From institution to inspiration. In a mountain valley, just outside Tuzla in Bosnia, ten people with varying disabilities live and work together on a farm. Loza Foundation has now stepped in to help USU Garden so that more people can be transferred from large institutions to the lush, self-sufficient little farmstead in the rural countryside.
Right now, ten people are regarding USU Garden in Trakilovici as their home, which is located approx. fifteen minutes outside Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The farmstead was founded by Fata Ibralic, chairwoman at Sumero, an organisation that aims to move institutionalized individuals out of clinical establishments and pave the way for them to be included in the society. She runs the residential farm with her son Mirsad, who also works at the farm as a teacher and support nurse.
“I contacted Fata earlier in the spring after having read about her research into mentally disabled and their vulnerable situation in Bosnia. With their concept at USU Garden, Fata and Mirsad have developed a successful model for how people can live in freedom, in harmony, in a healing environment and have the same human rights as everyone else”, says Sabina Grubbeson, founder of Loza Foundation.
At USU Garden, people with disabilities are taught how to be more independent and how to function in today’s society. The house consists of small self-contained rooms or flats, fitted with kitchen and bathroom, where people live together two and two. The residential home is self-sufficient and they grow vegetables at the farm, which are later sold at the market in the village centre.
“When we visited for the first time in the spring, I was impressed by the sustainable organisation. How everything was meticulously planned out, interdependent and had been built to work long-term. To see people with disabilities, who have been rejected by society, find a sanctuary with love, freedom and work is simply amazing”, says Sabina Grubbeson.
In August 2018, she travelled back to the verdant, flourishing farmstead in Trakilovici and stayed there for a week to get to know the residents better; their history, work and everyday life.
“We can learn so much from these individuals and their stripped-back honesty. Individuals, who that have been betrayed and let down by parents and family, people surrounding them and society in general. Their grief and yearning to belong, but also gratitude and joy in what they have and their dreams for the future. They have hope and faith; hope to learn new things, to contribute and be a part of something larger, and a dream of being someone that counts”, says Sabina.
Now these individuals, who have lived most of their life in various institutions, can support themselves in a balanced, calm environment where they also have the opportunity to both learn and heal. Everything in symbiosis.
“I find it incredibly inspiring that Fata and Mirsad, against all the odds and in one of the poorest countries in Europe, have found a way to create this self-sufficient residential home and a brighter future for disabled people. They have proven that nothing is impossible, which in turn makes it possible for other countries to follow.
Loza Foundation is stepping in to give USU Garden room for more. By renovating the first floor and completing the heating system, they will be able to accept six new residents and two more employees. Loza Foundation is also buying a minibus to make transportation to and from the market easier, whenever the residents have to sell their vegetables, visit the doctor or make excursions. Sabina hopes that the work with USU Garden will inspire to further development of residential homes in Bosnia.
“I just hope our joint work will help fight the stigma and fears rife in countries where disabled people are not included in the society. To show them that we can exist in society together and how every single individual should have the basic human right to a home, a safe & secure environment and love. A dignified life, a life worth living.”