Europe has no borders – La nostra esperienza a Tirana

Hi guys,

we are the italian EVS’s that are participating to the project “eUrope has no borders”. We have been in Tirana more than one month and finally we manage to tell you about our adventure!

We are 13 volunteers from Italy, Germany and Turkey and we live, work and have fun together.

Our house is located in the Student’s area of the city and we really really like it. Many students crowd it from morning till night, and we have been literally adopted by the locals: our trusted bar provides us awesome breakfasts, Jozi welcomes us with love in his tavern where burek, rakija, wine and popular music are never missing. Not to talk about the students who are volunteering for BBA: they are always ready to help us and have fun with us, making us discover the best local places of the city.

Our work consists into different activities: promoting active citizenship and European citizenship in the high-schools and universities, playing and organizing activities for the children of some “special schools” that deal with youngsters with different kinds of mental and physical disabilities.

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Volunteering keeps us busy from Monday to Friday, and all the week-end we take advantage of our free time to travel throughout Albania and discover the Balkans. Our next stop will be the North of Albania and Montenegro, we can’t wait to leave!

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Our cohabitation is very intense. 13 people, coming from different countries and different cultures, create an explosive mix! It is not always easy to stay together and satisfy everyone’s needs, but with commitment and creativity we are trying to build a small-scale Europe in our home. It’s not an easy task, but it’s fun.

It’s not easy to describe in a few words the city that is hosting us. The first thing that catches your eye is the multitude of contrasts: On the street, in the traffic’s jungle, you immediately notice plenty of legendary Mercedes from the 80’s and brand new expensive SUV’s, luxury pubs facing onto streets with no drains.

However, the element that characterizes the city is the openness of it’s inhabitants toward the foreigners. We arrived to Tirana carrying with us some prejudices and stereotypes, that disappeared soon after we came into contact with the people and the local culture, characterized by an extreme kindness and sense of hospitality, that applies to all the Albanian community.

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We believe that the only way to understand what the EVS is , is to live it.

For us it is a unique occasion to test ourselves, learn new languages, new cultures, getting in touch with different ways of living, but having also a splendid opportunity to travel, be together and grow up, as a group and personally. Our luggage, on the way back home, is going to be filled by many intense moments that will accompany us all life long.

Daniele, Virginia, Emanuele, Francesca, Erlanda

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Eri and his Evs in Santander!

Ermir Destani is a volunteer of Beyond Barriers who decided to go in Spain for his European Voluntary Service. In this short interview he tells us more about his work and his new life there.

Hello Eri, how is it going in Santander? What Evs project are you currently working on? 

Hola, qué tal?!? Santander is a small city on the Spanish north coast, a bit cold but I like it very much. Spanish life is different from that one in Tirana. Here people are quiet during the day and “crazy” during the night: well, this is Spain! Actually  I have only 3 months left here and I still have to discover more about the city and its culture. Spanish people are very friendly and this is giving me the opportunity to improve my Spanish. In general, getting  involved in the Spanish life was not so difficult and now I have a lot of friends. I work in a cultural center called “Eureka” and my tasks are to collaborate for the organisation of different activities like music courses for youngsters and language courses as English, Spanish, Italian and German. This center also gives young people the chance to develop their ideas or projects. In my case I am leading a drowing course for children and I am drowing portrets for everyone who would like to have its own! At the end of these activities I will organise an exhibition. I can say that everything is going very well and I am very happy about that.

Did you meet new people?

The first people I met were two “older” volunteers: Riccardo (from Italy) and Thomas (from France) and then they introduced me their friends. They really helped me to get involved in “Santander life”: now I have a lot of friends and I spend a lot of time with them playing football, surfing, going to the cinema and watching football on the TV. Surf is my new hobby and it is very very exciting, I am practising it almost every weekend!

 How is your life in Spain?

Just one word: great!

Here in Beyond Barriers you were our photographer, are you having the chance to improve your skills or to keep continuing your activity in Spain?

Yes of course! I take my camera with me everywhere.  Two weeks ago I partecipated to photographic exhibition “La Calle del Sol” and the theme was the city of Santander. It was organised by the cultural center where I am working.

Plans for the future?

For the moment I do not have some particular ideas but I hope I will develop new ones when I will be back in Albania.

Te pelqen muzika Italiane?

Few days ago I realized that Albanian children appreciate Italian music! During the drawing class in the “Gurakuqi” school the teacher was testing a radio that she got.
Suddenly the song “Sarà perché ti amo” started and Berti, the “boss” of the class, started jumping and dancing. In few seconds everybody was following him and they were so happy that I could not resist so I joined them even if I personally hate that song.
Evs can change your mind…
Now when I will listen to it I will just think about 10 beautiful children jumping around and asking me do dance with them.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera so I can just suggest the link of the song…
Enjoy!

Promoting Voluntarism!

Evs volunteers started again with their work in high schools of Tirana.

This week we went to promote voluntarism in Qemal Stafa school and we discussed with students about European Voluntary Service, what volunteering means to them and what benefits they can get from this experience.

They agreed on the main idea that volunteering means working for a social cause, getting new experiences and meeting new people. They also thought that a voluntary experience can give more credits when it will be time to apply for a job.

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We want to thank these great students for their attention and we really hope they are going to join our activities in the Local Voluntary Centre.

Faleminderit shumë!!!

Christmas Party!!!

You have to organize a Christmas Party.
You don’t have a lot of money.
You have a lot of paper boxes in the balcony.
Around 100 children in Luiji Gurakuqi School would be happy to have a party.

Can the EVS volunteers organize a great party for them in one day? Of course they can!

What is needed is just a lot of imagination and to come back to our childhood…
We decided to dress up as Christmas tree, reindeer, Christmas package and Santa Claus was our special guest who arrived directly from Portugal.

With some paper boxes, coloured papers, cotton and colours we created a sled, a Christmas tree and a huge “human” package…
When the children saw us at first they were a bit confused but then they enjoyed so much the party! We gave them some sweet and then we danced all together…

Sometimes pictures explain better the feelings, so check the photo gallery below!

And of course… We wish you a Merry Christmas!!!

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Let’s Volunteer!

Busy week-end for Beyond Barriers. The International day of persons with disabilities and the International day of volunteers coincided in the same week-end (respectively the 3rd and the 5th of December) so Evs and local volunteers from the Local Voluntary Centre worked a lot in order to give visibility to these important days and to make them perfect!

Saturday. International day of persons with disabilities and Adeline’s exhibition.
As you maybe know the 1st of December our EVS volunteers Agata, Matteo and Goran left Albania but Adeline decided to stay one week more to organize an exhibition showing the pictures that she took with Sander, the volunteer who did the short-term Evs in Tirana in August. They wanted to show their work in Luiji Guraquki special school and how they perceived Albania during their stay here. The exhibition took place in Tirana Ekspres, a new art space located next to the train station of Tirana whose aim is to serve as a resource facility for local and international artists. The exhibition was attended by about 60 people: a great result for the first exhibition of our volunteer Adeline!

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Sunday. Working for the big event…
Sunday was another busy day. We met in the National Museum to prepare the big exhibition with pictures of all activities of Beyond Barriers and we moved Adeline’s exhibition from Tirana Ekspres to the museum. We had also the itinerant exposition “Volunteers in Action” that arrived in Tirana after a journey around 8 cities in the Balkans. In the meanwhile some groups of volunteers went around the city to spread postcard to promote the idea of voluntarism and to raise the awareness of the public towards the disabled people and volunteer work.
Other organisations from Tirana prepared their space for the Ngo fair: Albanian Youth Council, United Nations Volunteers , Roma Active Albania, Red Cross Albania, Walk Together, Albanian Quality Life Union (Al-Qu), Sanus organization, Youth Studens Association (Rinia Studentore), All different All equal NGO, Save the Children Albanian National Association of Deaf (ANAD), SCOUT Albania, TAMAM Albania.

Monday. The big day!
At 9:30 everything was ready, everybody was just waiting for the guests. Around 10:00 the event “We are all Volunteers” started with Ana Derivishi’s speech (executive director of Beyond Barriers) who was followed by the Europen Union Ambassador Mr. Ettore Sequi, the Vice Mayor of Tirana Mr.Edmond Panariti, the Vice Minister of Integration Mr.Edmond Hoxha and by the SEEYN training Manager Mirela Rajkovic.
A lot of people attended the event, and it was so nice to meet some guys from the special school where we are working. They could not imagine that their pictures were showed in a such big museum!
With the exhibition we wanted to show voluntarism through our daily work and we really hope we transmitted our dedication to people who were there.
We are really proud of our work and we are not the only ones who think we did it well: Beyond Barriers got a special Award for the Local Volunteer Service Centre as the “Most Successful Volunteer Project of the Year 2011”. The award was given from the Ministry of Tourism, Youth and Culture, Albanian Youth Council and UNV.

We want to thank all the volunteers who participated for the preparation of the event and everyone who came to enjoy the exhibitions.

Faleminderit shumë!!!

The first week in Albaina! – by Lauren

All the volunteers have now met, its a very mixed group of people but everyone gets on well. I enjoyed the welcome party and getting to meet the rest of the volunteers.

We have also started the Albanian lessons, i find it very difficult with all the accents on the letters and all the masculin and femine versions of the words. Ive started to pick up on some of the words though.

Do you have your schoolbag? [Adeline]

New volunteers have well and truly taken possession of this blog! Hopefully they will not censor this article…

Today was their first day with the children. I have to say that I was really impressed. I don’t remember exactly how did we act and react during our first day at school. But I can affirm that today they were great! Even if they don’t speak at all Albanian, they managed to communicate with the children, to play with them and to do activities. The pupils were happy to have such active and patient new friends.

I was personally happy to be witness of that and I am really confident in what will happen during the next days. It’s really nice to share this experience and to try to build something together.
Moreover we start to know each other… [Dancers-cartoonists-writers-jokers-photographers-polyglots…I can’t wait to see more!]

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