A first step toward integration

BY: MARTIN FALKMAN

ALBANIA: In Albania, children living in poverty are offered a trouble-free zone, away from the turbulence and turmoil of everyday life. The project is a collaboration between We Effect and Världens barn (Children of the World).

The smell of mold and moist lies dense in the dark one-room apartment in southern Albania that the Kollona family call home. They, and many other members of the Roma community, live in deep poverty and the sole income of the family is the social welfare. It barely gets them around.
– Securing food every day is a challenge. But this place is better than where we used to live; an abandoned industrial warehouse without electricity or toilets, family father Aleks Kollona explains, his eyes bearing witness to harsh reality.

The youngest son of the Kollona family attends the preschool project funded by We Effect and Världens barn. The project aims at increasing preschool attendance, promoting integration and awareness concerning the benefits of registering as a citizen. Scepticism towards the education system is high in the Roma community as there is widespread discrimination of the Roma population throughout society.

The project includes some 300 children and their families. Five preschools have been improved, several teachers have had further education in child development, integration and planning. Study materials have been updated and distributed and the children have also been provided with regular access to healthcare through the preschools. According to Aleks Kollona, the project makes a big difference:
– My son really likes being in preschool now. His old school wasn’t good. The teachers, especially. They kept criticising him for being dirty and having worn out clothes. The teachers in these preschools, involved in the project, are a lot better. They care for my son.