By Klea Troka (YES 2011-2012, Albania, hosted by YFU-USA in Delaware, OH)
During the global pandemic, YES alumni are finding various ways to help others in any way they can.
Emiljana Hoti (YES 2009-2010, Albania, hosted by PAX in Bow, NH) is a third-year graduate student at Comenius University in Bratislava. She has been studying there for nine years now but returned to her family in Albania while campus is closed during the COVID-19 related global shutdowns. Together with her sister she started an initiative called “Merr nje Falas”, or “Take one for Free”, where they make homemade masks and donate them to members of their local community.
The initiative started with Emiljana’s mother, who was making homemade masks with her sewing machine for Emiljana and her sister. From there, they had the idea to start trying to make masks themselves as a productive activity to fill their time while staying at home.
They gave away their first homemade masks to their close relatives and then began to collaborate with a local market. Emiljana and her sister would make the masks and send them to the local market, where everyone could get one mask for free. As soon as the masks were gone, the local market would communicate with Emiljana to start making news masks. So far, Emiljana has made and donated 30 masks, for which she has received a lot of positive feedback from her local community. Many people have offered her to give her materials to make more masks.
“I learned the importance of volunteer work during my exchange year in the U.S.” says Emiljana. “Doing volunteer work is not just about the person you help, but it also helps the one who is doing it. Helping others and the feeling that you are doing something important helps to lower your anxiety and your stress. It also helps you to connect better with your local community and to understand how the local system works, and who are the people that need help and support.”
Emiljana prepared a small video in Albanian where she speaks about the initiative and shows us the process to make a homemade mask.