I’m Martha, I’m 25 and I have been volunteering with a refugee-aid project in Bosnia for over 1 year. The people we support are homeless, living in abandoned buildings or on the streets of the city. Even so, we run an awesome project here, helping refugees and other vulnerable people to get support with respect and dignity.
It's hard work sometimes, trying to meet the needs of so many individual people who each have their own unique and difficult stories. Fortunately we are a really motivated team and passionate about what we do. We help people with food packs, clothes, shoes, advice, information, cups of tea and one extra special thing too: the glasses project.
The glasses project is us, a team of volunteers from all over the world, working with Hasan, a Turkish immigrant optician who owns an opticians in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Together, we give 6 or more refugees glasses every week. We meet people on the street during our aid distributions (when we give people foot, clothes, information...) and sometimes they tell us about the extra problems they have. In 2021, we realized a lot of people were saying they either couldn't see because they never had glasses or because their glasses were stolen or broken by border guards.
We help these people with respect and freedom, not by telling them to "wait here and we will find what you need", but by saying to them "okay then, let's go the opticians". We go to the appointment with them, where Hasan has made an eye-chart especially for Arabic-speaking homeless refugees in the area. Then, they can choose their frames and wait a few days for the glasses to be made.
Being there in the room when someone tries on glasses, sometimes as an adult wearing them for the first time ever, the feeling is amazing. That's what makes this an awesome project. That one small act, a few minutes of time, not a large bill to pay, but the difference it gives to an individual is life changing.
Funded by Homelessness (April 2022)