Tina shares her childhood experience to inspire others

By Aimee Walsh

Tina Ibisevic, UNICEF Ireland’s Head of Public Fundraising is using her own experiences as a refugee to help others.

Tina is originally from Bosnia, and now lives in Lucan with her two children and Fiancée. Tina’s family fled Bosnia in 1994 during The Bosnian War, in which over 100,000 people lost their lives.

Tina Ibisevic 04 1

Tina Ibisevic is UNICEF Ireland’s Head of Public Fundraising

“I was born in Bosnia and we came to Ireland in 1994 as refugees. In three days it will be 27 years since we moved to Ireland. Obviously, we came here in the early 90’s and Ireland was very different back then there wasn’t any people from other nationalities living in Ireland. I grew up here kind of half and half I guess”, Tina explained.

Tina went on to study Social Science at UCD and was inspired to use her own experiences as a young child that experienced conflict to help others in similar situations.

“I suppose my experience as a child- obviously, I had those very difficult early years and I have an older sister who is actually less than a year older than me, we are ‘Irish twins’. We shared our early childhood and I think that really inspired me.

“I knew I always wanted to work in this sector in some capacity, so when I finished up my masters I got in touch with UNICEF and said that I would like to volunteer my time. I started volunteering in the office and then I got a job there.”

Currently leading UNICEF Ireland’s fundraising campaign for children in Syria, Tina has worked with the UN children’s agency for more than six years. As part of her work, Tina has travelled to see the organisation’s work with Syrian refugees in Jordan.

“We went to visit Zaatari refugee camp, which is the largest camp in Jordan for Syrian Refugees. I think it was first established in 2013. Because it was established in 2013, it was a temporary accommodation centre for Syrian families coming across the border.

“UNICEF does a lot of work in terms of water and sanitation in the camp. They set up bore holes to deliver clean water to the families there. A lot of the families have been there over five years, so it is quite a challenging situation. There are actually a lot of children that have been born inside the camp. I went to one classroom it would have been Junior Infants and all the kids would have been born inside the camp.

“A lot of the families do struggle as they would have been from middle class backgrounds and accustomed to a standard of living that we are here in Ireland. They are doing the best they can with what they have. They are hopeful for the future and hopeful for their children. They are really determined to give their kids a chance in life and for them to get an education.”

Tina says her own background and experiences in early childhood mirror those of the children and families in refugee camps.

“What happens to children in any conflict setting is similar - the access to medicine or primary healthcare gets interrupted, so they are at more risk of illnesses. Even access to nutritious food becomes a challenge. There are so many parallels between my own experience and that from what I can see in children in Syria.”

March 2021 marks the 10-year anniversary of the conflict in Syria, and UNICEF are raising awareness about the plight of children there.

Tina added: “From my own personal experience working with UNICEF I can see how generous and thoughtful Irish people are and how much they have supported our appeals in the past. It’s been 10 years and the conflict has really fallen from the news and people don’t think of it as a priority issue anymore. If it was an option for people, we would love for them to continue to support our appeals”.

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