“It started like a dream; we had dreamed about [it] for so long. But, now it is something concrete,” said Erijona, 23, with emotion. Three years after World Vision established the “Changing the Future” group as part of World Vision’s work in the Dirba Area Development Programme (ADP), the group has more than 300 participants and continues to grow in size and impact. Recently, the group celebrated the founding of their own organization, also called “Changing the Future” that will continue the community transformation started by World Vision.
The organization’s headquarters will be in the city of Peshkopi, in an office in the city hall, where they have been offered a space rent-free. This is where the first one or two staff members will work to identify and apply for additional funds in order to be able to implement the initiatives they plan to continue to improve the well-being of children in their community.
After sending the request for approval to the Albanian Tribunal, the youth threw an inauguration conference to share their aspirations, plans and success with other youth across Albania involved in similar clubs in other communities where World Vision is working. Surrounded by media outlets, local government representatives, NGOs, business, community members, the head of commune and teachers, the Changing the Future group shared their vision which is to be: “Youth, transformers of the community and leaders of the future” and their mission: “to stimulate youth for an active civil society toward the development of the region and their role as agents of change in the community” with fellow change makers.
On their second day together, the youth danced and performed short comedies and brainstormed new ideas and other initiatives to help their communities.
The youth, who believe strongly that others will follow their examples of change, encouraged the participants in the inaugural events by sharing their own stories of personal transformation, highlighting the impact that three years of working together has had on them and their communities.
“[World Vision’s] Changing the Future group changed my life,” said Olta, 20. “I was a person with low self-esteem who thought I could never do anything as fragile as I am. Here, thanks to the good words of my new friends and the beautiful things we have done together to help communities, I feel strong and at peace,” she adds.
“I was helped to find myself,” said Samet, 22. Explaining in front of hundreds of participants how that change came to be. “It started when I was helping the children in the World Vision summer camps. As [I was] trying to understand their problems and sorrows, especially those with disabilities, I realized my dream was to become a psychologist in order to offer the best of me for those in need,” he said.
Ilir, 25, one of the youth leaders in these initiatives explains how the NGO will function. “We have created a group of youth delegates,” he says, noting that they voted for 12 people to lead objectives focused primarily on: children, tourism, agriculture and the media. “Children are our main focus, but we will work very hard in developing the youth talents in the area and also tourism in the mountain in order to utilize the natural resources and help the residents to have a better life,” He added.
Ilir and the other youth plan to support tourism by creating a guide to traditional food and hostels for the tourists. “[In order to meet our goals], we will apply for grants wherever it is possible and employ capable members from our group,” adds Ilir.
What these youth are doing is a great achievement for the city,” says Marko, 17, a youth of Kurbin ADP. “They are being an example for us to do the same one day,” he said.
“What we have done and learned during these three years will function like a trampoline for us to jump further in undertaking more initiatives, bigger ones, to help our people,” said Ana, 23. “[And, I am sure], if something is planted with love, it will grow and flourish,” she added,with tears of joy.
“For me, seeing these youth is so much more than an achievement,” said Anduela, World Vision’s Dibra ADP manager.“We are so proud of them! I just want them to know that World Vision will be always with them to help in any time,” she added.
During this period of time the Changing the Future group has been trained and empowered by World Vision on how to: apply for grants, protect children online, as well as training in life and professional skills, conflict resolution, gender balance, communications skills [how to advocate through photos and written media],leadership training, animator training, facilitation training, etc… The youth group started with 100 people.
It now has more than 300 members who, over the past three years, have been involved in initiatives like raising funds locally to: restore kindergartens and schools in the poorest areas of their communities, painting the walls of a maternity clinic with beautiful flowers and characters from the Disney movies, helping little kids express and develop their talents throughphotographyto raise awareness about child rights, child violence, child labour, etc.
Recently, the youth helped raise money from the community members, which contributed to helping pay the medical expenses of a child named Andi, helping him get the surgery he needed (a kidney transplant)that was not possible to do in Albania.In addition to the financial resources, the youth also brought Andi’s case to the Ministry of Health, convincing them they should provide the support he needed.
Eventually the Ministry covered most of the expenses for Andi’s medical procedure and this little boy who could of died is enjoying good health and a normal life, thanks in part to members of this group.
Four of the children who helped form the group are registered in the sponsorship programme.