Freshman Receives $10K for Project

Kobiljar will use the award to rebuild an athletic center in Bosnian hometown

In 1992, just one day before the siege of Sarajevo, the four-year-old Emina Kobiljar ’10 fled Yugoslavia with her family, headed for a refugee camp in southern Germany where she would live for six years before moving to the United States.

This summer she will return, funded by a $10,000 donation from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Foundation to rebuild a war-devastated athletic center in her hometown, Kolibe Gornje, Bosnia.

Kobiljar said she hoped the reconstruction of the athletic center would promote peace by allowing the town to host the neighboring Bosniak, Croat, and Serb communities in competitions and tournaments, increasing interaction between the groups.

She said she also hoped her plan would unite and empower the village’s residents by involving them in the project.

“One of my biggest points of the proposal is that the only cost is the cost of the materials, and the largest contribution comes from the volunteer labor of the villagers themselves,” she said, adding that the destroyed facility had acted as a cultural center for the villagers.

Kobiljar submitted her proposal through the foundation’s “100 Projects for Peace” initiative, which invited students from the 76 colleges and universities already affiliated with the Davis United World College Scholars Program—Davis’s son’s philanthropic organization—to compete for one of the 100 $10,000 grants. Harvard joined the association in 2005.

The students submitted their applications to their respective institutions, which narrowed down the proposals to three. The foundation selected the 100 finalists.

Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid for the College Janet L. Irons, who served on the committee that reviewed the 31 submissions from Harvard, said the selection committee looked for projects that “could be done in a summer, had a lasting impact, and showed creativity.”

According to Carin M. Eisenstein ’10, who lives on the same floor as Kobiljar, her friend stayed up until 3 a.m. perfecting her proposal.

“The most difficult part of the application process was coming up with the idea—thinking of something substantial that could happen in one summer,” Kobiljar said.

In high school she organized fundraisers to benefit a Bosnian orphanage, and she spent the past two summers working for Friendship Without Borders at a camp in Sarajevo designed to help children traumatized by war.

“From comparable projects in the past, I knew there was a willingness to rebuild and an enthusiasm for participating in these kinds of community reconstruction projects,” Kobiljar said.