That’s how it all started. The main page about our work in Kosova carries the essence of the story of our early days, but since you’re looking through the archive, you might be interested to hear of our beginnings as an organisation. We hope it may also help inspire you to do the same in your local area!
Our base, Brighton, is a town that is home to a wide range of community projects. Two friends with experience of many of these were talking about the horrific scenes going on in Kosova early in 1999, and felt strongly something could and must be done — this war was happening so close to us, in Europe! With the excellent human resources around, it seemed sure that something could be built up.
The first obvious port of call was to contact big existing aid agencies. Their response was to encourage us to raise money for them, but we knew that it was something more that our neighbourhood had to offer; more involvement and perhaps a chance to send real human and emotional support as well as material.
Leaflets and posters announcing an open forum on the subject were distributed around the Kemptown neighbourhood, where a voluntary “community development” group had been meeting irregularly for some time, engaging in various projects and bids for National Lottery funding. Pleasingly, 60 people were moved to come to that first meeting. Between us all was relatively little relevant experience, but ways were found to improve on this, such as visits to Kosovan refugees who were being detained in the UK pending their asylum applications. We asked them if our most useful course of action might be to support them but they unanimously asked us to go to the place they had fled, and help their families if we could.
There followed much debate and research about intricate details of the logistics and legalities of moving cargo across Europe! But essentially we collected things we felt would be useful to displaced families, such as warm winter clothing and sleeping bags; loaded them into borrowed vans; and set off. The owners of those first vehicles included local and national businesses, individual tradespeople, and even a couple who lived in their truck, but swapped their furniture for aid for a month!
Our first convoys delivered in March and May 1999. (For details of those first deliveries, please follow those links to the months, which are the respective entries in the archive.)