Youth build bridges to a better future through student-led newspaper

“The steps” is the name of the newspaper produced by 15 Peer Educators that have been supported by World Vision to raise awareness about issues that matter to them in their community.  For these youth, “The steps” represents a new world; brand new inside, coloured and decorated by their love and commitment as they establish and build the steps to fresh and meaningful lives.

The foundation begins in the hearts of poor children in Bregu I Lumit area; one of the poorest of the Albanian capital.  These children used to think that “my dreams don’t matter; nobody wants to hear my opinions. My life is supposed to be the same as the lives of my parents-poor and empty”. Today they think about themselves and their lives very differently.

Three years ago the group consisted of just three children.  They were fragile with low self- esteem. Today the group has grown to 15 and each of them knows very well who they are and where they are going. They even know how to strive for a better life.  They are less pessimistic even though physically they have very little.

“The steps” is the name of their first newspaper, which more than anything recounts their whole story, their challenges and aspirations.

“We agreed to call this newspaper “The Steps” because this is what our life used to be, we did everything, learned to advocate for our rights and to have a lot activities and awareness initiatives.  Each was done step by step just like a child does as he/she learns how to walk,” said Adelajda Zalia, one of the eldest Peer Educators in Bregu i Lumit area.

“This idea started when we as Peer Educators gathered information about newspapers in one of our training sessions about using a newspaper to deliver awareness messages to the communities.  Now I feel proud that we have written our own newspaper.  Inside it we described all the steps and what we have achieved during the long time we have worked closely with one another,” said Rodolf Dymali, 18 who has been the main contributor in the newspaper.

“I remember how I was three years ago - I was an unstable person who teased people in my neighbourhood. I didn’t know what I know now.  It sounds strange and beautiful as well but I have a deep desire to help my friends now since I’m more grown up.  With this newspaper, I want to show the outside world that we care about our community and want them to reflect on what we have learned,” he concluded with a satisfied smile.

World Vision’s Chidren in Crisis project (CIC) has been working in the Bregu i Lumit area for three years.  Bregu I Lumit is home to several vulnerable children who beg on the streets and sell cans and metal to earn money. Many of them have dropped out of school in order to help support their families. Once they miss a few classes and then fall behind, they find it very hard to rejoin.

During the last three years, World Vision has supported these youth by sponsoring their projects through the Stop Now Program! which contributes to the fight against child trafficking in Albania. The Peer Educators advocated and participated in several activities and training sessions about building life skills, positive parenting, human trafficking and abuses, the right of the children to be heard and educated, as well as photo training. 

The youth have visited several cities and shared experiences with other youth groups around Albania. Through this journey, some of the youth who had dropped out of school, like Bukurie Sala (Bukra) and Arber Dumali, are both now back in school. 

Some like Rodolfo Dymali know what it takes to have a real profession in life (hi is trying to create his own musical band). Some like Adelajda have discovered who they are through this project.

They have all come to realise the power of working together and their ability to advocate and bring change in other’s lives, and they are now more cared for, protected and participating in their community.

“Our plan is to invite more children to join our project.  We want to reach out to those who need help and are still working on the streets and those who have left school.  We want to lead them and help take care of them and want them to appreciate and discover their own worth and value for themselves just as we did,” said Rodolf.

“We are planning to deliver this newspaper to key institutions like schools, communes, and why not, to the stores, markets and people who walk around because our desire is that the others could know who we are and learn something from us, about what has changed our lives. Maybe this may work for them too”, said 15-year-old Reni Ferria, while looking very content as he browsed the newspaper.