Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje: Young People and Volunteers Jump Divisions

Ambassador Moon at the Youth Center. 

Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje (GVU) suffered terribly during the war and is often seen even today as synonymous with ethnic division.  But my recent visit to the Youth Center there again proved to me that there are young people in the community – helped by some friends from North Carolina and Serbia – who are jumping these divides and working to knit the community back together.  The Youth Center in GVU brings together young people from the Croat and Bosniak communities. 

The American volunteers stay with local families and integrate themselves within the community.  They told me that coming to Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje was a life-changing experience and many of them have visited multiple times.  They spend their summers in GVU organizing crafts and summer activities for Bosniak and Croat children with the help of older youth, most of whom participated in the summer activities when they were younger. 

Ambassador Moon meeting with American volunteers and participants at the Youth Center. 

I was very impressed by the teenagers who organize and participate in activities at the Youth Center, as well as the student volunteers from Sombor, Serbia.  One of the Serbian volunteers said that through this experience he learned that “we have different customs, but in essence we are all the same.”  These young adults are making a statement just by being at the Youth Center; they are building bridges within their own community and with the rest of the world. 

While there is a long road ahead before wounds will heal in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje and other divided towns, thankfully there are places like this Youth Center to help forge the path.  They show us that even in the most divided of towns people can steer away from the past and open their doors both to their neighbors and to visitors from across the Atlantic Ocean.