Peggy Barry, the best friend ever, about BHcrafts

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Peggy Barry
President, Bosnian Handicrafts Inc.
I was delighted when my husband, Bob, was offered a position as the head of OSCE (Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe) Mission in Bosnia.  It was the fall of 1997, and we had recently retired after thirty-three years in the US Foreign Service, more than ten of them in Eastern Europe.  Our first posting had been in Zagreb, and we had loved the country, the city, and the people – and had our first child there, making it forever memorable.  My one question concerned what I would do with myself.  Within an embassy community, I had various roles to play and knew how I could make a contribution.  Within an international community, I had less of a designated part to play.  I need not have worried!

BHcrafts products
Once we had decided definitely to go to Sarajevo, I talked with a number of friends who had served there.  One friend whose common sense and taste I trusted, told me to look up a little shop right on Pigeon Square in Bascarsija, with the unwieldy name of “Norwegian Peoples Aid—Handicraft Project”, or NPA-HCP.  She said it was “the best game in town.”  I found the shop right away, and it didn’t take long to see what she meant: not only were the products meticulously done by hand, but there was a charming sense of style, and clearly an effort to combine the traditional patterns of the Balkans with modern apparel.

Peggy (first left), Lejla (second left)
I had been told to ask for Lejla Radoncic, the Director of the project.  She was then living in Tuzla, but I was told when she would be in Sarajevo, and made a date to meet her.  This occurred a few days later.  It’s hard to describe how I felt when we met, except to say that I had the happy feeling we would be working together for a long time.  I was planning a trip back to the States, and asked if I could take a few things to show people.  She spread her arms and told me to take anything and everything I wanted.  So I did, and started by showing her products to friends of mine in Washington – and that was over fifteen years ago.

BHcrafts is licensed fair trade producer (WFTO)
Within a year, I was engaged in starting a non-profit US corporation (501©3) to help support our efforts in Bosnia.  With a small group of friends, most of whom had lived in Bosnia, and the pro bono efforts of a wonderful lawyer, Bosnian Handicrafts, Inc. began operating at the beginning of the year 2000.  Our purpose is to assist the non-profit in Bosnia, which owns the commercial branch of the business in its entirety, in terms of management and finances.
BHcrafts fashion show
I truly believe that what BHcrafts accomplishes, under the auspices of Bosnian Handicrafts, the Bosnian non-profit, is the most important thing that can be done in a post-war community: it is providing a livelihood for a group of women who lost their men, their homes, and their land in an awful war.  Every time one tells me that they can now send their children to high school in the near-by town because they have money to do so, I am re-energized.  I am very proud to work with these women.

Peggy Barry
President, Bosnian Handicrafts, Inc.




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