really fun.

Serbia

We started the tour in Serbia where we spent four days. We visited mostly orphanages and mentally handicapped centers. We did a total of six shows and six workshops all over the country from Novi Sad in the northern province of Vojvodina to the mentally handicapped center of the quite remote Kuline. The latter housed over 500 patients in very poor conditions (of course I do not mean to criticize the staff of the center as the poor conditions are the result of lack of funding).

Kosovo

We arrived in Kosovo on August 4th where we stayed for 5 days. Since the war in 1999 which created some 850 000 refugees, Kosovo has been living under a UN administration that tries to maintain the peace of the region that is still very fragile, as the recent March events showed this past spring. As it now stands the country is divided by a majority of Albanians in the south and a minority of Serbs in the North. The situation is still very complicated as there are Serbian enclaves in the predominantly Albanian territories and Albanian villages in the predominantly Serbian territories.

Bosnia

We stayed a total of 6 days in Bosnia where we focused mainly on orphanages, but also visited schools and a large mentally handicapped center near Sarajevo in Pazarevic. International organizations have poured lot of money into the country which allowed for the facilities to be in much better standards than in Serbia and Kosovo. Still, a new problem is occurring (which we also saw to a lesser extent in Kosovo), which is the reduction of international aid. As the years go by and such other conflict areas have emerged as Afghanistan, Iraq and now Sudan, the focus of international aid shifts. The local government has been slow to step in to cover the financing of these operations and it brings a renewed hardship on the country. We did a total of 10 shows in the 6 days we spent in Bosnia in Banja Luka, Sarajevo and Ivanica.

Conclusion

The trip was an amazing experience for us and we hope that it has brought some relief for a lot of children. We met many humanitarian workers who do truly amazing work, driven and enthusiastic, and who are sincerely eager to make a change in the lives of many people in this region which has suffered so much. We would want to thank them not just for helping us to make this trip happen, but for all their selfless hard work. All these countries are beautiful and its inhabitants want a better future. We have talked about a future continuation of our work there and of a possible collaboration between local organizations and CWB.

Crucial financial support came from the Merdith Russell Grant which covered the expenses and the equipment. We are also indebted to support from family and friends to make this expedition possible.



About the Author