Opening the Floodgates: A funder approach to disaster relief

From 15th to 17th of May in Sarajevo, Mozaik Foundation hosted European Foundation Centre's Annual General Assembly (AGA)  and Conference. Over 500 participants talked about solidarity, civil society and political governance. In the same time, 70 kilometers from the conference venue, River Bosna, Drina, Sana, Sava, Vrbas, and others burst their banks and made terrible damage to human lives, homes, livestock, and even to entire villages. Floods left behind mud with unimaginable quantities of waste and dust, but also terrified and hungry people. Around 2,100 landslides were activated throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, and some of them washed away homes and infrastructure. Official data estimates that 1,363,000 citizens have been affected – a fourth of the population. Over 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged and 230 schools and hospitals devastated, while landslides continued threatening homes and infrastructure. The total damage has been estimated at 2 billion Euros.

We at Mozaik Foundation knew it was time to react. Even though grantseeking is normally not allowed at AGA and Conference, we set up a Solidarity Fund and asked foundations in attendance to donate for the relief of the flooded areas. It was an immediate chance for the foundations to show the solidarity we talked about during the conference and to leverage our collective power to help out in a devastating disaster situation.

Meanwhile, we were aware that our existing community programs and actions in rural areas would be affected as well. The Mozaik team decided to approach its partners with a request to adapt our programs to the current situation. Although disaster relief and community rebuilding are not stated focus areas of the Foundation, we recognized our ability to help in an emergency situation because our deep roots in the affected communities. However, it was hard to decide how to help, how to organize ourselves, and what we could do best.

Mozaik Foundation has a long history in doing community action led by youth volunteers, supporting hundreds of youth projects all around the country. So we decided to do what we know best. We focused on three areas:  (1) provision of drinking water in flooded areas; (2) youth work activities led by hundreds of young people, who will address the specific infrastructural problems in communities that are damaged due to floods and landslides; and (3) provision of free seedlings, professional support, and secured market link for vulnerable families who see a way out of the crisis through agriculture.    

So far, we have succeeded to collect 190,000 EUR thanks to EFC members and individuals from all around the world. By nature of a foundation’s structure, we – the global community of funders – recognize that sometimes the best way to help is not to roll up our sleeves but instead to focus on collective impact of our funds by supporting actual work happening on the ground. Through this experience – Mozaik’s first in an emergency context – we have learned what a vital role our relationships within these affected communities play in providing help. While we have always recognized the value of financial support, our role in coordinating funding efforts and making sure that contributions are effectively distributed has highlighted to us why funders also need to be engaged in the communities they serve.

Please visit www.mozaik.ba to track flood-related donations and distributions.