Faces of ITF represent the scope of ITF’s development throughout the past 20 years. They include 20 individuals with different backgrounds, who had a significant impact during the two decades of our existence and continue to serve as an inspiration for our work.

Abdou Lat Gueye
Igor Šumar and Yser
H. Murphey McCloy
Dr. Ken Rutherford
Hasan Hamzeh
Khatera Azimi
Anica Mikuš Kos
Boris Frlec
Zilha & Zahid Cikmis
Arne Hodalič
Violeta Dukaj
Medetbek Sultanbekov
Nataliia Lafazan
ITF Doll
Fatima Al-A'assi
Alastair McAslan
Mirsad Mirojević
Tamila Jolbordi
Scotty Lee
Dijana Pleština

Faces of ITF represent the scope of ITF’s development throughout the past 20 years. They include 20 individuals with different backgrounds, who had a significant impact during the two decades of our existence and continue to serve as an inspiration for our work.

Arne Hodalič is a long-time associate and advocate of ITF. As one of the most renowned Slovenian photographers, Arne has been working with various magazines such as National Geographic Magazine, Time Magazine, Life and many others. With his generous help and professional relationship, he vastly contributed to the visibility of ITF’s work in the area of wider human security through his photos.

"What do I wish for ITF at their 20th anniversary? That they would stop with their activities as soon as possible. This is only because ITF would not be necessary anymore as the world would be totally mine free. Free of these silent killers, who prey on innocent civilians. Unfortunately, I am afraid I will not be alive to witness this."

Alastair McAslan began his involvement in mine action in 1997 as the UK Government Advisor to UNMAS. From 2002, he was Director of Humanitarian Resilience at Cranfield University, UK which worked closely with ITF for five years to develop and deliver management training courses. Alastair worked alongside ITF again in 2008 to develop their new vision and helped ITF apply its unique set of knowledge, experience and values to the broader challenge of human security.

"The ITF is a truly unique organization, staffed by committed and talented people, with a desire to apply advanced thinking to real world problems, particularly in countries recovering from conflict."

Doctor Anica Mikuš Kos is a renowned expert in the field of child psychiatry from warzones and a longstanding supporter of humanitarian action through psychosocial aid. She has devoted her life to the issue of child psychiatry by working as the head of the child psychiatry department at the Clinic of Pediatrics – University Children’s Hospital and at Counselling Centre for Children, Adolescents and Parents in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Anica currently serves as a president of the Slovene Philanthropy, and has been working with ITF in Kosovo* and primarily in Gaza Strip, since 2007.

"Besides classical demining activities and removal of unexploded ordnance, ITF enhances human security through preventive programmes for the safety of children in schools located in mine contaminated areas and provides psychosocial support, which preserves their mental health and keeps them safe from daily surrounding threats."

Dr. Boris Frlec was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic Slovenia during the establishment of ITF. Together with Ms. Madeleine Albright, U.S. State Secretary, he signed the Letter of Intent on 4 November 1998, which enabled ITF’s future development. As a permanent representative of the Slovenian government in the ITF Board of Advisors, and with his vast diplomatic experience he established a long-lasting relationship with the ever-growing donor community. Due to his efforts and contributions, ITF remains one of the most successful Slovenian international projects.

"I believe that the establishment of ITF is one of the most successful international and foreign policy projects of the Republic Slovenia up to date, which enhanced the visibility of our country in the international community. The period of the last 20 years was not simple as it had some difficult moments. However, not only did ITF successfully retain its primary role, but it also expanded its activities to a wider spectrum of human security. It is my great pleasure that I have taken part in these humanitarian efforts."

Doctor Dijana Plestina has been actively involved in the Mine Action community since 2000, first as Advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from 2012 as Director of the Government Office for Mine Action as well as President of the Governing Board of CROMAC. For 15 years she worked closely with ITF as member of its Managing Board making a positive impact on its development as an institution.

As an ardent advocate for rights of mine victims she focused her work through the Convention to Ban Anti-Personnel Landmines as well as the Cluster Munitions Convention. For both she served as Secretary General when Croatia presided over and hosted the meetings in Zagreb in 2005 and in Dubrovnik in 2015. The legacy of her work can be observed through the improved and strenghtened mine action community in South East Europe and beyond.

"The decision to donate my salary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was logical and the most obvious recipient of the donation was ITF whose staunch supporter I became first as donor. Soon I also became a vocal advocate and informal “lobbyist” among potential donors in the private and public sectors in Croatia, Canada and the USA. To this day I continue to believe in ITF’s mission."

Hasan Hamzeh is a farmer in Lebanon, whose citrus fruit farm was once contaminated with landmines. Thanks to mine clearance projects facilitated through ITF, the area was cleared and Hasan was able to continue farming his citrus fruits safely. Landmines can endanger the lives of farmers and their agricultural businesses, which in turn creates an economic impact on post-conflict communities. Hasan represents one of the countless farmers and societies around the world, who have benefited from international humanitarian mine action.

"In the beginning, we could not even walk through the plantation. 150,000 square meters of land was contaminated with landmines, as fear prevented us from collecting fruits and making a living. After the completed demining activities, I and other farmers were able to collect the harvests easily as the danger under our feet was disposed safely. Now our lives are completely normal."

Dr. Ken Rutherford is a professor of political science at James Madison University and the Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR), a public policy, overseas programming and research center focusing on humanitarian mine action. Acting as an expert in the field of mine action, publishing five books and numerous articles, a landmine survivor, and an outspoken advocate for victim and survivor assistance, Ken has aided ITF with their work in the mine action community and facilitated progress towards increased safety for mine-affected communities, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

"Perhaps what is most impressive about ITF’s work is its process of promoting collaboration among various partners, local and national, governmental and non-governmental, et. al. for achieving its goals. Together, ITF and its regional and global partners have and continue to do so much to make our world safer for everyone to walk. Its work has helped survivors such as myself and their communities recover from the devastation caused by landmines and thrive in a post-conflict setting."

Khatera Azimi is a physiotherapist from Afghanistan. Since 2007, she has worked as a physiotherapist in the Mine Detection Center (MDC) Polyclinic in Kabul, supported also by ITF. The MDC polyclinic in Kabul is one of the physiotherapy centres that also employs female doctors. Financial support is provided by the donors, who recognized the importance of MDC doctors, such as Khatera, who treated and rehabilitated over 40,000 patients during 2016 and 2017.

"The funding of the MDC polyclinic by ITF is not only important for the smooth operation of the clinic and for the continuous treatment of Afghan people, but also for Afghan women and for supporting their role in Afghan society."

Mirsad Mirojević is the Director of the sitting volleyball club OKI Fantomi from Sarajevo and a mine survivor himself. OKI Fantomi encompass the values of ITF as they enable individuals to transcend the consequences of conflicts. With the ultimate goal of helping affected communities and individuals develop to their full potential, OKI Fantomi and Mirsad continue to be an inspiration to ITF’s work and mission.

"We are grateful to the entire ITF management as they recognized the purpose of our work and offered unconditional support, which enabled us to not only become successful athletes but also equal citizens of BIH society. We are now individuals, who in spite of an obtained disability, can still participate in all social activities as equals."

Scotty Lee is the CEO and Founder of Spirit of Soccer, a non-profit organisation established in May 1996. The international children’s charity specialises in providing mine risk education on explosive remnants of war in highly contaminated areas of the world, using soccer games and drills.

"Spirit of Soccer worked with ITF from 2003 to 2005 when Spirit of Soccer was implementing a mine risk education program in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The biggest take away from working with ITF was their understanding of the specific context of culture, limitations, dynamics and politics of the divided country of BIH."

Violeta Dukaj is a former deminer at Danish Church Aid. While studying mathematics, Violeta changed her profession and became a deminer in Albania. She successfully led a group of deminers for a year and a half, yet tragically lost her leg during a mine accident. She was unable to continue her demining career with the prosthetic leg, but instead joined the survey team and remained involved with mine action for the next few years.

"There is an extreme added value of women being part of a masculine demining team. As my male colleagues were observing livestock and the house, I was looking where people go to collect water and where children play. The “female perspective” helped save innocent lives many times."

Nataliia Lafazan from Ukraine lost her leg at the age of 10 during the recent conflict in Ukraine.  Since 2015, ITF has been working closely with her father and the University Rehabilitation Institute of the Republic of Slovenia (URI – Soča) to provide Nataliia with continuous rehabilitation treatment. Nataliia has so far successfully completed three phases of rehabilitation, each of which helped her to become an active and fulfilled 12-year-old that she is today.

"Thanks to ITF, I can walk again. They have assisted me with medical treatment after grenades struck my town. ITF helped me survive through a tough period of my life, giving me the possibility to stand up on my legs, run, jump and swim. From the point that ITF helped me, my life has completely changed. I am very grateful for that, but more importantly, they made me feel like every other kid."

Fatima Al-A'assi is the principal of Al-Nahda School in the Gaza Strip. In her capacity as the principal, she enables a programme of psychosocial support at her school. It is vital to support organizations and the people who provide psychosocial rehabilitation for traumatized children. Fatima is fulfilling ITF’s mission by helping affected communities and individuals to minimise the psychological consequences of conflict.

"With the support of ITF and the local partner, psychosocial care became an integral part of our daily work in schools and within our community in general. We are now able to help individuals and communities to heal the psychological wounds and rebuild social structures after very critical events taking place in our community. ITF’s help changes people in the Gaza Strip into active survivors rather than passive victims."

Tamila Jolbordi from Georgia was able to receive micro-loans and vocational training, supported by ITF, which enabled her to establish her own company. Her company, which produces canned tomatoes and garlic, is able to support her entire family and demonstrates how economic support is a key element of post conflict rehabilitation and sustainability.

"The project supported us in difficult times and helped to recover our family economy. It also made me more self-assured in my capacity as a business woman."

Colonel Medetbek Sultanbekov assisted ITF as the Head of Missile and Artillery Department of the State Committee for the Defence of Kyrgyz Republic. He works with ITF with the goal of disposing ammunition with expired shell life. Medetbek has also worked as an advocate for trainings that raise the professional standard of stockpiling weapons safely and securely.

"Cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Kyrgyz Republic and ITF, improved the security by reducing the threats to people, infrastructure and the environment posed by obsolete ammunition. This expedited further economic development of Kyrgyz Republic."

Zahid and Zilha Čikmiš fled their home in Ravne as armed conflict intensified in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Eleven years later, Zahid and Zilha, both in their mid-70s, returned to the village of Ravne. They found their house in ruins and their property and surrounding community littered with landmines. Thanks to humanitarian mine action, both can now freely move around their property without fearing for their lives or the lives of their relatives.

"Before the mine clearance, we were not able to move around our property. Our grandsons could not play around the house and the courtyard. Due to mines we were not allowed to build a fence for our livestock, which wandered around freely. We are immensely grateful to everyone who contributed to our safer future."

Dr. Gueye Abdou Lat is the Director of the Economic Community of West African States’ Early Warning Directorate. As an expert in Geographic Information Systems he has held this position since 2014. Abdou Lat has been working closely with ITF since 2015, when ITF launched the project aiming to enhance West Africa’s regional and national capacities to identify, respond to, and stem developing crises more effectively.

"ITF is the Catalytic agent of the ECOWAS EWARP project."

Igor Šumar is a professional trainer and handler of mine detection dogs (MDD). Yser, a Belgian Shepherd, and Igor joined forces in December 2013, after completing the training conducted by Mine Detection Dog Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Together, as employees of the Civil Protection Administration of Republika Srpska, the dynamic duo travels to different parts of BIH detecting landmines. Each square meter searched and each day spent in the field together, deepens the bond between Yser and Igor.

"ITF is a reliable and trusted partner in mine action. They proved to be the drivers of many great ideas and projects over the past decades."

H. Murphey McCloy is an expert in mine action and considered as the initiator of the first mine action office at the U.S. Department of State. Working closely with ITF since its very beginnings, he helped facilitate of the continuous support of the organisation’s biggest donor, the United States of America. Murf’s involvement has aided ITF in realizing a variety of projects globally.

"In 1998, ITF broke into the humanitarian assistance field with an inexperienced but dedicated staff that stressed close coordination with donors and national aid-recipient authorities, and detailed on-ground supervision of projects in benefitting countries.  This, in combination with a quick-reaction cultural mindset that reduced the project design and initiation of operations phase from months to weeks enabled the regionally-based ITF to set a new standard for achieving  donor satisfaction and funding economies of scale for the entire international mine action community to follow.  In short, the ITF's superb professional example was the tide that raised the performance of other implementers to new heights of excellence to the benefit of all."

ITF Doll is a symbol of ITF and its work. The doll is a girl, who loved playing in the fields with other children. Then one day, she ran too far – into a minefield. She lost her leg in an explosion, which changed her life forever. However, with receiving holistic support and long-term rehabilitation, she has grown into an active member of the society.

"Throughout the past 20 years, ITF has grown into a big community. It brings together its staff and leadership; the donors, who continuously invest trust and provide funds; and other partners, who ensure smooth operation in often austere environments. Making the mission of ITF particularly fulfilling are the countless accounts of those ITF has been able to assist over the years, and many of whom have become ITF’s life-long friends."

© 2018 ITF Enhancing Human Security. All rights reserved.