March 2008
Following is the farewell email sent to IOCC staff from Dusko Vucic, former IOCC Bosnia staffer

Question: What do a Flag, a radio communication system and a Spiro have in common?

Answer: Well, that was IOCC BiH in 1995 and 96.


A Flag is a Zastava 101 (Zastava in English: flag), a former Yugoslav-produced personal vehicle, whose production stopped in the late 80s. Try to remember the movie “Last Boy Scout”, where Bruce Willis is kicking a small vehicle, which he “borrowed” to pursue a Mercedes limousine – well a Zastava 101 is very similar to the kicked vehicle and it was the only vehicle available for official IOCC business use.

You might ask what a Spiro was. Well, Spiro was the owner of the Zastava 101 and IOCC BiH’s driver. He really was a character. Whatever his task was, he would do it differently than asked to and would always have a phenomenal excuse which at all times started with the words: “You know, I thought it might be wise to…”
And the famous radio communication… In mid 90’s – shortly after the war in BiH – IOCC’s Banja Luka office hardly had electricity on a regular basis. Landlines were not functioning properly; a global system for mobile communication (GSM) did not exist; so the only reliable communication system was radio communication (wireless two-way-radio). However, the usage of radio communication was also to be taken with a pinch of salt. There were only two frequencies available – one for a radius of 3 miles, and the other for a distance of up to 200 miles, but due to the mountainous landscape it was not accessible on 90% of BiH territory. UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) was managing the radio communication system and International Agencies and Organizations had to sign in to receive a code (user name). As an NGO, IOCC received the code “NI”, which is spelled “November India” in the Citizens Band (CB) and International Radio Operators Alphabet.

Those were the working conditions of a small International NGO in BiH whose five initial staffers were enthusiastic and persistent enough to become in the following years part of a team in BiH representing the biggest IOCC mission so far. Lately, many international organizations are closing their offices in BiH or are at least downsizing them. And so is IOCC… Since September 2007, IOCC in BiH has downsized its activities and staff from 18 full time employees to five. And as of February 29, Zoran Micic, Miodrag Miki Matavulj and I are not part of IOCC’s team anymore. We have completed our mission with IOCC. But still IOCC will not close its mission in BiH with Mara Korolija (Senior Accountant) and Dragan Isaretovic (Micro-Credit Project Manager) still holding the fort.

As for us (Zoran, Miki and me) – 12 great years with IOCC have passed. 12 years with an uncountable number of positive memories. But also 12 years full of challenges, obstacles and hurdles. However, all problems and headaches were paid back by being able to rest in the assurance that we did our utmost. As a team member I can state that no extra mile was long enough to take. The dedication and devotion of the IOCC BiH team is hardly to outperform. And we were right – it paid off: Now, when we are looking back at these 12 years, we remember all nice moments, all the relief and joy we brought to thousands of people. Of course we also remember the negative images, but they are overwhelmed by far by the positive memories.

The 12 years with IOCC has definitely shaped us. For all three of us 12 years of employment is the longest period of employment with one employer. The diversity of experience that we gained by implementing projects is astounding: we were engaged as drivers, translators, logisticians, warehouse keepers, administrative officers, lecturers, accountants, and managers. We have traveled the whole region. We visited places that we never heard of before. We met people we never imagined existing. We experienced many things we did not expect. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that we will always remember these 12 years only from the positive perspective.

In 10 or 20 years from now, there will always be people that we will remember with a great sympathy. Many of them are part of IOCC’s team.

We wish you much luck in your future endeavors; health to you and your loved ones; and much joy and happiness in your lives.

This is November India: Zoran, Miki and Dusko are signing out. Over and Out!

IOCC Restarts Operations in Iraq
IOCC has restarted its operations in Iraq, which were suspended for 10 months due to the security situation. IOCC delivered emergency food parcels and hygiene kits to nearly three thousand families in Baghdad. Funding for the project was made possible through Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. Each food and hygiene parcel is designed to supplement the basic nutrition and hygiene needs of approximately three people during a one-month period and includes items such as soap, laundry powder, spaghetti, cheese and beans. IOCC purchased all the supplies from local markets in order to support the local economy. These latest supplies allow Iraqi families to have more disposable income to spend on other necessities such as electricity from local generators.

IOCC on the U.S. Gulf Coast

IOCC staff member Chrysanthe Loizos had the opportunity in March to volunteer with her family on a team to build new homes for individuals who lost their properties during the 2005 U.S. hurricane season. IOCC’s “Volunteer in the Gulf” program has sent over 300 volunteers to the Gulf Coast to build new homes through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

Hear her account on this podcast from Louisiana.

left, Dean Tiggas, a teenager from Minneapolis, volunteered on a work crew last year to build homes in the Gulf Coast. Teams will be going this summer through mid-July.

Click here if you would like to learn more about volunteering on the Gulf Coast.

Medical and Hygiene Supplies Reach Indonesia and Lebanon
IOCC’s Gifts-in-Kind (GIK) program facilitated two shipments in March for Lebanon and Indonesia. A shipment of drugs used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure was received by YMCA Lebanon. The drugs will be distributed to government hospitals and clinics which serve patients free of charge who cannot afford medication or treatment. In Indonesia, Church World Service (CWS) provided IOCC with 3,750 baby kits and 10,000 hygiene kits worth a total of $270,000. Medical Teams International (MTI) received the shipment and distributed the supplies on Nias Island where IOCC has supported several programs since the 2004 tsunami.

IOCC’s Dr. Sisay Publishes AIDS Research

IOCC Ethiopia Program Manager, Dr. Sisay Alemayehu Abayneh, recently published an article on HIV-1 pathogenesis in the publication, AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses. The full text of the article appears at http://www.liebertonline.com.

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