By Mirsela Gorani (YES 2013-2014, Albania, placed by AYA/AIFS in Pamplico, SC)
Valentine’s Day is a special day associated with love, roses, gifts, cards, and more. People tend to express their feelings to their partners through different actions on this occasion; however, nowadays, on Valentine’s Day, people tend to celebrate the love they have for each other, friends, acquaintances, crushes, family members, and their romantic partners, too. In honor of the day of love, I wanted to spread some love with the YES alumni community.
On February 10, in Berat, Albania, a friend and I went to a local church that hosts activities for people with disabilities. This was our second time visiting the group, as we also visited them before Christmas, preparing paper chains and other Christmas crafts. As soon as we stepped into the meeting space, they warmly greeted us. We initially thought they wouldn’t remember us, but they were happy to see us again, and we were excited to see them too.
When we first told them we were there to celebrate Valentine’s Day, one of them said, “Well I don’t have a girlfriend, so I don’t celebrate.” I told him that even though not everyone has a partner, we can still express love to our friends, family members, and those who take care of us. That answer cheered them up, and the celebration began!
The music was a vital aspect of the celebration, and eventually, one of the staff members started playing some of their favorite songs. With laughter and joy, we started to dance to folk music, the traditional Albanian “valle”. After enjoying our time dancing, one of the participants read an essay he wrote about Valentine’s Day.
After the dancing, the reading, and the sharing of snacks, my friend and I helped them prepare some handmade crafts for Valentine’s Day. They kept the crafts we made, and we told them that if they wanted to, they could give them to their family members and wish them a happy Valentine’s Day. At the end of the activity, we succeeded in bringing smiles to their faces.
However, this was not the only way this Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the YES alumni community. With the remaining items from the activity, City Representative Anxhela Gorani ’20 thought it would be nice if the alumni community prepared some Valentine’s Day cards and gave them to people on February 14, to spread love and positivity. Therefore, more than 20 handmade cards were given to people in the streets of Tirana.
After preparing Valentine’s Day crafts and cards, YES alumni in Albania hope that every day is filled with love, not only Valentine’s Day. The world has enough problems as it is, and we certainly need to celebrate love and love each other more. It’s my hope that, even though Valentine’s Day has passed, we can all be encouraged to share more love and kindness.
Anxhela Gorani (YES 2019-2020, Albania, placed by S4-H in Kenai, AK)