By Kaltra Demiri (YES 2017-2018, Albania, hosted by AFS in Westmont, IL)
Valentine’s Day in Albania is mostly thought of as a day for couples to celebrate their love. This is also the way I thought of it, until last year.
Last year, during my exchange year in Westmont, Illinois, as Valentine’s Day was approaching, I helped my English teacher with a stand where students could come and create handmade Valentine’s cards for each other. On February 14, two of my American friends brought me cards that they had crafted themselves. One of the girls even brought sweets! My host sister also surprised me later that day with more sweets that she had baked during her cooking class. It was the first time that I thought of Valentine’s Day as something more than a “couple’s only” holiday. Rather, I saw Valentine’s Day as a day where we can show love and kindness to each other with simple gestures such as handing someone a card or showing them our appreciation.
This year, together with 30 members of the Youth Council in my hometown, which is led by a Peace Corps volunteer named Jordan Trabue, we tried to think of a way we could make Valentine’s Day special for everyone. A week before the holiday, members of the Youth Council found inspirational quotes about love online, translated them into Albanian, and put them into more than 400 small cards.
On February 14, we distributed these cards in our school, on the streets, and at the local hospital, hoping to brighten everyone’s day. I knew the cards had done their job when I saw the smiles that everyone had that day. At the end of the day, love is love, and we should try to share it as much as we can!