Albania–Meeting Our Sponsor Children

Working within my role at World Vision means that every day I get to hear uplifting stories about the relationships forged between sponsors and the children they sponsor. As a child sponsor myself, I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with other sponsors. We all have the same heart for vulnerable children. So, when I heard that there was a group sponsor visit to Albania planned, I signed up to go as one of the sponsors.

My husband I each sponsor a child in Albania.  As my husband couldn’t be there, I agreed to meet his child Mikeljan on his behalf. A lot of prayer and preparation went into our meeting. Before my trip, my husband told me everything he knew about Mikeljan and especially how much he loves football! Between the two of us, we did some shopping for gifts for Mikeljan and his family.  While in Albania, the wonderful World Vision team worked hard planning the sponsor visits and all the itinerary.

The night before I was due to meet him, I stayed in too reflect and pray about our time together.  I was nervous  about the meeting because Mikeljan is a teenager and I wasn’t sure of the welcome I would receive.  Would he think it was ‘uncool’ or ‘lame’ for instance.

We first met at the World Vision office where Mikeljan arrived accompanied by his mother. To my surprise, he spoke very good english! I had brought a letter for Mikeljan from my husband which a staff member translated on paper.  Another staff member translated the conversation between Mikeljan’s mother and I. I showed him photos of my husband Jim and talked about him.

We walked by a lake and later had lunch together. His mother spoke to me about her family and her concerns for Mikeljan. I noticed there was free wifi, so I video-phoned Jim so he could speak to Mikejan in person.  They each had the biggest grin on their faces as they chatted away about  Mikeljan’s biggest passion-football!

I was so impressed with both Mikeljan and his mother. They were such lovely people. Mikeljan is a bright, courageous, sociable and articulate boy.  His mother was lovely, warm and gracious. I felt like I had just met family.

The following day, it was time for me to meet my sponsor child Andrea. It was another wonderful meeting but with some differences.  Andrea is only 7.  He came with his mother, older brother and younger sister. He was very shy at first but soon warmed up.  Nobody in the family spoke english but luckily we had someone on hand to translate for us. Andrea thanked me for the hot wheels I sent to him in the post.  Unfortunately, he lost the green one which was his favourite.  Since I have been home, I have been looking at green hot wheels but they are all so different and I have no idea which one he lost!

I knew ahead of time that we would spend time at a beach. I brought lots of toys to play with. The most popular was a game of velcro mitts and a ball. When we had lunch, I brought out the Jenga which was a big hit as the whole family could play.

After only ever seeing some photos and a couple of videos of Andrea, it was nice to get to know more of his unique personality. He is such a fun, endearing child with a gorgeous, contagious smile. The family were sociable and sweet and we had a wonderful time together.

The trip gave me real insight into the culture and people of Albania. I feel an equal sense of compassion and hope for this country. I am so thankful for the opportunity that sponsorship has given my husband and I to help the communities where Mikeljan and Andrea live.

To sponsor a child through World Vision UK, please go to their website by clicking here.

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Sponsor Visit to Albania

As a sponsor through World Vision, I was excited to be given an opportunity to visit Albania as part of a group sponsor visit. I saw this as a great way to connect with like-minded people, meet the two boys my husband and I sponsor and to also see first-hand the work that I was helping to support.

I met some of the other sponsors from our group before hand on our training day and some at the airport when we were catching our flight. We were an interesting small group of diverse backgrounds yet all of us were joined by our mutual compassion for vulnerable children.

First sight of Albania

 

When we arrived at the airport in Tirana (also known as Mother Teresa Airport), we were met by the lovely World Vision Albania staff who drove us to our hotel. They were even kind enough to phone the hotel in advance and ask them to prepare a meal for us as it was late.

On our trip, we did quite a bit of driving around visiting many of the projects that World Vision was supporting.  Because of this, we had the opportunity to see a lot of the countryside in Lezhe and other areas.

Albania is the poorest country in Europe and still a country in transition. Everywhere we looked, we could see a mixture of old abandoned communist buildings, building projects not yet completed, small houses with red roofs and front gardens used to grow fruit and vegetables. Sometimes you would see a goat tied in the small garden.

 

Communist building

 

Yet Albania is also a beautiful country of hills, mountains, lakes and beaches.

Skodre

DAY 1

On our first full day, we met with the Student Government in a school in Balldre who were eager to tell us about the work they were doing raising awareness on child domestic violence.  I noticed that around the classroom where posters about stress. When I asked about it, they explained that this was the psychology classroom. I was also told that children suffer a lot from stress and that violence against children was a major issue. They told us that May was ‘Family month’ and they had planned activities for parents to have fun with their children. It was great to see how the students were being encouraged to stand up for themselves and make positive changes.

The students had us engage in an icebreaker with string

The students were very confident and articulate. We asked them to tell us what their dreams were for their future.  They all had high aspirations, but I soon saw a pattern. One wanted to be an Architect in Australia; another wanted to be a Judge in Germany.  Sadly, no one saw themselves having a future in Albania.

Later we visited the Multidisciplinary Centre in Lezhe. This was once an abandoned building which was repaired thanks in part to the fundraising efforts of the last group visit. The centre helps give children a safe place to go to where they are assessed and helped depending on their needs. Many of the children who go there come from families who are “re-immigrates”. They sold everything to immigrate to another country only to be forced back to Albania years later with nothing left for them. It is also a haven for mothers and children fleeing from domestic violence. The centre also offers after school programs.

Day 2

We visited the sisters of a Catholic church who run a kindergarten and do all that they can to support the vulnerable in the community. This lovely sister who we met us is from Italy. She told us amazing stories of how the sisters have helped families over the years.

 

The kindergarten is colourfully decorated and there is a humble playground outside. Unfortunately, the playground area gets badly flooded when it rains. The rain drains into the sewers which then causes sewage to rise out of the gutters over the playground area.

 

 

We visited another school of very proud students. It was a new high school where previously there had been none. Before the school was built, many girls did not continue their education as it was too far to travel to the nearest high school. Now they have a local high school which enables them to continue their education and to have higher aspirations for their future.

I found it interesting that every classroom in this new building was heated by one of these stoves.

One of the things I noticed when I visited any of the schools in Albania is that the teachers all seem to love their job.  They take such pride in their work and in their students. I saw curtains in the windows and potted plants on the window sills in the classrooms. They may not always have enough money for all the essentials, but they do what they can to make it a welcoming place for students.

If you are interested in supporting Albania or sponsoring a child, please visit World Vision’s website.

For World Vision UK, please click here. Or phone at 0800 085 8188

For World Vision Albania, please click here. Or phone +355 4 2419601

If you are interested in helping the kindergarten by financing the repair of their playground, please contact either World Vision.