Building a positive future despite a childhood of hardships

DVD Review by Kathleen Lane

Since I believe that we should be making greater efforts to exploit the possibilities of new technology at conferences and seminars, instead of the interminable use of power point I was delighted to be asked to review the DVD of the FICE Congress held in Sarajevo in September 2006.

FICE is an international organisation with member countries from all over continental Europe, the UK, North America, South Africa and beyond. There is a Congress and General Assembly held every two years. Countries vie with each other for the honour of hosting a Congress and dates are planned and agreed several years in advance.

For several years Peace Camps have been held to bring together young people and the staff working with them from the war torn countries of the former Yugoslavia and countries of South East Europe. Building on the success of these initiatives it became logical for the newly joined FICE National Section of Bosnia to bid to hold the Congress in 2006. It was a bit of an act of faith, both on the part of the FICE Federal Council and the fledgling Bosnian group to agree to this.

Knowing of some of the background struggles and problems which were overcome I found the DVD of a pastiche of the event deeply moving. When I had been told that the main sessions were held in a swimming pool, I had a mental picture of delegates from 32 countries, floating around in a variety of swimwear. However at the outset we were shown workmen shovelling up broken glass and cleaning down tiled walls, because the pool was part of the sports facilities of the University of Sarajevo, which had been severely damaged by bombing in the recent Balkan conflict.

There was a swift change of scene from the hopelessness and devastation of the opening shots to the formal opening of the Congress, which was filled with light and movement and promise as the ‘shallow end’ became filled with young people drumming, with great abandon. The flags of the member nations provided a colourful backdrop, but did not cover entirely the damaged walls in some places. But the exuberance of the children was followed by yet more colour and light as groups performed traditional dances in national costume.

The three official languages of FICE are French, German and English and there are subtitles to help insular Brits, when some of the presentations were not in English. But most telling was a comment from the Young People’s Conference which ran in parallel, when it was said that if there is trouble understanding each other’s language then everybody can understand a smile!

It was particularly significant that the young people from a variety of cultures, (but with the common experiences of childhood hardship) produced their own FICE Declaration, setting out how they think things should be for all children.

The camera picked up a lot of the atmosphere of the formal presentations, the experiential group work with the young people and the general networking, which is such an important part of such events, without any feeling of being over-intrusive.

The drummers returned to help close the event and started off a moving line that snaked around the concrete tiers, where the spectators’ seats had once been.

This is not a slick commercial BBC style documentary, but it captures the flavour of FICE very well. It made me wish that I had been there. It also made me think seriously about going to Helsinki in 2008.

If you wish to obtain a copy of the DVD, please email the Editor on [email protected] .

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