For the past five years, the BaUM Youth Association from Banovići has been focusing on children, young adults, and socially marginalized groups in their efforts to develop their local community. They advocate for initiatives to improve the quality of life through sports, cultural events, and informal education.
Along with the trend of young people leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banovići and other small communities are facing problems such as a lack of opportunities for young people, monotony of the soceity, unemployment, and difficulty planning for the future. To address these issues, the BaUM Association is working on various projects to try to give young people the opportunity to improve themselves and their communities as volunteers and activists.
Ademir Sarić, the secretary of BaUM, explains that over the past five years, more than 120 volunteers have passed through the association. He adds that some have been with them from the very beginning, guided by the mission of ensuring every child and young person equal rights and opportunities. Currently, BaUM has between 35 and 50 active volunteers.
BaUM Banovići has developed a system for attracting new volunteers every year, which is difficult for them. As Selma Imamović, a member of BaUM’s Assembly, says, activism and volunteering are poorly promoted in local communities.
“What is definitely a challenge for every youth association is the youth, that is, the change of generations and the departure of young people. We have developed a system to attract new people every year. When young people see the personal and community benefits of volunteering, they are happy,” Imamović says, adding that young people are the heart and soul of the BaUM Association and without them, it wouldn’t even exist.
According to Sarić, BaUM recieves enormous support from World Vision in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as other partners such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Nesto Više Association, the Tuzla Community Foundation, the KULT Institute for Youth Development, and the Municipality of Banovići itself, which has supported specific projects. Additionally, there are also individuals and entrepreneurs who continuously support the Association’s activities.
Sarić emphasizes that even the smallest efforts made by individuals and entrepreneurs have an enormous impact on the BaUM as well as the young people of Banovići.
Describing some of the projects BaUM has worked on over the last year, volunteer Belma Bošnjaković highlights a series of 25 workshops on the prevention of addiction and sexually transmitted diseases that they held in cooperation with schools in the Banovići area. Another project which received a great response from the public, “Hollywood Comes to Every Village,” included outdoor film screenings for children and young people living in rural areas.
Bošnjaković also highlights the project “Connecting the Dots: Improving Children’s Rights in BiH,” which is supported by the European Union in BiH, World Vision BiH, the Naša Djeca Association of Sarajevo, and the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees.
BaUM encourages support and promotion of their activities to help them improve their work. As Sarić emphasizes, they want BaUM to be known as a safe place where parents, teachers, and the community at large would advise young people to get involved.
“We always tell young people that they can change their reality through their work, and they can stay here. We tell older people to put their focus on young people,” Sarić concludes.