The Don Bosco Centre in Shkodra – A haven for children

Erfahrungsbericht aus erster Hand: Albanien
New projects in India and Albania

The mountains of Albania are home to a great many of medicinal and culinary plants – but they cannot alleviate the prevailing lack of education. Here in the countryside there are no schools, whole villages are deserted. Many families are drawn to the big cities in search of work and a better life, mostly without success. About 60 percent of the population live below the poverty line. This makes Albania one of the poorest countries in Europe. The suffering ones are always the children and teenagers, the ones who suffer most are the girls. They have to help with the household and the harvest and cannot go to school.

Mix for Kids wants to give these children from the rural mountain regions of Albania an opportunity for education. With this in mind our association has been supporting the Don Bosco Centre in Shkodra since 2018. In the fifth largest city in the country, the Don Bosco sisters have been running a kindergarten, a primary school and a secondary school since 1992. All children are welcome here: no matter whether girl or boy, from the city or the country side, disabled or mentally retarded – they play together, laugh, sing, do sports and learn. The Don Bosco sisters lovingly and professionally accompany their protégés into an independent and dignified life.

Mix for Kids wants to help the teenagers from the mountain villages in particular. Together with Don Bosco Mondo, we finance complete scholarships for the school of the Don Bosco sisters on the one hand and on the other hand support further families who otherwise would not be able to pay for the school themselves. Mix for Kids also supports the educational institution where needed by buying teaching materials and sports equipment, for example, as well as financing school trips and renovations.

It’s the little things that make a big difference
Thirty-five children from disadvantaged families who are unable to afford lunch after class received a healthy hot meal every school day for a year. New shirts and blouses meant that everyone had the same school uniform. An electric potter’s wheel and all the necessary tools for pottery courses were purchased to help children with autism develop their individual motor skills. The school was also able to acquire a wide range of leisure equipment for games, sport, music and art and to offer various afternoon courses. The students had an unforgettable experience in the capital, Tirana, with a trip to the zoo and the botanical gardens.

Extra support and cooking lessons
Children with autism and ADHD have special needs. For a five-year-old girl struggling with this type of condition, Mix for Kids will now fund an individual teaching assistant to provide extra support as well as the school fees over a period of two years, as the girl’s parents are unable to afford this professional help. The school’s itinerary also includes cooking lessons, which the young people, often from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, make good use of to prepare themselves for working life. As the school lacks hotplates in particular, Mix for Kids is funding the purchase of new kitchen equipment.

Scholarships and music lessons
In addition to the scholarships that three girls from disadvantaged backgrounds are receiving to allow them to attend high school, a music project for sensory-motor support and inclusion was launched. The aim was to give children with autism, ADHD or learning difficulties the opportunity to develop their language and socialization skills through music. Since there were only a few musical instruments at the school, drums, triangles, flutes and guitars, among other things, were purchased. Every single one of the 40 children who require special support because of their disabilities received an individualized curriculum for music therapy.

A bicycle and support for the school choir
For the Don Bosco Centre’s 30th anniversary, Mix for Kids gifted the school a bicycle and enabled the school choir to have professional voice and video recordings, as well as having a songbook printed. “Thank you, Mix for Kids, for making these moments possible,” said Sister Isabel Aguilar.

iPhones for lessons
The nuns and teachers received ten second-hand but fully functional iPhones for their school lessons from Mix for Kids. The devices are used to help the children learn and to increase their media literacy.

A trip to the sea and to the mountains
A total of 219 boys and girls spent their days making unforgettable memories at the Don Bosco Centre summer camp. The volunteers and Don Bosco nuns organized a rich and varied vacation program. The days were spent eating, singing, dancing, laughing and playing together, as well as taking part in various group classes. The children had the chance to try out different sports, have a go at acting, take singing or guitar lessons, learn to cook and improve their computer skills. It was a welcome chance to cool off somewhere different, away from the heatwave in the city. During the summer camp, everyone was given the opportunity to spend two days at the beach and one day in the mountains. Swimming, building sandcastles, hiking and discovering nature – the children had a fantastic time. Mix for Kids covered the bulk of the cost for the trips.

Scholarships and lunch
Once the three students from disadvantaged families who were financially supported by Mix for Kids passed their high school exams, three other girls also received a three-year scholarship to continue their education. Mix for Kids also played a key role in 35 children being able to stay in school for longer than they would have been able, due to social circumstances and the fact that their parents could not afford to pay for lunch. They received a free hot, healthy meal at school every day for one year. In the afternoon, they had the opportunity to participate in extra tuition as well as dance and sport courses. The money from Mix for Kids was also enough to renovate the recreation rooms at the school.

Soccer boots, tracksuits and jerseys
The Don Bosco Centre was delighted to accept soccer boots, tracksuits, jerseys, sweaters, pants and socks for its sports courses. The German soccer team TSV Abtswind donated the used clothing to Mix for Kids who then sent more than eighty sports articles to Albania, where the equipment was gratefully received. TSV Abtswind had cleared space in its youth team’s room, but the sports club did not want the items to go to waste as they were still in good condition.

Scholarships for 25 young people
Mix for Kids enabled 25 young people to attend school for a year, and three of them for at least three years. The boys and girls, who come from Albanian mountain villages, received scholarships to attend the Don Bosco Centre. In addition, financial support was sent to several families who otherwise would not have been able to afford school for their children. In addition, Mix for Kids paid for the urgently needed repair of the school’s van.