Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Quinn Van Valer-Campbell (Bosnian Family – BOSFAM): Quinn was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She first visited the Balkans in 2007 to work with Bosnian NGOs, and studied abroad in Bosnia while an undergraduate at Fordham University. Quinn was studying for a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in California when she began her AP fellowship. After her fellowship Quinn wrote: “I am more confident in what I know I am capable of. I proved to myself that what I have learned is applicable and relevant in life and not just in class. [The fellowship] has shown me the way in which the cultivation of people to people relationships …can change lives.”

Are They Really Victims?

06 Jul

In six days I will join my fellow BOSFAM women at the Potocari memorial to commemorate the genocide.  For the past week there has been a palpable shift in attitudes around here.  The news is also gearing up for the anniversary and I cannot help but notice how freely the word victim is tossed around.

Remembering July 11, 1995

The word victim connotes one who has not only suffered but has also been damaged and destroyed.  This so-called victim is usually helpless and weak.  A victim has been wronged, but a victim has also accepted the pain and suffering.  It is almost something comfortable and a feeling of safety by those who know nothing besides abuse and hardship.

What attracted me to BOSFAM, however, was the simple fact that these women are not victims.  They don’t sit around wallowing in their pain or in their past.  Tima and Zifa are anything but victims.  Their strength is more than many of us will ever know – the pure strength to not give up and to not live in the past, which is so easy to do.

To pigeonhole someone because of her past has proven detrimental for a country like Bosnia where so many have suffered so intensely.  The victim is someone to be coddled and protected.  This does not allow said person to stand and walk, let alone to grow.  BBC and Balkan Insight discuss the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre with the same pity that is reserved for the victims themselves.  But the survivors are just that.  They have survived and they have overcome their losses.  Their past is something hideous that is remembered and honored, but it is not something that defines them.

Honoring the past

Honoring the past

The country as a whole could stand to recognize this and learn from Tima and Zifa.  They have overcome the deaths of husbands, brothers, and sons.  Their houses were destroyed, and they were forced to move away from the only town they ever called home.  They started from nothing and rebuilt their lives one day at a time.  If they have been able to do all this, and to do all this without hate, why are they still victims?  They have not succumbed to anything nor have they let the past define them.

Posted By Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Posted Jul 6th, 2011


  • Rebecca

    July 6, 2011


    Great post, Quinn. It’s amazing how such a small word makes such a big difference in how somebody is viewed. Is it pity or empowering? Degrading or inspiring? I’m finding the same thing here in Gulu, where people with disabilities are either SUFFERING FROM DISABILITIES or LIVING WITH A DISABILITY. You decide…I look forward to hearing more about how BOSFAM commemorates the SURVIVORS!!!

  • Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

    July 19, 2011


    Rebecca! Thank you so much for reading my blog. It’s interesting to know how the same issue reaches across countries so vastly different. I will be following up with what you’re doing as well to see how you and your colleagues are overcoming the stigma of being a victim.

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