House building is the best team building – a personal story by Vera Millauer


Instead of investing immense amounts of money for team building activities in various seminar hotels, house building sounds like a far better option and comes along with an additional benefit. The bus travel to Srebrenica was already an exciting experience giving us the possibility to enjoy the beautiful wild and intact countryside which many of us did not expect to see.

The visit to the Srebrenica – Potočari Memorial Center, and watching the documentary showing mothers talking about their murdered children, are experiences which I will never forget. Although many years have passed, the feeling was that time stands still in Srebrenica. As if the tanks have withdrawn only a few weeks ago. Signs of atrocities are still everywhere: destroyed houses, bullet holes on the walls, trenches…The breathtaking nature offers a bit of consolation and invites for hiking, but only until you learn that conditions in most of the fields and forests are life-threatening as mines have been removed only from the main roads. There is no money for demining, education, anything basically.

Bauern helfen Bauern (Farmers help Farmers) is an initiative that gives hope to the people of Srebrenica. Without its support many inhabitants would have lost their courage to move on, lacking the basic preconditions for a normal life like accommodation and food. This is not an overstatement, it is sad reality.

The Association was established in 1992 as a private and independent NGO bringing humanitarian aid including in-kind donations and various aid transports to support self-help in deprived regions of former Yugoslavia and its neighboring countries. Among many initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BhB is also building wooden houses for war returnees in Srebrenica. Since 2001 more than a thousand houses were built in the region.

The process of house building was, due to professional help of the new house owner and three competent craftsmen, more pleasure than real work. It was phantastic to be able to build a house in three days in which an entire family can live normally, with one floor, an oven and a terrace. I should also mention that we had the privilege to build “our” house on one of the most amazing spots in the area, with a breathtaking 360 degrees panorama view during great weather conditions.

As soon as our team left, after successfully completing the house building mission, heavy rain showers hit the region and turned out to be THE flood of the century, impairing the already deeply wounded country with full force.

My conclusion from this extraordinary mission is that helping is not just a good deed but it can really be fun. Experiencing immediate and tremendous impact and seeing the two bright faces of the future house residents is priceless. After having seen our photos and hearing our stories, the rest of the ERSTE Foundation team cannot wait to travel to Srebrenica. I perfectly understand them.

13 of our colleagues built a house in Srebrenica together with Bauern helfen Bauern – Salzburg for a family who fled the town in 1993 and is now coming back. Vera Millauer is not only a dedicated employee of ERSTE Foundation but is also privately supporting various social projects in Austria and the CEE region. She has personally donated the entire amount for this particular house in Srebrenica while the rest of the  team helped building it. This is the 1063rd house built in the region through Bauern helfen Bauern programmes.

Enjoy the photo story of our colleague Dejan Petrovic