Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A sunny day at the beach with our project participants

As our readers already know, Reflect project in Fushe Kruja started in October 2011 opening a centre for roma women and children where they could gather, discuss, learn and participate in many psycho- social games. During the first year of the project many roma men and boys came around and asked us “why don’t you open a program for us too?”; “women don’t understand a thing, we can learn faster”.
Roma women who came at the project and enjoyed the program started saying “you can open our eyes and sensitize us about our rights and possibilities, but how can we fight for our rights if our men don’t support us? They don’t understand the importance of women’s education so please do something so they can change their way of thinking and support us”.
ADRA staff felt responsible to continue its mission by reinforcing the project and prolong it for other three years with the financial support of ADRA Austria and Austrian Development Agency in Albania.

“Literacy and social skills for roma men, women and children in Fushe Kruja city” started in October 2012 involving not only women and children but also all roma men and boys who want to be part of the Reflect program: get together, discuss daily issues and possible solutions, create group cohesion, learn how to read and write by using practical tools and participate to many social activities. Since the project started roma young boys were enthusiast to start learning; we could feel their wish to be part of something bigger than their reality limited to the roma neighborhood at the peripheral area of Fushe Kruja city.

They finally had the chance to come out from the ghetto for another reason different from work. We have organized many activities and they enjoyed very much being in group and play with each other. Even though some of them are already married, fathers at 17- 18 years old, they like to play, have fun with each other and live their age because they haven’t had a normal adolescence.

Last activity that we organized was a beach day together with 15 boys from the roma community, our two facilitators Mira and Marsela and their teacher Redjan.

The boys prepared the lunch, collected 300 lek each (2.50 euro) and bought food for all of us. Marsela and Mira cooked with the help of two of the boys Visi and Bledi, so everything was ready. They cooked stuffed pepperoni, byrek, tomatos, olives and cheese. ADRA staff was invited to their prepared lunch so we brought only something to drink.
We met at Gjiri I Lalzit, a nice place where the sea is clean and there is a lot of space to play. The boys were so happy; they were dancing, singing while we were searching for a nice place where to put our umbrella.

 As soon as we settled, they took the ball and started playing football. This is their favorite game, even though they have some problems managing their emotions. They get easily angry, yell at each other like they are going to fight, show a little bit of violence, but at the end, they always finish the game in peace. This is so strange, but also interesting and admirable. They look after each other and feel part of a group even though they have conflicts and sometimes they instantly become violent.

They day at the beach is a great opportunity to talk a little bit about their daily life in summer season. Ibrahim, 18 years old, father of a 1 year old boy, tells us about his working experience in summer: “summer is a very hard working period because of the good weather. You know what we do? We create a group of 5 or more boys and we put 5000 lek each (35 euro), we got to the shoes factories which are located in Kruja and Lezha and we buy as much shoes as we can. There are two kinds of shoes, the good ones that cost 700 lek per pair (5 euro) and the bad ones which cost 300 lek (2.50 euro). They look like the original ones because they have famous logos on them, adidas, nike, so we don’t find it hard to sell them, especially at the beach. We go usually to Durres or Saranda, where there are a lot of tourists from Kosovo and Macedonia. Every morning I wake up at 6 o’clock and I get ready to go to Durres with a big bag full of shoes. I sell them for 15 euro or 20 euro each if I am lucky. I have to shout at the beach walking long kilometers until someone asks me about the shoes. I don’t want to bother people so I try to stay at the edge of the beach just shouting out loud the price of the shoes.
There are days that I am really lucky and I sell even 5 pairs of shoes, but in general I sell 2 pairs. After I have sold them, I stop and I don’t work for the rest of the day. I take a bath and then I come home. We spend 1.500 lek (13 euro) to buy food and the rest I put it aside so we have some money left. It is hard to save money as I am the only one working at home and I have to maintain my parents, my bride and my son. Anyway I don’t complain.”

After Ibrahim has told his story we also have to ask him what about his work during winter time, how does he earn his living during cold days? He smiles bitterly and says that winter is a difficult period of the year. He has to work by collecting metal scrub. I work by collecting different kinds of metals because if I find some good metals I can sell them and earn good money to feed my family. I travel around north of Albania, in the villages near Burrel, Dibra and go from house to house to ask if they have metals to sell or give away. Sometimes I find myself in these lost places where I have to sleep because I don’t have the money to go back home everyday. I also have to sleep outside the car because police doesn't let you sleep inside. So imagine how cold it is in December or January up in the mountain areas. The good side of this work is that once you have found a big amount of metal you can go and sell it earning a lot of money. The best metals to sell are: aluminum (which I can sell for 5 euro per kilo) and cooper (3 euro per kilo). The rest of the metals I collect are very cheap (30 cent per kilo) so, I always try to find the precious two.”
Ibrahim has a great sense of business, he knows how to buy and sell, he has self confidence and all he cares about is his family. He wants to come to REFLECT classes to learn how a budget functions and how he can improve his work by getting some practical tools.

We are touched by his story and by his will to improve his life and his way of working. Ibrahim is only 18 years old but he already has a clear objective and knows he has to work hard to realize it. He is a really good example for the other young boys who listen to him carefully, looking at him with astonishment and curiosity. Ibrahim will be with ADRA staff on September and we will have a long way together to assist him while he is finding his own way to improve his life.

The day at the beach continued with games, activities and discussions. After a long day under the sun, we found a shaded area and we had lunch.

Everything was delicious and very well cooked. The day finished with some roma songs and dances during our way back home.