of Prevention in Community Youth Work
Suncokret is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that
was organized in 1992 by a group of Croatian students and
young professionals to respond to the needs of children and
youth in refugee camps. As the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina
has ended, Suncokret has focused more on preparing people
for resettlement and providing support in local communities.
Community youth centers provide youth with a variety of discussion
groups as well as workshops in areas such as film making,
music, drama, computers, and so forth. A program of prevention
and education is also offered in the school; groups of 10-18
youth meet weekly to consider matters related to their psychosocial
development. A program of work with youth in collective centers
helps prepare youth for transition to their communities and
to participate in their communities.
Suncokret is a
non-governmental, non profit organization registrated in 1992
in Croatia. Suncokrets' mission is to address the psychological,
social, cultural, and environmental consequences of war and
social change in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Suncokret
aims to mitigate the effects of conflict through local and
international participation in social, renewal, peace-building,
and post-war social reconstruction.
In Summer 1992
a group of students and young professionals from Croatia,
joined by international volunteers, responded to the needs
of refugee children and youth by working and living in some
of the biggest and most deprived refugee centers in Croatia.
Financial resources which were barely sufficient to cover
some crayons and paper; the project grew, however, with imagination
and commitment to a vital program serving all ages of refugees
and displaced persons. In normal circumstances this group
of relatively inexperienced young professionals and volunteers
would have never dreamed of engaging themselves in the difficult
task of helping children to cope and overcome the stressful
experiences of war and relocation. The war induced the feeling
of responsibility to address the problem and act with immediacy.
The desire to support and improve services to refugees and
displaced persons was the birth of Suncokret.
As the work progressed,
it became clear that a short-term crisis response was inadequate
and that a long-term perspective was mandated. Need for a
clear organizational structure began to be a priority, and
a slow and difficult period of change ensued. A structure
is now in place with clear roles and responsibilities for
proper use of a professional staff as co-ordinators and supervisors.
The professional staff includes social workers, psychologists,
teachers, and other professionals.
developed concrete policies, training, programs and a qualified
professional staff to meet various needs of people of all
ages affected by the war. The focus is on the psycho-social
needs of children, teenagers, women, and senior citizens living
in collective centers and in the local communities. Increasingly,
Suncokret is engaged in community development and has started
to develop work using community centers to facilitate participation
of all people living there in activities which improve the
quality of their lives and self sufficiency. Generally, programmes
are carried out through a range of social, recreational, creative,
educational, and self-help activities.
to empower people to take control of their lives and communities.
It has been welcomed and received requests from all parts
of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina for services. Suncokret
has been influential in the growth and development of NGOs
in Croatia and has:
- provided services
in over thirty collective centers throughout Croatia and
- supported local
initiatives for community development in five regions of
- trained and
supervised over 2000 local and international volunteers
to work in collective centers and local communities.
humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from Croatia and
the majority of local humanitarian organizations have stopped
providing support due to lack of finances. This has created
feelings of abandonment and despair among refugee/displaced
population Suncokret has, however, continued working with
people in collective centers. In most centers Suncokret stayed
as the only remaining organization supporting the remaining
people and providing an array of services.
in twelve collective centers in five regions of Croatia organizing
educational, creative, recreational, and other activities
for all age groups. The work in all of these collective centers
is, whenever possible, spread into the local communities around
them, so that privately accommodated refugees and displaced
persons as well as the local population are able to join these
programmes. Suncockret provides group and individual support
to prepare people to return their communities from collective
also started several projects of direct support to the people
who have returned. During 1996 Suncokret started work in Topusko,
a town of returnees, some 100 kilometers southeast from Zagreb.
Several public actions were organized to clean the surroundings;
a Suncokret Summer Camp for children and teenagers was held
during July and August 1996. Local authorities have provided
for the community center for ten years. The Topusko Summer
Camp involves about 300 children and teenagers (displaced,
refugees, socially deprived) during July and August. Suncokret
has also conducted a needs assessment in the town of Knin
and is waiting for positive replay from local authorities
regarding adequate space for a youth community center. In
Karlovac, Suncokret is engaged is supporting displaced children
from Turanj. Since 1995 we have organized four Suncokret Theatre
Workshops using the Theatre of Opressed technique, for war
traumatized children and local professionals working with
them. Community youth centers and programs of psycho-social
support and education are all the models of primary prevention
in work with children and youth.
Copyright for the I.U.C. / B.S.U. Journal of Social Work Theory
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