“Maris is a girl who rarely smiles, but at summer camp, I caught sight of many smiles on her face, smiles that came straight from her heart...”

Maris is seven years old, a small girl with a serious expression, quiet and withdrawn. She lives in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Home has not always felt safe to Maris. Her mother, Iva, went through a very difficult time with her husband who is an addict, and her older son who is 20 and prone to violence. Iva is now separated from her husband, but she and Maris have been deeply affected by their experiences.

Iva said, “I’d been with my husband for many years, and I could never find a way out of that relationship. But when I had Maris, I had new hope and strength. I became a different woman when I gave birth to her because at that moment, I knew that I didn't want her to go through the same things as me. I wanted to become a stronger version of myself – for her.”

When home life is turbulent, it can lead to children growing up too early. They do their best to be well-behaved and to avoid being an extra burden in an already volatile situation.

It’s easy for children like Maris to forget they are just a child, one who should have their own childlike worries, rather than taking on adult concerns; a child who should be carefree and playful, free to grow and learn.

This summer, Maris had the opportunity to do just that. She was invited along to Mission Without Borders’s summer camp, where the atmosphere was very different from home. Here, there was fun and food in abundance, Christian leaders creating a happy, peaceful environment, and lots of other children ready to be friends. It was also Maris’s first time going to the seaside.

Matea, who works for Mission Without Borders, was Maris’s group leader at summer camp. She said, “At summer camp, we’re always careful when we have kids who are there for the first time. Before the camp, we get to know their background, their skills, their situation at home. This is because we want to make sure that every child is really well taken care of and that every child gets exactly what they need.

“Although we’re always well prepared, each camp brings a surprise. Maris was our surprise this year. Her maturity surprised us. Seeing her at the camp – how brave and mature she is – but knowing that it all comes from her challenges at home, was very sobering.”

Maris with her new friends Ema and Naida at summer campMaris (in the middle) with her new friends Ema and Naida at summer camp


Summer camp gave Maris something to smile aboutSummer camp gave Maris something to smile about

At camp, Maris and the other children enjoyed lots of fun activities, sports and crafts; took part in Bible lessons and discussion groups; and enjoyed playing and swimming at the seaside.

Mate said, “Summer camp brought many new things to Maris: most importantly, new friendships, where she was part of a group of children where she was very much accepted.

“Maris is a girl who rarely smiles, but at summer camp, I caught sight of many smiles on her face, smiles that came straight from her heart.”

When asked what her favourite thing about summer camp was, Maris said, "The bedrooms - because they are nice and clean – and our time at the beach, new friends and food!"


In the end, a few months after summer camp, Maris was placed in foster care and her family was withdrawn from MWB’s family sponsorship programme as there were no longer any children at home.

Drazan, the coordinator who supported the family, said, “Social services decided that it would be better for Maris to be placed in a foster family.

“Although the family is no longer in the program, we are in contact with Maris and her foster family and she’s already been invited to all the gatherings for the children from the program, especially with her friends from summer camp.”

Matea said, “I'm glad that at summer camp, we were able to be there for Maris at a difficult time in our life. Here she had the chance to forget her troubles for a little while, hear about Jesus and all he's done for her, and have fun and interesting experiences.

Summer camp is a really powerful way to communicate to children how valuable and how loved they are. We hope that Maris always remembers - and takes with her - the joy and peace she found here."

Summer Camps are core to the programming MWB offers children in need every summer. Often it is the only time kids can get away from the stress of life and have a safe place to play and just be a kid with their friends.  Give a gift today to help more kids experience summer camp this year.

Maris with her mother, Iva, in their home in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Maris with her mother, Iva, in their home in Bosnia and Herzegovina