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Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children

by Partnere per Femijet
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children
Monthly Mobile Library for Albanian Children

Children in Tropoje District have a very long summer school break - three and a half months!  Schools broke up at the end of May and will not restart until mid-September.  Although some children do not enjoy school and look forward to not doing lessons, for others the holidays are a time of isolation and boredom in small hamlets or homes on the mountains.

Parents are busy in the fields ensuring there will be enough produce to store for the winter months and many children also help out in the fields or take care of the cows, sheep or goats.  But what else do they occupy their time with?  For boys there is more freedom than for their sisters or other girls who must remain close to the home or help their mother with the household chores.  So boys can go and play in the fields or go and have a swim in the local river, but there is little else for leisure pursuits or arranged activities.  

This is where the Mobile Library helps to break the monotony and boredom of long summer breaks in the mountains. The regular monthly visits enable the children to gather in one place and to chat with school friends, to exchange the book for another one, to receive sketches to colour at home and to play some simple games.  Children frequently walk across the fields for 30 or 45 minutes to reach the library from their home.  During a recent visit to Babin, the weather was really bad and sheets of rain fell, but we still found twenty children crowded around the library, some with umbrellas, eager to have another book and take some sketches home to colour. The children's ages ranged from 6 to 17 years old with an equal mix of girls and boys.  The books chosen ranged from Hamlet to books for preschool children.  Two girls we spoke to told us that they had been coming to the library for two years and it was GREAT!  

Despite the poor weather the children were not ready to leave after choosing their books, so Alda the Project Manager decided to organize some simple games.  Dividing the group into two groups of equal numbers the two teams battled it out to guess the film, play or song.  Next the children formed a circle and one child had to go away and decide on a famous person that the others had to guess.  Much frustration occurred when the usual repetitive questions did not enable them to guess who the person was.  A short game of football with the only one remaining ball ensued before the children left for home.  This scenario occurs daily for Ilir and his assistant, demonstrating the need these children have for the Mobile Library.  The summer months do not see the teachers requesting books and materials, but come September they will also return.

What do we need to make the summer break a little less monotonous for the children and young people?  Games equipment like volley balls, footballs, skipping ropes, sets of skittles, bats and balls, puzzles, crayons and paints and colouring and sketch books.  A colouring book per child and a set of coloured pencils would make a big difference. Some of the books in the library have now been in service for three years and they are becoming worn, so we would like to replace them with newer versions.  Can you help us to achieve these aims and give a little pleasure to the children of the mountains? 

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Some children with their School Sets
Some children with their School Sets

 

On 15th September the children of Tropoje District returned to school including fourteen six year olds that were beginning their first grade in elementary school. More new children were eager to join the library, but as they needed their parents signed consent to their membership and the parents were not present they had to wait for the next visit of the library to choose their first book. For many children living in Tropoje, they attend school that is a considerable distance from their homes, some walk up to one hour each way, with parents not accompanying them on this daily journey.

During September we raised $503.61 through the Bonus Giving Week towards books and stationery sets enabling the most vulnerable children to return to school. This sum meant were able to buy 50 sets of books, notebooks and pens to give to children living in: Fierze, Llugaj, Babine, Berishe and Pac. The children were thrilled to receive these sets as they felt better about returning for the new school year. We would particularly like to thank The Rotary Club of Huntingdon Cromwell for their generous donation which contributed to half the money raised.

Ian a Peace Corps Volunteer based in Bajram Curri has now volunteered and is supporting the activities of the library. He brings his guitar along and sits in groups with the children singing favourite Albanian and English songs. Sometimes the children feel happy and dance along to the music. Ian has added 40 books to the library's stock adding to the variety available for the children.

Zyber, a retired 80 year old teacher from Bujan, pictured below accompanies his grandsons when the library makes its monthly visit. He told the Library Assistant,

"Now the weather is beginning to turn much colder as winter sets in. With darker and longer nights the children spend more time in their homes and need books and games to entertain themselves. I am so glad that the library comes every month as the boys can have a new book to read. Thank you all for giving us this library."

As the year comes to an end the children are all looking forward to a break from school and the New Year celebrations with their families. The New Year's Day is celebrated with special foods and gifts for the children. At the beginning of December, the Mobile Library received a very large and generous donation from a corporate partner of Globalgiving and this will enable us to purchase gifts for all the children who frequent the library. A heartfelt thank you to VMWare.

I would particularly like to thank all the friends and supporters of the Mobile Library for your continued support and generosity over the year. Without your donations we could not continue to offer the library service.

                                               A Happy New Year to Everyone!

Ian reads to the children
Ian reads to the children
Zyber, Retired Teacher
Zyber, Retired Teacher
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Nick and Gonxhe in Zherke, Bytyc Commune
Nick and Gonxhe in Zherke, Bytyc Commune

Children in Albania have a very long summer school break from the beginning of June until 15th September.  Children around the world love the opportunities to go to the beach; to play with their friends in the endless sunshine and to go on family holidays.  But what if your school break offers you none of these possibilities?

Many of the children who use the Mobile Library have never been to the seaside despite Albania having some of the nicest beaches in Eastern Europe; the reason is poverty with families having no possibility to pay the transportation or accommodation costs for an annual holiday.  Some lucky children will go with their families to the 'bjeshke' or plateau of the mountains in which they live.  They take their livestock and most of the household utensils with them to their rudimentary shelters.  The children, continue to care for the animals just like at home.  Children are expected to make their own entertainment as there is no money for toys, footballs, skipping ropes or swing balls.  

In July, Nick a member of Globalgiving staff came to visit the Mobile Library and as he was driven around the meandering mountain tracks he began to realise how bleak and sparse the landscape was.  The reality of where the children lived and how little there was to do began to sink in.  Nick visited Zherke a small village in Bytyc Commune, high up in the mountains in a community bordering Kosovo.  He saw the one room elementary school building sat on top of a hill with no books or materials to aid the children’s learning.  Many children betwween the ages of 6 and 11 years old walk for 50 minutes to reach school on unmade tracks or across fields.  Children walk on their own as their parents need to work in the fields or take care of the animals or younger children.  

Nick said; " Now that I have seen the school and the vast expanse of emptiness I can see why the Mobile Library is so important for the children of this part of Albania."  Alda and Gonxhe added; "That arriving in Zherke we could not imagine there were any children living there.  And then we saw them, the children running to the spot where the library was parked.  The children were animated and eager to see Naim and Ilir and to choose their next book."  They continued by talking about the discussion they had with the children and how the children could describe in detail what they had read. The children and their guests from America played games.  Visitors from other parts of Albania are very rare in this part of Tropoje, let alone two from America!

Nick later commented on the fact that as the library can only visit each place once per month if one book per child was enough as he now understood there was nothing else for the children to do.  The librarian, Naim told him that during the long summer school break that the library was able to lend each child two books as less children borrowed during the holidays due to the families taking them to the bjeshke.  Naim added; "That one book per child was not enough, but as there were more than 1,600 children all over the territory, the library did not have enough stock to give children more than one per month.  The library needs more books and is continually needing to buy newly published books for the children to read.  The demand keeps growing and its hard to keep up."  

When the holidays end there will be many new children starting at kindergartens and schools so more books and learning materials will be needed to inspire and encourage young children to pick up a book and journey into a world of adventure, fantasy and wonderment.

Can you help us to buy more books?

Zherke Elementary School
Zherke Elementary School
Children borrow new books
Children borrow new books
Children arrive at the Mobile Library
Children arrive at the Mobile Library
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Library Assistant with the new laptop.
Library Assistant with the new laptop.

During March the newly purchased laptop for the Library Assistant was handed over to Naim.  He was very delighted to receive the laptop as this was going to make his work much easier.  Naim commented: "That the job of keeping all the members names and the inventory of all the books and resources will be much easier and quicker now.  Thank you to everyone who has given money to the library."

The Mobile Library received a donation of seventy children's books in English from the Albanian International School in Tirana.  The story books for ages from five to twelve were given to Naim to add to the growing stock of English books.

In Shoshan village a boy of 9 years old who used to live in Italy,  arrived at the Mobile Library in March.  He is not fluent in Albanian so the Library Assistant and he did some activities with books and he really liked the time Naim was able to spend with him.  The boy loved, his time with the library and said about the Mobile Library: “WOW it looks like a home”..

Many of the children who come along to the library have a learning or physical disability.  This means that for most of them they do not attend school and are not literate.  Naim spends much time with these children reading to them, playing games or doing jigsaw puzzles and ensuring that each one takes home a book that a family member can read with them in the month.  One child with Down Syndrome aged seven years old likes to help Naim with the books and membership cards in the library.  Another girl with cerebral palsy looks forward to the visit of the library each month as she enjoys the activities.  She and her mother choose her book so that they can have something to do together at home.  In March activities were also facilitated to raise awareness on Down Syndrome and to celebrate the World Down Syndrome Day on 21st March 2014.

To encourage the children to read and understand the stories better, Naim has organised in a series of villages a competition in May the 'Best Readers' award. 

Ian, a Peace Corps volunteer, has begun to accompany the Mobile Library on some of its visits and teaches the children some basic English and also sings songs with the children accompanied by his guitar.  The children really like these additional opportunities to meet someone new and to have different songs and games.

During the week leading up to 1st June International Children's Day, the Library Assistant organised special activities related to the rights of children in each of the ten locations visited.  Apart from discussing children's rights the children took part in plays, readings about child rights, joint activities arranged with schools, dancing and games and creative art activities.  Teachers and educators also enabled children to recite poems, sing songs and have a celebration of their special day.

As the summer holidays approach the library will be planning to organise more games and sports activities to give the children the opportunities to play and socialise together outside of the schools and to use the beautiful sunny weather and natural resources available in Tropoje District.  More sports equipment is needed to be able to support the different age groups join in.

All about Girls Book
All about Girls Book
Library Assistant reads together with children
Library Assistant reads together with children
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During December 2013, January and February 2014, the Mobile Library continued to provide its regular service to the children, educators and teachers in Tropoje District.  At the end of January the Mobile Library had 1,680 children registered as regular users and borrowers of books each month.  This is an amazing number of regular and interested children who before this invaluable service began had only a few books related to their school subjects to look at. 

In Albania, families celebrate the New Year on 31st December, and this is when children may receive gifts.  Many of the children the Library Assistant meets live in economically poor situations where families do not have money to provide enough for their survival let alone for gifts and celebratory foods for this festive period.  The Library Assistant and the driver prepared small gifts wrapped in shiny paper for thirty children in December and gave them to some of the poorest children and to children with disabilities in the villages.  The gifts contained pens, pack of coloured pencils, exercise books and mathematics equipment.  In January the children of Berishe Village, gave the Mobile Library staff a Thank You card that they had prepared, as a thank you for the gifts they had received.  In addition some other children recited poems and portrayed short dramas to demonstrate some of their activities from the festive holidays.

The Library Assistant has been increasingly loaning books, games and puzzles to kindergarten teachers to improve their resources and give a larger number of young children access to toys and books that they do not have in their homes or in the kindergartens.  In Sopot Village in January the Library Assistant spent an hour with the preschoolers and introduced them to the Mobile Library; how to put puzzles together; read them a story from one of the library books and left the educator three puzzles and some specially selected books for her to read to the children and to arrange activities around.

Helping children to be aware of dangers and to help them to preserve their environment, the Library Assistant has been working on the themes of fire prevention, how to cross the roads safely and how to respect the natural environment.  With the use of books purchased for these topics even young children aged four and up have learnt how to cross the roads and to listen out for oncoming traffic.  The Library Assistant on a regular basis will return to these important subjects.

100 new books were purchased in January 2014 for the Mobile Library adding to the stock and giving the children additional titles and reference books to widen their horizons.  The Library Assistant will also have his new laptop in March which will enable him to work more effectively and keep better track of the books and library resources.

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Organization Information

Partnere per Femijet

Location: Tirana, Central Region - Albania
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ingrid Jones
Tirane, - Albania

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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