For the week of April 7, 1999  thru April 13, 1999  

Local group collects donations to aid Kosovo refugees

Express Staff Writer

On Monday, as NATO bombs continued to rain over Belgrade and as the number of Kosovo refugees approached one million, President Clinton beseeched the American public to help the victims of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic’s "expulsion policy."

"We do need help," Clinton said at a press conference. "We’re doing all we can. We need more help."

Today in Ketchum, Adam and Shayla Koffler launched the Wood River Campaign of Cultural Consciousness to pool money from local residents and businesses for the immediate provision of food and other supplies for victims of war in Yugoslavia.

The Kofflers describe the campaign as "a venue to proclaim our intolerance for the act of ethnic cleansing and to positively affect those that are in jeopardy."

All donated money will go directly to relief efforts.

"We’re still trying to determine which agency will provide direct relief to individuals in the refugee camps," Adam said.

The International Red Cross, C.A.R.E., and World Vision are among the agencies the Kofflers are considering.

Beginning today, the campaign will continue through Friday, April 23.

All Wood River Valley banks have agreed to participate by setting up a special account for the campaign. Bank customers can deposit donations at their local branch.

The Kofflers have also enlisted the support of most churches in the valley, which are also accepting donations.

Adam is quick to point out, however, that the campaign has no religious or political agenda.

"This is strictly a humanitarian effort," Adam said. "We felt that this was an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way, to help others that are in difficult times."

"Difficult times" is an understatement.

At least 831,000 of the 2 million prewar Kosovo population have been displaced since the conflict began in February 1998, according to NATO spokesman Jamie Shea.

Those refugees are fleeing their already impoverished Kosovo province and becoming homeless in equally impoverished Albania and Macedonia.

Tensions have been simmering since 1981 between Serbian nationalists and Kosovo’s local population. Ethnic Albanians, mostly Muslim, represented about 90 percent of the population of Kosovo.

Many Serbs believe Kosovo to be sacred Yugolslav territory. Most people in Kosovo, however, favor separation from Serbia and would prefer to unite with neighboring Albania.

NATO bombs began falling when Serbian nationalists ignored NATO’s ultimatum to stop killing off ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Serbian attacks in which Albanians were reportedly slaughtered and their villages burned triggered the migration of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, a wave of displacement that has not been seen in Europe for a half-century.

"It’s hard not to be aware of this human travesty," Adam said.

The Wood River Campaign of Cultural Consciousness is an opportunity for locals to enhance the lives of others, according to Adam.

The idea for the campaign came to Adam one morning not long ago.

"I woke up and felt it was time to make some noise and help the victims," Adam said. "Hopefully, the Wood River Valley community will feel the same way."


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