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Africa's our neighbour. When it burns, we smell the smoke. It stings our eyes, it sears our conscience, but maybe not as much as it should... Bono

Bosnia

We were asked to go to Sarajevo in 1997 because Rachel Bentley 
(Director of ‘Children on the Edge’) had undertaken to rebuild the blind school. Iasis was responsible for 
equipping the blind school with visual aids and examining the children there. The eye team made several visits there.

Sarajevo had recently been besieged. Many people had been killed there and people had horrific stories about the siege. The Serbs put a ring around Sarajevo and the only way in and out was by air and that was difficult. The only planes getting in and out were NATO and UN planes.

The siege went on for about four years and the blind school was right on the front line. It became a Serb outpost. It was badly damaged by shells. There were mine fields all around the school, so it was really 
dangerous to get to the school - especially for the blind children walking up and down there.

We know that before the war there were 300 children in the blind school and there were 70 when we visited. Nobody knows what happened to the others: they might’ve been moved or killed.

We were really busy at the school because they advertised our presence on the radio. People 
were turning up with eye problems because their medical care had been a bit patchy over the 
last three or four years. We had to provision the care as there were so many people, but we 
re-equipped the school with glasses so that those who were partially sighted could see again.

There one lovely story that was very moving – a really happy moment. One girl, with very restricted vision, had been considered blind before our visit. Having discovered that she did have some vision, we gave her a special magnifying telescope. Her teacher stood at the other side of the class and asked, “How many fingers am I holding up?” 
The girl looked through the telescope and said “You’re wearing red nail varnish!” That was lovely because she hadn’t seen properly before, or not since before the war, at least.