Some thoughts from Rebekka, German volunteer from ADRA Germany:
As a volunteer from ADRA Deutschland e. V., I have the privilege to work with ADRA Albania. ADRA Albania implements three different classes in the Roma Community Center in Tirana: for children, for adults and for seniors. Our task is, to go out to the Roma Community Center, take care of the children and painting, singing and playing games with them. The children’s parents can be taught undisturbed in the neighboring room and learn how to read, write, and count (arithmetic).
Supplementary classes for Roma children in the Roma Community Center Tirana
After the earthquake that hit Albania on 26.11.2019 with a magnitude of 6.4, many families lost their homes or can’t get inside their houses, because it was too dangerous. Cities and villages like Durres, Thumana, Shingjin, Fushë-Kruja, Kruja and Bubq were affected by the earthquake.
The government supported some of the reconstruction and also ensured that the affected residents can life for a time in safe hotels, which are not damaged. As ADRA Emergency Responders we drove into the different cities, took care of the affected children and played with them. Furthermore, professional psychologists provided psychosocial support for the affected children and adults.
Psychosocial support in Shingjin
However, especially the Roma families did not get much attention of the government. They stayed outside because their barracks were in danger of collapsing. In the night, it was cold and the little children were freezing outside.
ADRA Albania helped because they saw their need. Through donations from ADRA Austria, Germany, Great Britain and 9 other countries, 16 Roma families could be provided in Fushë-Kruja with food, clean water, mattresses, tarpaulins, tents, blankets, pillows etc.
Happiness in all the children’s faces
“I was very scared to go home because one of the main columns of the building was damaged and about to fall. We have been waiting for the municipal staff to come and give us tents to stay in, but no one showed up.”
“ADRA came early in the morning and stayed with us, asked us how we experienced the earthquake, asked what our needs were and tried to stay with the kids and play with them. ADRA provided us with food from the very first day after the earthquake and they still are serving us hot meals. The food is very good. It makes me very happy seeing not only my son but all the kids in the neighborhood being happy while eating at the community center.”
Marsida, woman affected by the earthquake
Fresh food after the earthquake for the Roma Community Fushë-Kruja
At the end of December, as every year, the “Children help children” package campaign started. I was part of the distribution in two schools, one in Tirana and one in Bubq. It was a very special experience for me to stand on the other side: not packing packages but distributing them to the children and teenagers. I will never forget the glowing in the children’s eyes and the expectant atmosphere in the classrooms – the tense anticipation of finally receiving the Christmas packages.
Parcels from Germany and Austria in a truck
Interview with Fioralba Hoxha:
Fioralba Hoxha has been volunteering at ADRA since April 2018 with “Empowering children in the subareas of Tirana and Kruja” and now she is working for ADRA Albania since November 2018. I had the opportunity to have a little interview with her. She completed her Master’s degree in clinical psychology in the social science faculty in the university of Tirana. Now, she works as an advisor on “Return to Thrive” project.
“During the university I was faced with people’s problems, people’s thoughts and their concerns on a daily basis. And then I realized that I want to work with people. When I worked as a volunteer in ADRA Albania I figured out that I can and I want to work with children.
First of all, I got to know ADRA in April 2018. I started here as a volunteer with the project “Children Empowerment” that was running at the time – and when I first came here, I started to work with children in different schools of Tirana and one in Thumana (region of Kruja) and the other one was the Fushë-Kruja municipality in Larushk village. I got involved as a volunteer one to two times a week because at the same time I was attending the university so I didn’t had much time to involve more. This was the first touch that I had with ADRA. I stayed as a volunteer till November 2018. Subsequently, I was employed at the same project where I was giving my contribution as a volunteer as a psychologist.”
“When I first came to ADRA I did social and supplementary classes with the children who had difficulties in learning and in concentration as well. It was like a post program school. At the time when they finished school, we used to go to their classes, do social acitivities, group works and so on. The experience as a volunteer was very fun and interesting. After I worked as a psychologist, I started my job at the “Return to Thrive” project from the GIZ as a consultant in Fushë-Kruja region. It was different because now we work with Roma and Egyptian communities while in the other project we were working with the ethnic majority and only with children. At the project where I was the advisor, I started working also with adults. The working atmosphere in Fushë-Kruja was very familiar. The children were very sociable and they were very welcoming with everyone who goes there. I got very affected with them from the very beginning. It was funny because they used to say Teacher ADRA to me till they knew my real name later.
In the beginning it was difficult because the community had a low level of education and were not very aware of the opportunities that life gives to them. But that is the aim in the end of the day, advise and orientate them to the public insitutions so that they know how to receive a service they need.
What I like about ADRA is that the people are very punctual when it comes to the schedules. When we plan to go to the field (Roma community) at 11 a.m. we leave the office at 11. And this is very important to me. Also the colleagues here are very cooperative. I felt very free to ask questions to everyone here when I didn’t know something; they were ready to answered me anytime. Not only from the people here, also from the job itself . But there are a lot of things that I like here.
At the beginning it was very challenging. When I first went to Fushë-Kruja to work there, I talked to the people, but they don’t understand me, because of the low level of education. When I said to them: “We will discuss today about the issue…” they ask me “What is an issue?”. They were used to talk in a very simple language, and I had to adapt to it. I got used with this with the time and I got very familiar with the environment and people there.
Also, Roma people complain about their condition and when I advised someone that he or she had to go to the labor office to find a job and these are the steps you have to follow, they find excuses. This has been one of the biggest challenges that made me though that maybe I was not doing my work right. “What do they want? Am I not doing my job well?” – I used to ask myself at the beginning but then I realized that roma people are unstable at work and the economic aid they receive is an obstacle to get involved at work since the law indicates the exclusion from the economic aid once you already work and don’t declare it. There are many things…
What I like about the Roma now is their culture. Sometimes it’s an obstacle go forward but sometimes their culture is very fun and colorful. They like to sing; they like to dance. I’ve been also part of a wedding and I was invited and to a birthday party as well. They don’t concern much about life, about problems, they take everything easy and sometimes it’s a positive thing.
My best experience was the wedding and also a celebration on the San George (May 6), a Muslim holiday, and it’s the biggest celebration of their community. On that day they prepare barbeques, the families visit each other and wish each other all the best. That day I also went to the community and they invited me in a very unexpected way. They welcomed me and other people in the staff and we ate with them at the table. My plan was to quickly visit them just to make a cheer with them and then go back to work. But no: They invited me to eat with them and I drank wine and it was very fun. The wedding and this day were very fun for me.”
Success stories of Roma:
“When I returned to Albania, I faced many difficulties, being a young single mother with a two-year-old son. Through ADRA and DIMAK I started a professional course in June 2019 at prestigious Culinary Institute. Soon I will graduate and can’t wait to earn my living. Thanks to the support given to me, I feel more motivated to build my life here, in my country.”
A., Returnee from Germany
“I got married at the age of 14, as our life in Albania was not so easy because of the economic situation, me, my husband and our three children decided to seek asylum in Germany in 2014. After three years, we return to Albania, but only stayed for a few months before leaving again, this time for France in 2018. We definitely turned back in Albania in January 2019 after our asylum-seeking requests were denied.
I have no school education, but I have learnt how to read and write at the ADRA’s supplementary classes. I also get involved in the activities with children and women at the Community Centre or in the neighbourhood. As advised by the staff, I got registered to a tailoring course, I think it fits me best. I put my hopes up finding a job soon. I think it’s time for me to go ahead, I feel ready!”
L., Returnee from France and Germany
© text and fotos by Rebekka Schiller