Eni (22), student of Public Health at the University of Tirana, is one of the part-time staff working for Beyond Barriers (BB). To get a better idea about the work of BB and the motivation of young people to join the association, I interviewed her today about her engagement in BB and her experiences.
Eni started to work in the BB office in October 2011, but was already a volunteer for the association before. As most of the other volunteers, she got to know BB through a friend and went on international youth exchanges, „moving around the Balkan“, as she said. When she started, she was 19 and very happy to have the chance to travel. Her very first exchange was called „Angels in Action“ under the Youth in Action programme of the European Commission, that gathered very young people from Albania, Serbia, Macedonia and the UK. The content was to teach them how to get an active citizen and how to take part in the social life.
Comment: The chance of travelling is something very important for Albanians. Most of us Germans have many opportunities to get around the world, either on own initiative or through exchange programmes. But for Albanian youngsters it is much harder to get out of the country and to discover other countries. First of all, Albania is a very poor country and most people lack the financial means for travelling. But there are many other burdens to take: only since December 2010, Albanians do not need anylonger a Visa to visit countries of the Shengen area, and the country does not have that many exchange programmes as we have for students and young people.
When looking back, Eni said that at the time she joined BB, she was very happy to get involved in any kind of project. She worked on a project base for several associations and NGOs, like the National Association for Public Health or associations for elder people and projects with Roma communities. In her eyes, Albania has so many things to work on, that sometimes she does not know where to start. After all my time here, I can totally agree on this point.
In the first years of the existence of Beyond Barriers, the association did many workshops and trainings to help and educate young people with disabilities and fewer opportunities. Only in 2011, they started to work on the behalf of IPA funds with centers and schools for people with different abilities, sending their volunteers there to support the teachers and social workers and to promote volunteering in general. This year is already the second year that BB hosts four international long-term volunteers in the frame of the European Voluntary Service (EVS).
The work of Beyond Barriers can be divided into the work on national level and European level. On the international level, BB works as a bridge between their local volunteers and the centers for people with disabilities and recently also to associations working with Roma communities, women associations or environmental associations. BB provides trainings and knowledge to the volunteers and sends them to the centers and associations. These activities are funded by the Agency for the Support of Civil Society, that is part of the Albanian Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sport.
On the international level, BB works on behalf of the Youth in Action programme, launched by the European Commission. BB offers trainings and youth exchanges and the long-term EVS places in Tirana. During the last years, also other international short-term projects could be realised through to funds of SOROS, UNICEF or the European Council, just to mention some of the donors. Our short-term projects also belongs to these international projects.
More information about the life with different abilities and fewer opportunities will follow soon!