Project Stories:

Visiting Sister Gratias

Help for the people in Albania

by Alastair Scott

„Do you like Albania?“ asks Nrek while driving me in his car through the evening rush hour of Tirana. Since three days I am in Albania to visit the partners of humedica „Yes, basically…“ „…but you don’t want to live here, right?“ he is reading my mind and finishes the sentence for me. „Right“, I answer a bit subdued. Nrek knows instantly what I am talking about. If you have a secure job, which earns enough money, then Albania is a nice place to live. But what, if you want to start a family here or fall ill?

Alastair Scott von humedica besucht die Missionsstation Sankt Josef in Albanien

Alastair Scott is responsible for supply aid projects at humedica and therefore visits regularly our partner organizations all over the world – here the missionary station Saint Josef in Albania. Photo: humedica

If you depend on the state health and social system in Albania, it becomes difficult - for all those, who are ill, handicapped or simply old and can not rely on financial support by their families. Or for those, who lose their jobs. Then it becomes an existential threat. All those things we too often take for granted in Germany do not exist here: a health care system that cares for you and your children without bribes and, on top, has a good standard, a school system, which is for free and strives to offer all children the same chances, a social system, which really takes care of the people, who need it.

The people here often live under extremely harsh living conditions. While I am looking forward to snow in the Allgäu, winter in the villages of Albania often means bitter cold in delipidated houses without isolation and heating. Here in Fushë-Arrëz, in the North-East of the country, where our partner operates, winters most often last for about six months bringing metre-deep snow.

Hier erhalten Menschen in Fushë-Arrëz Hilfsgüter im harten Winter

Especially in the winter the people of Fushë-Arrëz depend on relief goods supplies. Photo: missionary station Saint Josef.

Many young, working Albanians try their chances in the capital Tirana or abroad. But not the old, not the ill people. These are the ones, who stay behind alone with their growing distress and neediness. The suffering of the people here makes me think about my reasons to be here, but also motivates me to carry on my task, to do what I am here to do.

Forgotten crisis

I am on a monitoring tour. As responsible person for the relief good projects at humedica I am visiting regularly our partner organisations on site. There I check how to optimise our deliveries and whether the donations in kind really arrive in their intended destinations and whether they are used as planned.

The field of medical relief supply deals mainly with so-called „forgotten crises“– ongoing emergency situations, who get less attention in the media and therefore also receive less monetary donations. In order to help in these emergency situations nevertheless, we try to organise donations in kind. Everyday items, which can be used on site, but also medical relief goods or medicaments. This – thanks to the support of many generous companies, institutions and compassionate people– works quite well since the foundation of humedica 39 years ago.

The missionary station Saint Josef helps

At the moment I am staying at the missionary station Saint Josef in Fushë-Arrëz. There, in the North-East of the country Sister Gratias from Mindelheim in Germany engages since 1995 for the poorest inhabitants of the region. The city Fushë-Arrëz was founded in 1953 as a housing place for the people, who worked in the mines and lumber mills around. When the communist systems finally collapsed and the copper mines and sawmills were closed down, approximately 8.000 people were living here. In the meanwhile only about 3.000 people are still staying in the city, the unemployment rate is about 80 per cent. Many people now live on the breadline.

Schwester Gratias von der Missionsstation in Fushë-Arrëz kümmert sich um die Bewohner

Sister Gratias from the missionary station in Fushë-Arrëz cares for the inhabitants of the region. Photo: Missionary station Saint Josef.

Sister Gratias cares for them: she distributes food, clothes and other necessary items. Depilated buildings are rebuilt thanks to donations from abroad - and sometimes with the support of voluntary working teams. The missionary station runs a free ambulance, it distributes medicaments for a symbolic amount. There also is a kindergarten, where children get three warm meals a day. Sewing and knitting workshop productions aim to provide people with the skills to make a living on their own. On top Sister Gratias often provides the local hospitals with medicaments and bandaging materials to enable them to treat their patients as good as possible.

Urgently needed relief goods deliveries

humedica supports the missionary station since 2004. Till date we have sent over 134 tons of aid supplies worth more than one million EUR covering medicaments, food, incontinence and bandaging materials as well as everyday items such as blankets and matrasses.

Schwester Gratias von der Missionsstation in Fushë-Arrëz überreicht medizinisches Material an ein lokales Krankenhaus

humedica supports the missionary station in Albania with supply goods deliveries covering clothes, but also medical materials such as medicaments. Photo: humedica

During my monitoring trip I have noticed that we do not attain the same intended sustainable impact like in other supply goods projects supporting for example a development or education program. Should we therefore consider to end our relief good deliveries?

Certainly not. My discussions and observations on this journey have convinced me that our help in Albania arrives where it is needed most. Each week our relief goods are used to help people who really need them. Sometimes in the form of food in order to provide for meals that otherwise would not have taken place. Or by distributing a warm blanket or a winter jacket, which help to make winter temperatures more bearable.

Naturally we wish to improve the situation in Fushë-Arrëz sustainably – to create new jobs and future prospects for the people on site. But for the time being we are glad to have a local partner, whom we can help to bridge these difficult times.

Support Sister Gratias and us to help the people in Albania. Thank you so much!

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