Piece by piece for a more beautiful Breza – Amina and Mersiha, women who show that nothing is impossible

Author: Vedada Sećerbajtarević

Breza was always the city of coal and sports. Numerous national team players in volleyball, football, karate, and basketball came from Breza. Among them is the golden cadet Vedran Mirković, who won the gold medal at the European Basketball Championship in Lithuania in 2015 with the cadet national team of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However, after the war, there was less and less sport in Breza. Primarily due to the lack of infrastructure.

The new sports hall, the construction of which began more than 20 years ago, has not yet been completed and it is not known when it will be. The existing Partizan sports center was abandoned for years. Thanks to the enthusiasts and the Sports Association of Breza Municipality, the interior of the hall was renovated 7 years ago. Since this summer, you can hear the kicks of the ball, children’s shouts and cheering on the outdoor courts as well. Basketball was returned to Partizan by the Association Naša ideia. Behind all of these changes are actually two tireless women, Amina Rahmanović Omanović and Mersiha Šehić.

In May of this year, they prepared the project and, despite the skepticism of the environment and questions as to why they even need it, started to work on realization of their plans.

They had to provide 30,000 BAM for the rehabilitation of the field.

“It was a lot of money for us, but we said to ourselves, let’s try it,” local Amina Rahmanović Omanović said for Local Works.

They received the first money from the Association for the Development of Rural Tourism in BiH Alterural, which donated 11,000 BAM.

The Breza Municipality also supported them, but even that was not enough.

The problem was that the prices of construction materials were constantly changing, so they had to provide more money than it was originally planned. That is why Amina and Mersiha decided to invite businesses and citizens to support the construction of the field with their donations. They say that started the avalanche.

“People kept coming and bringing money. Businesses, employees, retired persons, even children. We published on social networks the names of all donors, but not the amount they gave, and I think that was the main reason for such a response. It was equally important for us to publish the name of the person who donated 5 BAM as well as the name of the person who donated 1000 BAM. People saw that everything was transparent and wanted to contribute. They came even when we announced that we no longer needed the money” – Mersiha Šehić told us.

Partizan is one of the symbols of Breza, along with the late antique basilica at Crkvina, the mine and the football stadium. Therefore, it is not surprising that its restoration united the entire city.

“The children called us and asked if we were at Partizan, so they could come and help. They spent 20 days of their vacation working with us. Citizens brought lunch, coffee, juices… The workers from Banja Luka who laid the surface for the field said that they had never experienced anything like it anywhere,” our interviewee Amina Rahmanović Omanović proudly recalled those days.

Precisely because of the involvement of the children, for Amina and Mersiha, Partizan was much more than the renovation of the sports field. It was an educational project. Both have spent their entire working life working with children in elementary school. Amina as a teacher, and Mersiha as a pedagogue and director of the Safet-beg Bašagić school. That is why they are very aware of the problems that children face today. Depression, anxiety, peer violence, problems in dysfunctional families…

“Alienation has become a very widespread phenomenon. The gap is not only between children and parents, we also see it in communication between teachers, schools, in all segments of society. The pandemic has contributed to this, but it is not the only cause. Lately, it’s good that both children and parents are opening up to us, we talk about it in classes, in community classes. In conversations with children, we notice their open or hidden calls for help and we try to answer them” – Mersiha told us.

As a result, a psychologist now regularly visits the school. Although mental health and visiting a psychologist is still a taboo topic in our country, especially in small communities, Mersiha and Amina point out that this is slowly changing. The children now ask the teachers themselves when will the psychologist come. Parents ask as well, which is a positive change compared to previous years.

However, the problem is the lack of a systemic solution and an insufficient number of psychologists. Namely, the schools do not have it, and one psychologist employed at the Center for Social Work cannot meet all needs.

This is precisely why Mersiha and Amina included children in all their projects.

“Through work, children confide in us, tell us their problems, ask for help. When you give responsibility to a child who is in a terrible mental state, who is invisible, involve in some activity, give a task, and the child completes it, you see physical changes in the child. The child is happier, feels important, you see the smile on his_her face. At the same time, through work, you teach children true values, you show them how important volunteering is, caring for the community. That’s why Partizan is important to us” – Mersiha explained to us why children are so involved in their work.

The children also worked with them last summer on the implementation of the Green Square environmental project. With the help of the World Vision organization, the goal was to beautify the city’s streets and parks, as well as the courtyard of the Safvet-beg Bašagić elementary school and the Muhamed Kantardžić city library.

And last year, when they were making a mural on the outer wall of the Partizan hall, the children helped them.

“On the mural there is a branch with leaves, and in each leaf there is an organization, a sports club or an important institution from Breza. The children were given the task of researching an organization. They had fun and learned something new. We can’t separate them from the internet and the phone, but we can show them how to use them usefully,” Amina told us.

In small communities, every project is big, as well as every problem. Amina and Mersiha decided to solve the problems themselves. That’s how the Association Naša ideja was born.

In 2018, the school where they are employed was supposed to send 20 students to Istanbul for a study visit. Since there was no bank account to which the Municipality of Breza could transfer the money for the trip, they decided to take matters into their own hands. They established an association, opened a bank account and the children went to Turkey.

During the pandemic, they provided laptops and tablets for children who did not have the necessary equipment to follow online classes. They renovated the Partizan basketball court, decorated the hall and their school with a mural. They also created green quadrants in the city, and organized numerous educational workshops for children and teachers. Now they are preparing for new projects.

“We are here to show by example that nothing is impossible. It can be a motivation for someone to do something better, so, piece by piece, we will get a more beautiful Breza. A nicer environment for our children” – said Amina and Mersiha for Local Works at the end of the conversation.