Healing Hands Network, Sarajevo, June-July 2012 and 2013

In 2012 an 2013 I spent two weeks working as a volunteer massage therapist with the charity "Healing Hands Network". The work was very rewarding and humbling work and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity. In spite of what they have been through, the Bosnian people are warm and friendly and very appreciative of the work we are doing. I came across the charity at the MTI conference in Cambridge in April 2012 and had a strong emotional response to their work.

Me and Client in the clinic in Sarajevo

I worked with clients still suffering trauma from the Bosnian War (see Background below). Many had been in concentration camps, lost family members and were still suffering mental and physical trauma. Mass rape was very common and this is now recognised as a weapon of war. Clients were referred to us through the four organisations that we work with; the Civil Victims Association, the Concentration Camp Union, the Centre for Torture Victims and the Mothers of Srebrenica. Clients experience a range of therapies including massage, reflexology, reiki and healing. Massage is the most popular.

I gave 68 treatments over 2 weeks in 2012 and my massage skills improved enormously. Common conditions included spondylitis (spinal inflammation), diabetes, and heart problems in addition to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), sniper wounds and amputations. I found that my practice became more focused and creative. What is the most effective treatment I can give this person in 35 minutes? What does this body need? I found it very touching the level of trust which is given to us as therapists. I had many lovely connections over the two weeks, but these two following clients were particularly special (names have been changed to protect confidentiality).

I was very nervous in the clinic (Sarajevo) on my first day, and Mustafa was my first client. I noticed on his record card that he spoke French, which was great, since I also speak French (fluent if rather rusty!). He was a delightful man and explained that he had been hit by a sniper in the leg while going to rescue someone else who had been injured. He had not been able to walk for 4 months when it first happened. Operations were difficult and often in rather primitive conditions. He still had a lot of pain in his leg. His first treatment went well, but I was fairly cautious at this stage. However, he came back for a treatment the following week and was keen for me to do some deep work on his leg. This was a very strong treatment and helped to release some of the trauma held in the muscles. He lost his father in the war and his brother was still missing.

Fellow Therapist Sheila in Hadzici

On Outreach in Hadzici in 2012, I gave Ziba two treatments. She suffered from osteoporosis, thyroid problems, kidney stones, heart palpitations, headaches and had problems sleeping. She lost her husband and son in the war. She was clearly very low and suffering from depression. She responded very well to massage and was able to relax and enjoy the treatment.

I was very impressed with the organisation and professionalism of the Healing Hands Network. They have been working in Sarajevo since 1997, and have an efficient local team: Nadja - Manager, Enisa - Outreach Co-ordinator and Salih our driver. They are all very skilled at supporting us therapists and create a very reassuring presence.

They have their own clinic in Sarajevo, close to the house where we stay. There are four outreach centres in Hadzici, Novi Grad, Vogosca, and Ilias, which were all occupied towns during the war. We are based in the buildings of the Associations buildings that we work with. They are very basic! I find it incredibly inspiring that we can create a healing environment in these conditions, using our hands, a couple of couches and the wonderful support of Enisa, who works with us as interpreter, counsellor, organiser and makes us fine Bosnian coffee!

The Healing Hands Network are always looking for more therapists, and it would be great to see more massage practitioners involved. My experience was that it was very special and has enhanced my massage practice.

Sarajevo is still a beautiful city. We worked hard between 9 and 5, but enjoyed the city in the evenings and at the weekend. I was very lucky, my last night was spent at the opening night of the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Me & Enisa Vogosca

Each therapist needs to raise £750 to cover their expenses. I was very touched and heartened by people's generosity and response to this project and did raise the necessary funding within 6 weeks.

Ring Sandra Griffiths on 01185 410620 or see


The siege of Sarajevo is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Serb forces of the Republika Srpska and the Yugoslav People's Army besieged Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia Herzegovina, from 5th April 1992 to 29th February 1996 during the Bosnian War. "The calculated policy of terror by the Serbian nationalists and the irresponsible diplomacy of Bosnia and Herzegovina's European neighbours brought Sarajevo to its knees. Over 11,000 people were killed including 1,500 children while under so-called UN 'protection'. Sarajevans witnessed a neutral international military presence that watched the pre-meditated slaughter of its citizens". (1)

The 20th Anniversary of the start of the war 6th April 1992 was marked by The Sarajevo Red Line - 11,541 red chairs in 'Titova Street' Sarajevo, in memory of everyone killed in the siege. Mail Online News Article

(1) CLANCY,T (2010) Bosnia & Herzegovina. Bucks, Bradt Travel Guides Ltd