Making a Difference in Croatia's Classrooms

Alan and I, center, visiting one of our Foundation classrooms in Croatia.

From 1991 through 1995, the “Homeland War” in which Croatia sought its independence disrupted the nation’s entire education system. After all, how can you sustain schooling when a war is playing out, pitting neighbor against neighbor? For their own safety, many educators fled to other regions. After the war, the process of rebuilding schools, both physically and in terms of educational offerings, slowly began to pick up steam.

In 2005, Grand Circle Foundation made a major investment in Croatian schools. As part of our World Classroom initiative, our formalized commitment to learning and education in villages we support worldwide, we have funded eight schools in Croatia. One of the first that I visited was Antun Masle Elementary School, where we were enchanted by performances by the school’s folkloric group and its choir. Keeping their cultural heritage alive and sharing it with others is important to these students, so I’m proud to say that Foundation donations have since helped students purchase traditional garb, support the folklore club, and more.

Foundation donations are always tailored to the needs of each specific school. Some of our funds at the Anton Tomaz Linhart Elementary School have been used to help meet student nutritional needs with the purchase of kitchen and dining room equipment, an oven, and tables. At Kantrida Elementary School, classroom needs came to the fore; our funds have supported renovations and equipment for special-needs students, among other things. And at the Dobriza Cesaric Elementary School, we’ve helped replace students’ lockers.

Our connection to Croatian education has also bridged the many miles between us. In 2006, we arranged a “Principal Exchange,” an event in which four lead educators visited our Boston headquarters to share teaching methods, experience the educational and cultural life in the U.S., and to accept a donation. One of those principals was from Croatia, and our invitation reflected our deep passion for helping that nation’s schools return to their full potential.

As Croatia’s education system blossoms in the 21st century—with 87% of all school-aged children enrolled—we’re so glad we could be a part of it. It is amazing to realize when we visit the schools today that none of the current students were even born when the Homeland War ended. We’re thrilled that they have grown up only knowing possibility and that we have been a part of that making that true.