Healing Hands help victims of war torn Bosnia

Pigeon Square, Sarajevo
Sarajevo shelled buildings

A few years ago I visited Sarajevo with Healing Hands Network, a charity who give massage and reiki to people who have faced the atrocities of the 1990s war against the Serbs.

Now the charity, Healing Hands Network, is starting up a project for British soldiers who have been in Afghanistan and faced the horrors of fighting and war out there.

Healing Hands Network sends volunteer therapists out to Bosnia for six months of the year to give massage, reiki, reflexology and other therapies to victims of the appalling war in the 1990s. To people whose lives have been torn apart being given free access to healing therapies has proved a lifeline.

For four years Sarajevo was under siege by Serbian armies, who took over their homes, and turned public places into concentration camps where soldiers had free rein to rape, torture and abuse them at will. Added to that the city was constantly being shelled and many buildings that have not yet been rebuilt or repaired still bear bullet marks from top to bottom.

When HHN arrived in Sarajevo 11 years ago they started working in the hospitals giving complementary treatments. They work with organisations like the Association of Concentration Camp Victims and the Union of Civilian War Victims who give their members opportunities for healing treatments. They operate from their own house in the centre of the city or one of their outreach centres.

I met people whose legs had been blown off by shells, whose families had disappeared or who had been repeatedly raped and tortured while under house arrest or in concentration camp. One man said 50 of his wife’s family were locked in a house which was burnt to the ground. Even though the siege of Sarajevo ended in 1996 emotional and physical scars may never heal. There is no social security, no NHS and the people are poor. When they have lost limbs Healing Hands Network treatments may be the only therapy they receive.

For people who have been raped many times or tortured being touched by another human being has immense significance. Yet many have felt that massage and other treatments have helped their minds and bodies to heal – and using a colloquial expression they say that it makes them feel like a ‘new born person’. It helps on so many levels, allowing them to relax and consequently sleep better at night, giving them time in a nurturing environment where they feel safe, and feeling that someone actually cares enough to help them.

If anyone knows any therapists who are interested in volunteering to go out to Sarajevo for two weeks stints between April and October do contact Healing Hands Network. Similarly if anyone is doing sponsored walks, selling cakes, or doing anything for good causes do consider helping the charity. They need more funds to be able to extend the service they offer in Sarajevo and to help the organisations they deal with, many of whose members are homeless and desperately poor.

Contact Healing Hands Network: www.healinghandsnetwork.org.uk 01885 410620

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