Pic of Stelina

Stelina, the young woman who seeks change for children and youth

“The contribution given as a group of children for some changes in the law for the rights and protection of children makes us proud because this law helps children in every corner of the Republic of Albania,” says Stelina.

The 21 year old, who is studying to become a social worker, is filled with emotion as she looks back on her childhood with the children and youth groups in World Vision Albania.

Stelina has chosen to become a social worker to help the children of the next generation so that they may have a life in all its fullness, just as the she did as a little girl full of dreams from Balldren in Lezha district.

Coming from a big family of seven, Stelina got involved in the World Vision Albania Sponsorship Programme in 2005 and later was also engaged in the children’s groups.

“I remember the Children’s Protection group created by World Vision Lezha,” she says. “It took work, commitment, discipline, will, and desire to see the world of children from two different aspects to become a part of it.”

Stelina remembers how it began.

“The first aspect was to see the world of children with colors, hope, games, and fun as all children see it,” she says. “And on the other hand – this was the hardest side of the medal for me as a child – was to see the world of children with its faults, with denied and unfulfilled rights. It was to be in the “shoes” of the children that did not know what childhood was.”

Today she sees more clearly the impact that the activities with the Children’s Protection group had on her character.

“Being part of the group was not only having the desire, but also the will to make changes, to have discipline, and to have clear thoughts, and to know how to fight for the rights that belong not only to you but to those you represent as well,” she says.

The patriarchal mentality and a community where children’s rights were unfulfilled were the reasons that pushed Stelina to become involved and contribute.

“The lack of children’s education and its negligence, the mentality of girls’ early marriages of (apart from lack of education, the early and undesired marriage was also present), the bullying of the newcomers from the local children, something that I’ve suffered myself, made me become part of this group, to claim the rights that belong to me, all my peers at the time and the children that came after,” says Stelina.

Some small wins are still vivid today in her memories.

“I remember that, with the group, we managed to keep in school and bring back some students there. It might not seem a high number to someone today, but it was a big step for us, a great achievement for the fact that even if they are just one or two, they have been able to successfully finish a cycle that might have been beneficial to them for a course, a university degree or even for their knowledge,” says Stelina.

Over time, Stelina grew up and she saw that she was changing by finding unknown forces within her, by gaining awareness that although children, they could change the reality and have an impact not only in their lives but also in those of thousands of children in Albania.

“I saw the first changes in myself,” she says - I was a more combative child for what belonged to me, but I was also more collaborative and tolerant.”

And she is proud of it because they contributed to do something that will impact their children’s life’s.

“What makes me feel proud is the fact that we, as a group, have done our job for the change of the Law for the Protection of Children’s Rights, - she says - The Law, like everything else, needed improvements. We have worked for about 5 years to achieve a good and significant product. Through meetings, hard-working training, creativity, and perseverance, we were able to see satisfactory results. The law has already changed; our initiative got into the Parliament, was considered, approved, and changed. This is not a small thing… a group of children that changes a law that helps every child in every corner of the Republic of Albania.”

The future... near the children

The years that passed at the Children’s Protection Group and later, at the Impact Club groups, not only marked the childhood of the girl from Lezha but also led her toward the future — a university education and a future profession.

“This group gave me a greater push to choose the profession for which I want to study and to work for in the near future,” she says. “When we used to work, hold meetings, or participate in activities, I understood that what I was doing at the time as a group member would be my profession. My desires have always been all-inclusive, and I have those desires even today, which I hope to realise with the profession I’m being educated for as a social worker.”

Good friends for life

“The last, but not the least, is the friendship. In many moments, friendship takes the first place, and this is made possible by the group,” she says. “So, it is not important if I was part of the group as a child or a member. The values and the formation that they helped me receive are what matters. It is a very nostalgic period for me, and I still continue to impact my community with the things I’ve learned. I think of myself as a good friend of the World Vision family, for which I’m very proud.”

She and adolescents like her in Albania want to be part of decisions made for them and they need to do things not just for their selves, but to help others as well, and mostly the most vulnerable ones.

 “If once I talked like a child talking to children, today I feel it is my obligation to raise my voice as a professional.”