Vera Mujić is a woman with incredible strength of spirit. She is an activist and fighter for human rights, but above all she is a mother who dedicated her life to her Lana – a girl with developmental difficulties. As a civil engineering student, Vera dreamed of building large infrastructure facilities in Africa with her husband, but when Lana was born her life took a different direction. Today, she says that she does not know how she would live otherwise and believes that her destiny and her true calling in life is precisely working with children and fighting for their rights.
“When Lana was born, I knew from the first day that I would dedicate my life to learning and acquiring the skills necessary to provide her and other children with the highest quality and most fulfilling life possible. That’s how the “Futura” Association was born. From the personal need of us parents who realized that we have to do everything ourselves to make life easier for our children,” Vera Mujić, president of the Futura Association, tells Snaga local.
This association has existed for 13 years, thanks to the humanitarian and volunteer work of its members, mostly parents of children. The city of Gračanica finances part of the activities from the budget, and part of the funds are secured through projects, donations from businessmen or the sale of unique items created at creative workshops.
“We hold workshops three times a week. We make objects from clay, we use the quilling technique, we make pictures and greeting cards, we paint glass, we do decoupage and the like. We create most things from eco-paper, which we make from already used paper. We make this recycled paper ourselves, which is especially interesting for children. We go to dance, music and sports competitions,” says Vera about all the activities that take place in Fortuna.
Laughter and joy despite the difficulties
Children and young people with developmental disabilities are the most vulnerable population in society. There are no systemic solutions to the problems they face. Especially in smaller communities, there are no institutions that take care of, educate, rehabilitate children and young people with disabilities. But still there is no shortage of laughter and joy in Fortuna.
“There is a special atmosphere of joy and friendship at our meetings. Everyone who visited us says that. Even the smallest success, an overcome obstacle is a celebration for us. We live as one big family, we celebrate birthdays together, we go on trips, to exhibitions, to competitions, camping, to the sea,” Vera describes their friendship.
Such associations are especially important for young members, because after coming of age young people with developmental difficulties are left to fend for themselves. The state does not recognize them, so associations that bring children and parents together are often their whole world. Working to change that is Vera’s and the other parents’ task.
That’s why they launched a series of initiatives both at the cantonal and federal level to improve legal solutions and provide better care and protection for people with developmental disabilities. Last year, the parents held a protest and asked the Tuzla Canton Assembly not to apply the provisions of the federal law, in order to preserve the allowance for these families even after 26 years of life. After a meeting between government representatives and parents, it was agreed that people with 90% and 100% disabilities will have child allowance as long as the disability lasts.
“The condition of these children can only get worse, the parents are getting older, so both parents and children need support. They must not be left in the lurch. There is a lot of talk about inclusion, but many children cannot live that inclusion,” Vera points out.
Ask us what we can do
As a particular problem, Vera cites the fact that society does nothing to recognize what people with developmental disabilities can do. All the examinations, all the medical evaluations come down to what they cannot do and that is something that has to change. It is important to change the perception of people with developmental disabilities. This is exactly what we have been working on for the past 13 years.
“We work intensively to include children and young people in all our activities. We have great cooperation with primary and secondary schools in Gračanica. We organize joint workshops with students. Because the easiest things to change are when you start with children. “Sometimes some children come with discomfort, they are afraid of doing something wrong, but in the end when the workshops are over everyone asks when they can come again,” says Vera.
Although the Association’s premises are in a place that is not in the city center, not only children from schools but also adults who want to volunteer in the Association come to their gatherings. Vera is proud of her fellow citizens for their attitude towards children with developmental difficulties, but also of the local authorities. They also have support from businessmen, and these are things that have changed in the past 13 years, since the foundation of the Association. However, the most important is the change he sees in his parents.
“The attitude of parents towards their child has changed. Previously, there were many parents who kept their children locked up in the house, considering it difficult and complicated for them to go out. Now that is no longer the case. “They are not “ashamed” of their children and that is a big improvement that can be seen,” Vera points out.
Association “Futura” not only takes care of children with developmental difficulties, but also their parents. Although the capacities of the association are nowhere near enough, creative workshops are also held for children, as well as for their mothers, because very often coming to the Association is their only way out of the house. Moms make greeting cards that are later sold and used to fund the Association. Their greeting cards are bought by local companies and public institutions, and they have an annual contract with the TK Assembly.
The need for a day care center
Futura cooperates with all other associations in Gračanica, especially with SOS Children’s Village. Thanks to them, inclusion in Gračanica gained a completely new dimension. What is still missing is a Day Center that would be used by everyone. And the insurance of supported housing. That is Vera’s goal for the future. Provide children with a place where they can stay even after their parents are gone.
“Lana is my unit, and my husband and I are aware that she will have to stay in the Home today or tomorrow. If a supported housing system is not created by then,” says Vera.
She is aware that Fortuna cannot be the bearer of such a project, but she is trying to achieve that the competent cantonal ministry and local authorities ensure the financing of Day Care Centers in every city in TK. For now, this is just an initiative, which Vera and the other parents hope will become a reality.
Lana and Vera as super women
As Lana grew, thanks to Vera’s efforts and work, she became more communicative and independent, although she still has her own unique needs. Vera is proud of her progress. Their fight was not easy, but together they overcame obstacles. That’s why they were declared SUPER WOMEN this year.
Vera dedicated her life to her Lana, but also to all other families with children with developmental disabilities. Through struggle, togetherness and love, she helped many to make their lives and the lives of their children better. And her devotion to Lana is a true reminder of how one mother can change the world for her child, but also for many others.
Written by: Vedada Sećerbajtarević
This story was written thanks to the generous support of the American people through the “Strength of the Local” program of the United States Agency for International Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID). The content of the story is solely the responsibility of the author and the “Network for Building Peace”. The views expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.