In Bosnia and Herzegovina, young people must leave care on reaching the age of 18 years. The same applies to young people with disabilities. They often have nowhere to go and face a bleak and uncertain future. The authorities have no solution to the problem. Young people are left without contacts, social assistance or family. Many end up on the streets or in large asylum-like institutions.
Naša Djeca is pioneering a group housing model which addresses the immediate needs of these young adults on leaving care, whilst also inspiring and promoting long term changes in policy and practice.
Naša Kuca (“Our House”) has become a home and sanctuary for young people with disabilities.
In 1975, a large house in the Old Town was left to the Egipatsko Selo children’s home by Mr Jovo Vujinović, a local man who had no children of his own but wanted to help the children of Mostar. The house had not been used by the home and had fallen into disrepair as well as being damaged during the conflict in the early 1990s.
In 2010 the local authorities approached Naša Djeca for help and they decided to take this on as a major project. It became a significant international fundraising venture with various countries providing both financial assistance as well as volunteers.
Naša Kuca had its opening ceremony on 15th September 2012.
A reception and musical programme pre-empted the moving in to the house of three young women.
The second stage of renovation was completed in the summer of 2014. The home can now accommodate up to 5 young women and the loft space has been converted into rooms which can be rented out privately to generate income.
Below you can see pictures of the completed accommodation for the young women living at Naša Kuca. All the furniture you see here was kindly donated.
Permanent accommodation such as this helps young people with disabilities and complex needs to begin living more independently, whilst still providing an appropriate level of support.
Upon moving in, the three occupants aged 22-23 had a member of staff employed to be with them day and night. The project also employed a woman to spend five hours a day, every day, teaching the three to cook and clean, which enabled them to develop a well organised routine and the confidence to look after themselves. Volunteers also took them out into the city and their presence built up general confidence in the women, who now go shopping and make visits to the doctor independently. One of them signs up all three at the local job centre every month.
Group Housing: The Future
The house is so much more than bricks and mortar. Naša Djeca is developing a place of good practice in which to create a care community of staff, children, families and support networks to meet immediate needs, and start to tackle some of the many root causes that generate those needs.
Group Housing is a model that has proven to be extremely successful and we want to develop it further. We hope that the authorities will one day adopt this model and be able to provide much needed support for many more young people in a similar social disposition.
The Group Housing model can provide employment experience, and opportunities for young people in care to spend productive time outside the orphanage. It is also an effective way to improve integration with the wider community, helping to remove the stereotypes that make it more difficult for young people in care to achieve their full potential.
There are opportunities to add further facilities to the existing Naša Kuca property such as a public fitness centre or other service on the ground floor which will increase contact with the local community and provide more work experience.
However, this property is not sufficient for the large number of young people coming through the care system in the coming years and more facilities are needed. Our Kids Foundation continues to extend group housing in and around Mostar. We are currently exploring opportunities to create new group housing projects.