September 28, 2020
Life has a way of coming full circle. In 2015 I visited Mostar together with my co-founder Mark Blaisse, exploring potential interest in our Food Frontiers concept. It was November, the old town was dark, deserted and drizzling rain turned the cobbled streets into shining little pebbles. The place had a strange kind of magic to it, with a veneer of tragic age wearing down on its huddled houses. This is where I ran into Jaso Elesovic, more of less by accident as I had a meeting with his parents. Jaso was our guide during our visit and as he showed us around. I got to know a passionate young man torn between a generational desire to leave the country and a strong sense of obligation to stay and help revive Mostar.
Two years later, we organized our Fronterra program in Mostar. Jaso joined us in a capacity as mountain guide and mentor. Jaso had meanwhile started his own coffee house in the old center, reliving the old Ottoman coffee traditions. Jaso in many way personified our ideal Fronterra alumnus: entrepreneurial, resilient, reaching out across old lines of division.
When we announced the ending of our activities, I was extremely delighted to hear that Jaso and his NGO Western Balkans Network was eager to adopt the Fronterra program. This was an unexpected turn of events, but one that somehow fulfilled what we set out to do in the Balkans and elsewhere: To instill strenght and optimism in local communities to defy the odds and take matters in their own hands. Thank you Jaso!
The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole
Peter Block, author
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“Food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place” Ottolenghi