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How the Flood Changed Ibrahim’s Life

Ganja Workshop, which was launched in Gunja after the floods, helped children like 6-year old Ibrahim to divert their thoughts from the floods to play, creativity and socializing with their peers.

Thanks to the workshop Ibrahim stopped painting only water and talking about nothing except the flood and the works which need to be done before life could return to normal”, said his mother. He tells us about all of the adventures he has experienced through Ganja: how he went to the seaside for the first time in his life, visited the zoo, travelled by train, bus and tram, and made new friends

Ibrahim participated in the celebration of the second anniversary of the “Read to Me!” campaign in Gunja (Photo: Dario Hacek)

Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Staša Skenžić and the Head of UNICEF Office, Valetina Otmačić, visited Ganja workshop in Gunja, as well as the container settlement shelter, and the home of the 6-year old Ibrahim and his family.

We first met Ibrahim in the container settlement shelter in Gunja. He spent months living there with his mother, father and younger brother Sedat, after the disastrous flood had destroyed their home. Seemingly happy and carefree, 6-year old Ibro, as everyone who knows him call him, liked to ride his bike on the concrete school playground, which became a second home to many inhabitants of Gunja.

Ibro in Gunja, in front of the Ganja workshop (Photo: Association Our Children Vinkovci)

Every day Ibro attended the Ganja workshop, which UNICEF, in cooperation with the Association Our Children from Vinkovci, organised in a tent in the container settlement, in order to help the children affected by the floods. Everyday activities and talks with the educators, helped the boy to open up about the great sorrow he was carrying in his heart. All of his drawings had only one motif: houses in water.

Ibro often talks about his grandma, who no longer lives with them, and about the burek, the meat-pie his mother used to make before the floods. Sounding like a grown-up, Ibrahim often, and in great detail, speaks about the flood, about the water, the beginning of reconstruction of houses, and plans for the future. Even when he was away on summer vacation, which the Assoication Our Children Vinkovci organised for the children from the flooded area, Ibro phoned his mum and dad every day, and the first things he asked were how the reconstruction was going, and how his little brother was. For him the most important thing when coming back from the seaside was to bring a toy his little brother.

Ibro in Zagreb, preparing for a TV appearance (Photo: Association Our Children Vinkovci)

His doting parents are aware of the boy’s fear and the trauma he suffered. They are doing their best to ease it, but life in a container is hard, even for adults. For children like Ibrahim, who need to share their fears and trauma with someone, the workshop became a sanctuary.

Psychological support they received in the workshop tent during the summer was invaluable in the period when adults were busy clearing the rubble and doing the reconstruction.

Time passes more quickly in play and socialising with peers. Thoughts start to move from the flood to more cheerful things. After some time Ibro started drawing other motifs, like animals, which he also likes to make from clay. Little things make him happy – like the snow globe full of snowflakes, which he got as a present and keeps carrying around. He readily participates in all activities, and his charm and good nature make him loved by the teachers and his friends from the workshop alike.

Ibro in the Ganja workshop (Photo: Association Our Children Vinkovci)

A year after the flood, his family finally returns home. Their “old” house was knocked down, and the new house is being built in its place. His father’s diligent hands have made a temporary home in the attic of a farm building, where they used to keep hay and fodder for sheep. At the time when the family left the container settlement and returned home, we visited them in their home.

Ibrahim’s room is full of works he created in Ganja, or made at home. After being slightly nervous at first, he soon starts talking about his experiences from the workshop: about the friends he made there, and picture books he borrowed and now reads every night with his mum. Recollections of the flood are still vivid, but beautiful memories of play, trip to the seaside, zoo in Osijek and train ride to Vinkovci have managed to push them away a little. The return home, although this is not the home he remembers, was one of the happiest days in his life.

Ibrahim in front of UNICEF tent in the container settlement in Gunja (Photo: Marin Ilej)

Ibrahim still comes to the workshop, which has in the meantime moved under the solid roof. Since it began, over 120 children from the flooded areas of Županjska Posavina attended the programme. This autumn Ibrahim is starting school, and his little brother Sedat will be in the first generation of children who will attend the new kindergarten, which will be established in the premises of the future Community Center in Gunja, at UNICEF initiative.

Ibro will always be able to say that he also attended the kindergarten, which was first organised as a workshop in a tent in the container settlement. For Ibro, and over a hundred children affected by the flood, Ganja was much more than a place where they could play. The best proof of that are his drawings, which no longer have sad motifs of flooded houses, and his stories full of happy memories of the past year in Ganja. He also the bread crusts which are no longer left on his plate – because eating with his firends in Ganja made him start loving them… and the first letters he learned to write… and the visit to the capital… and the first TV appearance… There are so many opportunities and undreamt achievements waiting for Ibro.

Ibrahim pokazuje svoju omiljenu knjigu predstojnici Ureda UNICEFa Valentini Otmačić i pomoćniku ministra obrazovanja Staši Skenžiću koji su posjetili njegov dom (Foto: N. Mucko)

We are happy to have met this wonderful boy, and helped his crushed world be built anew, even stronger than before. We thank everyone who helped us in this, by donating money for helping children in the flooded areas.

The story about Ibrahim, a child with a golden heart, is a story of all children who lost the foothold and their sense of safety because of the floods – and by supporting our activities, you helped them regain these.

As part of the Cooperation Agreement between UNICEF and the Municipality of Gunja, it was agreed that UNICEF will assist in equipping the kindergarten and children’s playground, and support the work of the kindergarten until the end of 2016, while afterwards its financing will be taken over by the Municipality.


Updated: 01 July 2016
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