In late May, MLI's Program Director Indre Sabaliunaite and MLI's Educational Programs Director Anne Wooleyhand visited Sarajevo, the beautiful capital of Bosnia Herzegovina. The five-day trip was packed with a variety of events, meetings, and program visits, all arranged with the assistance of MLI’s longstanding partner, the Mine Detection Dog Center (MDDC) in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Indre and Anne met with MLI’s mine detection dog (MDD) partners in the country, to include the Federal Administration of Civil Protection (FACP), Pro Vita, MAG, and Office of Civil Protection – Republic of Srpska. Together, these organizations currently employ 11 MDDs donated by schoolchildren, organizations, and individuals from the United States. All of the hero canines are exceptionally well-cared for and contribute to saving lives and limbs in Bosnia Herzegovina. We are proud to partner with these demining organizations who are such excellent stewards of these lifesaving gifts.
A special ceremony was organized by the FACP to honor the retirement of Mine Detection Dog Rico Cosby, sponsored by CHAMPS Connecticut student Henry Harris in 2015. MDD Rico was retired after 6 years of service and was honored with his handler Kenan Gluhovic for their contribution to the clearance of more than 600,000 square meters of land in Bosnia Herzegovina! The ceremony was even more special because it marked the beginning of Rico’s new career as MLI’s K9 Ambassador. Indre and Anne brought Rico back to the U.S. with them where he has been adjusting to his new life with Anne. In the fall, Anne is looking forward to visiting CHAMPS schools with Rico where he will help Anne teach kids and teachers about landmines by demonstrating how he searches for them. MLI provided a new dog to the FACP, MDD Niles (sponsored by the Laura J. Niles Foundation), who will continue MDD Rico and Kenan’s work to locate landmines.
Later in the week, a virtual CHAMPS call was held with students in the U.S. and BiH. Students in grades 4-8 meet once a month to learn about the impact of landmines as well as each other’s cultures. The call was the final one of the school year, so students were able to share what they were doing over the summer and what they enjoyed most about their participation in CHAMPS.
Indre and Anne also met with landmine survivor Goran at the Ottobock prosthetic clinic. In 1993, 14-year-old Goran was wounded by a landmine, causing him to lose his leg after many surgeries. During their visit, Goran shared his incredible story and his gratitude for his prosthetics. Through the CHAMPS program in 2022, students were able to raise needed funds to provide Goran with a vacuum pump that allows him to play tennis and ski while wearing his prostheses. Goran’s message, “Peers are the ones who give you the wind in your back and make you rise from the ashes and start your life one more time,” exemplifies his awesome spirit and courage.
MLI thanks the U.S. Department of State for their financial support of the CHAMPS program. MLI also thanks the many numerous donors and friends who generously and selflessly contribute to our Mine Detection Dog Partnership Programs.