'We give them hope, despite not speaking the language' – Hitchin woman who grew up amid Bosnian War volunteers with Refugee Aid in Serbia

PUBLISHED: 14:39 11 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:39 11 January 2016

Migrants at the Miksaliste transit centre in Belgrade.

Migrants at the Miksaliste transit centre in Belgrade.

Archant

A Hitchin woman who spent her childhood in a Balkans warzone spent the first week of the new year volunteering with refugees in Serbia.

Selma Wanes at the Miksaliste transit centre in Belgrade.Selma Wanes at the Miksaliste transit centre in Belgrade.

Selma Wanes grew up in Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s and came to Britain as an au pair in 2001, moving to Hitchin in 2014.

As the Comet reported last month, she has been spearheading ‘community2communuity’, an effort by people in North Herts to help migrants from Syria and other countries in Serbia.

Selma personally took 64 kilos of clothes to the Serbian capital Belgrade in September, and last month community2community saw 500kg of supplies off from Letchworth.

Selma flew out again on December 30 to lend her strength to Refugee Aid Serbia, based at the Miksaliste transit centre in Belgrade. She returned to the UK on Thursday.

Selma Wanes (centre) and fellow volunteers from Croatia, Israel and other countries carry supplies.Selma Wanes (centre) and fellow volunteers from Croatia, Israel and other countries carry supplies.

“It is extremely cold and chilly, and transport is running slower due to danger with icy roads,” the 34-year-old said from Serbia.

“These brave refugees who arrived by bus from Presevo at the border, also walked a long journey before they arrived in Belgrade.

“One young Afghan man arrived in flip flops! He was so grateful when boots were handed to him.

“Four children suffering from hypothermia had basic treatment at Miksaliste followed by a visit to hospital for specialist help.

“With these harsh weather conditions, we all can just hope that by helping provide winter clothes and warm soup, we help refugees to survive yet another day. We give them hope, despite not speaking the language.

“The team of volunteers I’ve got to meet and work with are truly amazing people. They keep positive, smile and despite everything that is so sad, they make every refugee as comfortable as they can while they stay with us at Miksaliste.”

During this trip Selma was featured on Al Jazeera’s Balkans news channel after she helped to deliver a donation of children’s winter clothes from Sarajevo. She also used donated money to buy hats, gloves and scarves for 200 children from a warehouse.

For more on community2community, see facebook.com/refugeesbelgrade.

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