#PERIOD AFTER Wam Kat - ??? Belzig, Germany

Balkan Sunflowers

Initiative: Volunteers for Albania

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Balkan Sunflowers is a grass roots organization which spans the globe. Based in Germany. Our purpose is to organize people from around the world who wish to help relieve the refugee crisis which has exploded throughout the Balkans. All of our volunteers pay for their own expenses and transportation to the field. Our goal is the return some sense of community to these displaced populations which now number in the hundreds of thousands. The experience of becoming a refugee from one's home is a traumatic one, and we are helpless to prevent what has already happened. The experience of being a refugee, living in one of hundreds of camps does not have to be. That is where we can help.

What is Social Aid

Social aid is the act of providing community structure to those who have no community. It is community Building. It is the process of restoring some measure of normalcy to those who's lives have been destroyed.


Balkan Sunflowers organizes volunteer efforts throughout the world, providing the opportunity for non-medical and non-technical people, as well as those with medical and technical backgrounds to participate 'hands-on' in the humanitarian relief effort. This effort is essential to the survival of the refugees of the conflict in the Balkans, particularly for the thousands of displaced women and children. Our goal is to set up community centers within the refugee camps to aid in the establishment of a sense of community and normalcy by providing a place for social and organizational gathering, schooling, classes (such as arts and crafts, English, music, community theater, pottery, painting, etc.), organized sports and many other activities. In the beginning there will also be a need for basic facilities such a toilets and shelter. Volunteers with construction experience will organize refugees and materials toward the fabrication of such facilities.


Balkan Sunflowers relies on it's volunteers, who do all of their own fund raising, to achieve it's goals. Volunteers, must pay for their transportation to the field and living expenses. Each is challenged to design their own classes based on each volunteer's individual talents and provide their own materials. World-wide 'core' fundraising is conducted at our Headquarters in Germany. Those funds are used to build up our infrastructure, pay salaries and secure necessities such as housing for volunteers. We also work hard to cooperate with other humanitarian agencies, both governmental and private which serve the same populations. By combining efforts and sharing resources, all groups are able to be more effective.


The project has a long term focus. All, if not the majority of the facilities and centers founded will remain staffed until such time as the camp itself is disbanded and it's residents returned home. From experience we have seen that mass exoduses such as the one now underway in the Balkans leave behind camps that remain in place for years. Many refugees' villages have been completely destroyed and therefore, they have nothing to which to return. Many fear for their lives if they were to return home. For some, their homes and villages have been occupied by other people. Four years after the Dayton Accords ended the conflict between Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, hundreds of thousands of people remain in refugee camps. After WWII, it was not until 1959 before the refugee problem was considered solved.


In May 1999 our first group of 'pathfinders' is scheduled to arrive in the field. Their task is to assess the situation, establish a local office, network with other relief organizations in the field looking for opportunities to work together, and set up facilities in one or more camps, thus paving the way for larger groups of volunteers to come over and serve the population in a more structured environment.

June 1st should see our first group of volunteers arrive to staff and expand the facilities arranged by the pathfinders. This will permit our pathfinders to scout out new opportunities in new locations while managing incoming and outgoing groups of volunteers, communicating with our headquarters in Germany and performing all of the administrative tasks associated with the facilities and volunteers.

The History of Our Group and it's Founder, Wam Kat Balkan Sunflowers was founded by Wam Kat, a Dutch peace activist, professor of sociology and father of three children. Wam traveled to Croatia in 1992 ,during the Balkans War, to work with an organization called Anti-War Campaign Croatia (ARK in Croatian). While there, Wam began a project called ZaMir (for peace) to facilitate communication between relief organizations, as well as between the warring parties. The system began with a fax relay network used to disseminate information. Wam and his co-volunteers subsequently grew the network into a working e-mail and BBS system with nodes in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Next, Wam helped organize Volunteer Project Pakrac. The project, composed of international volunteers and locals, worked to rebuild a town that was divided by the cease-fire line and facilitate the peace process by returning some normalcy to the lives of those who called the town home. During this time, Wam kept a diary about his work and experiences in the war-torn area which he uploaded to the Internet on a daily basis. The diary quickly caught the worlds attention and was reprinted in papers such as USA today. It was eventually published in it's entirety in book form with all proceeds benefiting Wam's peace projects.

The ZaMir Transnational Net and Project Pakrac were such a success that it caught the attention of Vice President Al Gore who stated in a 1997 speech before the International Telecommunications Union Development Conference:

'..it (the Internet) has brought us images of war and peace, of tragedy and joy, in which we all can share. There's a Dutch relief worker, Wam Kat, who has been broadcasting an electronic diary from Zagreb for more than a year and a half on the Internet, sharing his observations of life in Croatia. After reading Kat's Croatian diary (the Zagreb Diary), people around the world began to send money for relief efforts. The result: 25 houses have been built in a town destroyed by war. Governments didn't do this. People did. But such events are the hope of the future.' Al Gore, Vice President of the United States

In his next venture, Wam and another ARK member began their first project recruiting international volunteers to work in refugee settlements. Within a year, the organization had grown to encompass 37 locations in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 4,000 international volunteers and a paid staff of 60 supported in large part by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees). It had become so large in fact that it separated itself from ARK and established itself as an independent NGO (non-government organization) known as SuncoKret (sunflower in Croatian).

The name SuncoKret/Sunflower was chosen as a name in memory of a lesser known project of Wam's. When spring came to Zagreb in 1994 Wam took it upon himself to run around injecting sunflower seeds into the sandbags that formed bunkers all around the city. By summer, sandbags and bunkers throughout Zagreb sprouted with the giant yellow flowers in one of the most poetic anti-war statements in the long history of war in the Balkans.

After the signing of the Dayton Accords brought and end to the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wam decided to take a break and moved to Germany. SuncoKret was left in the capable hands of the Croatian people and evolved into an organization composed of many social workers and psychologists that deal with trauma and other effects of war on children and adults.

Let the Sunflowers Blossom Again!

Less than four years after Wam left the Balkans, fighting has again broken out. This time in the area known as Kosovo to Serbians and Kosova to Albanians. We prefer to use the term Kosov@ or Kosovo/a to acknowledge the disagreement over the region's proper name. This new fighting and the unprecedented flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Albania, Macedonia, and several other nations has caused a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.

In response to this new Crisis, Wam made the decision to wake the sleeping giant that was SunooKret. The new organization known as the Balkan Sunflowers will focus it's efforts, in much the same way it has done historically, on the new Balkan refugee situation.

How do I Contribute

Each volunteer is responsible for raising their own funds. To contribute to they're efforts, just make out a check to the volunteer requesting the funds. 100% of your donation goes toward financing the volunteers' travel and living expenses while they serve the refugees. If you wish to donate to the core account in Germany, make your check payable to Balkans Sunflowers and mail to:

Postfach 1219
D-14806 Belzig, Germany

Account information:
Account #: 160 160 1
Account Name: Sunflower
Bank: Oekobank Frankfurt (Germany)
Blz 500 901 00

Contact Information

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