Friday, September 28, 2007


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (September 28,2007) - For the past two years, Delaware 4-Hers have opened their homes to Bosnian teens, as part of the Bosnia Youth Leadership Program. Now, the Bosnians are playing the role of host to four Delaware 4-H members departed for Bosnia on Sept. 23 for a two-week visit.

The 4-H youth organization, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System, was founded in 1902 by A. B. Graham in Clark County, Ohio, and now serves over 9 million members in the U.S. in almost 100,000 clubs from kindergarten through high school and various other programming.

It is a club for young people in third through twelfth grades sponsored by the Extension Service to foster agricultural, homemaking and other skills. The four H’s stand for “head, heart, hands, and health.”

Guided by state 4-H Extension educators Mark Manno and Katy Daly, as well as Kathy DiSabatino, a teacher and 4-H volunteer, the teens are crisscrossing the country, visiting Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Tuzla and Livno. In most locations, the'll be staying with host families.

The Delaware 4-Hers will meet with Bosnian civic leaders and elected officials; make presentations at Bosnian schools and community centers; and attend a youth conference. Plus, they hope to squeeze in visits to museums and tourist attractions, including the Olympic facilities at the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

The U.S. State Department initiated the Bosnia Youth Leadership Program in 1999 to train the future leaders of Bosnia as it continues to recover from the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions.

Each year since, selected Bosnian teens have traveled to the U.S. for a month-long stay. In 2006, Delaware 4-H became responsible for organizing and executing the program. The current trip marks the first time that the U.S. State Department has permitted U.S. teens to travel to Bosnia.

“I'm excited that Delaware 4-Hers have been given the opportunity to participate in this groundbreaking cultural exchange,” said Manno, who is making his fourth visit to Bosnia.

“They will witness firsthand the many ways that Bosnia is moving forward as a nation, as well as the social and economic challenges that the next generation must tackle.

“Few Americans travel to the destinations on our itinerary,” Manno added. “These kids are well aware that they will be serving not only as ambassadors of 4-H, but of our nation.”

A key component of the trip is to re-connect with the Bosnian teens who traveled to Delaware in 2006 or earlier this spring. Upon their return home, each teen was responsible for creating a community service project. “The Bosnian youth were trained using a 4-H model called TRY (Teens Reaching Youth),” Manno said.

“All of our Delaware travelers have project leadership experience and will be able to assist the Bosnian teens as they work to make their projects self-sustaining.The 4-H members will be just as much of a resource as I will be,” Manno said.

The entire travel delegation has studied up for the journey. Assigned readings, projects and meetings have kept the group busy since August,

“The books we read in preparation for this trip were a great help to me,” said chaperone Kathy DiSabatino of Dagsboro, Del. “One book, in particular, was not an easy read; it covered the history of Bosnia from the 1st century until 1992. I don't feel like I'm an expert by any means, but I certainly know much more now than I did before.”

Delaware 4-Hers (from left) Margot Miller of Wilmington, Jordan Reardon of Newark, Stephanie Bailey of Smyrna and Johnny Vann of Newark are on a two-week tour of Bosnia

A Sept. 14 trip to Washington, D.C., also contributed to the delegation's knowledge of Bosnia. The group left Newark, Del.,to begin a whirlwind schedule of visits with high-level U.S. and Bosnian leaders, including Chuck English, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Bosnia,and Darko Zelenika, the deputy chief of mission of the Embassy of Bosnia to the United States.

“Both embassies made it clear that we are ambassadors at the grass roots level that the Delaware 4-Hers and the experiences they share with the Bosnian youth will help to provide their country with hope for the future,” DiSabatino said.

“It really put me in a state of awe to think that this program could make a difference in the future of some of the towns of Bosnia, and maybe even the country, as we help to form its future leaders,” he said.

“It wasn't until this day in Washington that it hit me I was really going to Bosnia as one of the first teenage ambassadors from the U.S.,” said Stephanie Bailey, a 16-year-old 4-Her from Smyrna, Del.

Bailey said she applied to the program to broaden her view of other peoples and cultures. In her suitcase are fitting gifts for her host families - books about Delaware and photos of state landmarks. In her carry-on is something she considers as vital as air and water - an iPod loaded with tunes.

“I think I'd go crazy on an eight-hour flight without it,” Bailey said, with a laugh.

In that respect, Bailey won't find things very different in Bosnia. “Bosnian teens are just as crazy about music as teens here,” Manno said.

When the delegation returns in early October, they'll travel to 4-H club meetings and community events throughout the state, sharing what they've learned with other Delawareans.

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