After the earthquake in Albania: Lara could not speak

What the twelve-year-old experienced

by Julia Kittnar,  2020/03/27

When Lara* woke, the earth trembled. Walls shook and plaster came down falling on her head and body. Lara is twelve years old. With horror she remembers the severe earthquake, which hit her Albanian home the 26th of November 2019.

„I covered my head with my hands and wanted to call for my Mama, but my voice had gone“, reports Lara. „I could hear Mama calling for me, but I was not able not answer. It felt like being unconscious.“ Lara´s sister and her brother were crying, walls, bricks and the ceiling were coming down. Everywhere in the house tiles were falling.

Not a stone left standing. Many people in Albania lost their homes to the earthquake on the 26th of November 2019. Photo: humedica

When the earthquake hit, Lara was living in Grecë, a village not far from Tirana. The region surrounding the Albanian capital was stricken especially hard. 51 people died and about 1,000 casualties had to be treated. 14,000 people fled the area temporarily and became homeless.

Lara and her family were also affected: „Our house is inhabitable now. Mama, Papa, my sister, my brother and me, we are currently living in a tent. Our school, too, collapsed after the earthquake“, she tells us. Only one day after the disaster had struck humedica and the partner „Swiss Foundation for Innovation“ (SFI) were on site and provided the utmost necessities such as food, matrasses, tents and hygiene kits.

As vital as the immediate help was, it is equally important to support the victims in the long term. The earthquake did not only leave material traces: Many people are traumatized by their experiences. Lara, too, needed help to cope with what she had lived through. „After the earthquake I did not want to do anything, not even to speak“, she says.

Lara refused to speak after the earthquake. The psychosocial therapy in the child center run by humedica and "Swiss Foundation of Innovation" has helped her to process the events. Photo: humedica

Lara found help in the child center run by humedica and SFI. There she can play and have fun. Lara takes part in a recreational program providing psychosocial assistance. With the care team she can talk about her thoughts and feelings. „I feel very safe there and enjoy my time with the other children“, she says.

In the villages there are many more children like Lara, who need care and psychosocial help to overcome the experiences they had to live through. The blue humedica bus brings them to the child center, which offers a perspective for Lara und the other affected children.

The humedica bus brings the children to the child center, where they can play and have fun.

Lara did a lot of handicraft since the earthquake. Her favorite item is a self-made picture frame with one of her drawings. As a grown-up she wants to become a teacher. Till then her biggest wish is quite simple: A home with a wall. „Someday, when we will have a house again, I want to hang my picture frame on one of its walls“, Lara hopes.

*name changed

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

Update my browser now×