A movie star and child sponsor

“You have a special place in my heart,” said Nickola Shreli (Nick), 34, to his sponsored child, Aurel, 9, from Bathore a suburb of Tirana, Albania. Nicola is a Hollywood actor and a screenwriter from Detroit, Michigan, in the United States; He is also the son of Albanian immigrants who came to the United States for work in the booming auto industry. Nick has been sponsoring Aurel for more than three years but this was the first time he met him in person. Even though he was busy, Nicola has tried more than twice to meet Aurel. When he first saw him, he could not stop himself from hugging Aurel. He greeted him and his family in Albanian language, which Nick understands quite well but is rusty in speaking it.

[Meeting Aurel for the first time in person. Photo by Klevisa Breshani/ World Vision]

Nick spent more than two hours with Aurel and his lovely family. A special joy filled both their hearts. “I felt like this was a dream because I knew Aurel only in a picture but now that I saw him in person, I think he is really a beautiful boy.  He is sensible and smart. When I look in his eyes I understand that he is very special kid,” says Nick.

It felt the same way for Aurel and his family. They were looking forward to meet Nick so much. “When my phone rang and World Vision staff called I suspected something was happening and my suspicion was right,” says Shqipe, 40, Aurel’s mother. “They told me that Aurel’s sponsor was coming. I told Aurel and my two daughters, Artemisa and Alketa. Right away they stopped eating because joy and great emotions had embraced their hearts. Nor did they sleep just thinking of meeting him the next day”, she says to Nickola.

Nick has been involved with World Vision since 2007, first sponsoring a child from Vlora area, Albania; Luciano, but as Nick explains –Luciano immigrated to Greece and their connection was cut. But this did not stop Nick from supporting Albanian kids and helping them have a better life. While asking him about the reason of sponsoring Aurel –Nick replies:  “There is no more precious thing than children,” he says. “I wanted to do something to help an Albanian child and so I did some research about kid’s situation in Albania and the charities there. After Luciano left, through World Vision I saw some other kid’s pictures [in the website] and I saw another beautiful boy. He looked just like my father when he was young. So I decided to sponsor him in an instant,” says Nick smiling and looking at Aurel with eyes of joy. “It makes you feel good and I wish I could do more for him,” he adds.

[Nick and Aurel's family. Photo by Klevisa Breshani/ World Vision]

Although Nick appears mostly in action movies and thrillers, his roles don’t match the real Nick. He has a great heart to help children and to make their lives safer. This is very much reflected in his eyes as well as in his words. Nick is married and a father of two little ones. He strongly believes that positive change starts with children.  “I wish to play just a little part in the life of Aurel,  to help  him  grow up happy and make some sort of difference in his life,” Nick says adding that “If you help one, five or fifteen kids the city will be a better place. You should do this when they are younger because, if they grow up smart, then the country will progress,” he states.  

When asked about what part Aurel plays in his life Nick answers:  “I think about him a lot. I wonder what he is doing. He is very smart and important to me,” Nick says.  

As per Aurel, he was so overwhelmed with joy. Being a bit shy by nature, but the top student at his class Aurel could not say much to Nick, but his eyes were full of gratitude thankfulness and, somehow,  with pride  for having a movie star friend as a sponsor. “It’s so good to have a friend like Nick. He is a very important person in my life,” says Aurel while demonstrating a cute high five gesture with Nick, a thing that Nick taught Aurel when they met. It was a special and unique greeting sign of their bonded friendship.

“We live a life as the majority of Albanian families, with many problems. We are five members in the family and my husband works only by chance and we cannot fulfill all our children’s needs but Nick has helped,” adds Shqipe, while gifting Nick with a handmade craft as a sign of entire family member’s gratitude.

“If he asks me for advice or to help him to choose what he wants to be when he grows up, I am just an e-mail apart from him,” Nick concludes.

[A photo of Nick with World Vision staff. Photo by Klevisa Breshani/World Vision]

Consider sponsoring a child in Albania today. Your ongoing support will help provide a child and his or her family and community with life-saving basics, including protection from exploitation, school dropout, hunger and neglect.