Renato's photo

Renato, a volunteer missionary who also served during the quarantine

Two years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Renato, a World Vision volunteer, recalls his experience on the early days of the total lockdown in Albania. No one knew anything about coronavirus, everyone was looking for information on how it spreads, how we could protect ourselves, and about the harm the new virus could bring. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine was announced in Albania in early March, 2020. Everyone was obliged to stay at home, even many people lost their jobs and only source of income. Families were struggling to make ends and meet their basic needs.

Despite the fear we all had, some people took the risk to reach out to the most vulnerable people. Renato, the head of the Korça Local Church and a volunteer with World Vision Albania, was one of them. During that challenging days he decided to continue his mission of assisting children and families in need in the Korça area by distributing food and hygiene packages in collaboration with World Vision.

“In situations like the pandemic, where all is unknown, church's responsibility is more than clear. We are called to go where the most vulnerable people are, to those who's doors are not knocked by others, to those whose issues need to be heard and resolved,” he says.

During the first few days of lockdown, Renato was in quarantine with his family like everyone else. But soon he followed his mission and started visiting the families who were waiting for a supportive hand.

“I took the decision to leave the house and guide and assist families I knew through my church activities. My wife, Xhuli, who shares my values, did not criticise my decision. instead, she encouraged me to take care of my own health as well. I felt really good and in harmony with my own self since I was finally doing what I was called to do,” says Renato. 

Contribution and assistance are provided in a variety of ways during times of emergency. Many families benefited from World Vision's assistance in overcoming hardship and meeting their children's basic needs.  

Staff from the Korça Municipal Police were deployed to deliver food packages. The challenge was that the police did not know the home addresses of people in need, and Renato provided a valuable contribution in providing the list of families because he was familiar with them due to his work with World Vision and local institutions, who were distributing door-to-door packages for isolated families with no economic income.

After volunteering with World Vision, Renato asked his Church supporters to contribute for needy families as well so that more people could get food packages.

Soon after Renato and his family were infected with the coronavirus. Renato did not recover quickly and was also concerned with the health condition of his family. Thanks to his faith in God, he overcame this challenge; he and his family  fully recover.

“Though I was infected with COVID-19, I believe now is not the time to be inactive, but rather to contribute and support. We simply need to follow the preventive measures as I do now even more,” he says. “We keep meeting with people to identify needs, find solutions, and accomplish church's mission. As a believer and a Church leader, I am grateful for being involved in reaching out to people as a volunteer during the lockdown. I will do the same again whenever necessary to mobilise the communities, identify people's needs and find solutions. I was their voice when they were afraid that no one would hear them.”

Since 2014, Renato has been a World Vision associate in Korça. He
 has been a regular attendee in child welfare meetings, committed to help children in need. Renato is World Vision's partner and collaborates for different programmes.

He is dedicating his efforts to spiritual growth and development. World Vision projects and initiatives in which he has been involved are mostly focused on nurturing essential values such as tolerance, understanding, peace, resolution, and conflict management.

In every consultation and involvement he has represented the Church and his religious community. “I've never doubted in God's love and grace. But in times of crisis, like the pandemic, believing in God is crucial,” he says. “Being a believer and leader of Church helped me significantly during the pandemic and continues to help me in my work in the Church, in our calling and ministry, and in sowing the seed of hope in the communities where we work.”