Oglethorpe University sophomore Jasenka Besic appreciates the beauty in diversity, especially after growing up in Bosnia during the brutal war there. Her family – half Muslim, half Christian – fled to the United States in 1994. Besic found support back then at Refugee Family Services, an outreach center for refugee women and children; she gives back now as a camp counselor at the center. Besic recounts the last day of summer camp at Refugee Family Services on July 25, 2006.
These children have witnessed so many atrocities in their lives that I don't believe any child in the world deserves [to see]. I was one of those children. I came to the U.S. without any knowledge of English. It was an extremely difficult time learning how to adjust to a new culture, language and society considering that I was only 11. Luckily, Refugee Family Services offered the support I needed when I was young.
As I get the water balloons ready, the children run to me and say, "Miss Jasenka, you can't get me!" I reply, "You just watch, guys. Just because I'm nice doesn't mean I'm going to go easy on you guys!" Seeing their smiling faces makes my day so much brighter. Getting out and volunteering is so incredibly important to me because it keeps me both humble and strong.
After lunch, we celebrate the Fourth of July after the actual holiday by learning about American history. I'm impressed with the children's historical knowledge. We make U.S. flags as an art and the children love it. Then we take a picture with everyone waiving their flags in the air!
At the end of the day, we go outside to play duck, duck, goose. The children are begging, "Miss Jasenka, I want to be it first!" So I tell them that I'm going to be it, and pick quiet student who was patiently waiting.
Camp ends, and the hardest part about leaving is the fact that I may never see these amazing kids again. What allows me to keep my head up and smile is the fact that I may have positively influenced at least one child who came into contact with me.
That night after dinner, I begin to think about all of the children from camp. I worked with many children who came from genocidal backgrounds from countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bosnia, Sudan and many more. I truly felt that it was my calling to speak up about this problem. I'd be able to do this at the Dream for Darfur Olympic Torch Relay in Atlanta and Washington D.C. in a few months where I'd speak among other passionate individuals such as Mia Farrow, Nicky Stone, Joey Cheek, Bill Schultz and Melissa Fitzgerald.
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