By Enxhi Nikolla, YES 2014-2015, Albania, hosted by American Councils in Ontario, Oregon
A couple of years ago, I organized a volunteer activity in my high school to collect and donate books to the Women's Prison in Tirana. It turned out to be a very successful activity, but during my visit, there was something I noticed. Two imprisoned women spent most of their time in a small area divided into little rooms with their two children, one who was almost two months old and one who was one year old. One of the rooms was also used when children came to visit their mothers. It seemed to me that these rooms were not very child-friendly, as they were lacking pretty much all the things little kids need, including toys, games, and children’s books.
This had been on my mind for the past couple of years, and so when my fellow alumni and I had the chance to meet with Ilva Cuko, Alumni Coordinator of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, to discuss ideas for collaboration, I suggested a project to gather donations for this space. She gladly offered her help! On December 18, together with the YES Alumni Coordinator for Albania, Katerina Hatija (YES ’14), American Councils’ Country Representative for Albania, and four U.S. Embassy representatives, we delivered several large containers filled with toys, games, coloring books, and costumes that had been collected by Embassy employees and their families. It was a blast seeing the joy in the children’s and mothers’ eyes when we filled a whole room with pre-Christmas gifts.
I do believe that this was only the start of a collaboration between YES alumni Albania and the Women’s Prison in Tirana. I would love to continue giving our contribution to this institution and all the children related to it.