Honor’s Diary for The Ideas Partnership
I will always remember the week I spent with The Ideas Partnership. Despite being able to speak only a handful of words in Albanian, we were still able to bond with all the children we met and felt truly lucky to play even a small part in their education. Every day, we would be picked up from the centre of Prishtina and taken by the legendary driver, (DJ) Elvir, straight to the charity base in Fushë Kosovë. Each day we tended to stay for 4 hours, reading together with the kindergarten children or helping out in a variety of other ways, until we were ready to leave and the car would be called to take us back to our hotel. The set up could not have been easier, and allowed us to make the most of our all-too brief time in Kosovo. Communicating with the charity from England, we had no idea what to expect when we arrived, but we have found Kosovo the most open-hearted, fascinating and stress-free country to travel in.
The work of The Ideas Partnership in helping the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community, the poorest minority in Europe, is inspiring. Although it was shocking to drive through the community and witness children as young as four or five years old picking through rubbish for a living, the success of the charity has meant that many children are now receiving an education, whereas once this wouldn’t have been conceivable to them. Visiting the homes of some of the families with Elizabeth Gowing, the founder of the charity, or other TIP coordinators, gave us a glimpse into the issues being tackled. One young boy we met was receiving sponsorship to attend school as a result of donations channelled through TIP. His father was in jail, and was living with his grandmother and great-grandmother after his mother had abandoned him. The next day he was part of the 4th grade mathematics class I was teaching how to count up to 30 in English. The joy and pride I felt when the children called back the numbers and raced up to the front of the class to answer the maths questions I had set was overwhelming. This boy especially stunned me with his determination and eagerness to achieve. When his grandmother arrived slightly too early to collect him, he shooed her away, desperate to absorb every last second of what I was teaching. All the children wanted to make the most of every opportunity offered to them, and were desperate to impress us with what they knew.
The volunteers working with The Ideas Partnership were some of the kindest, most interesting and welcoming people I have ever met. The girls we were volunteering with on the Saturday invited us to go for dinner a couple of days later, and showed us round their favourite areas of the city. This was the night that Kosovo were playing their first international game of football as a part of FIFA, in order to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The atmosphere was joyous and very uplifting – I truly felt part of a very special moment in history. One of our friends even invited us to travel to her village, just outside of Prishtina, in order to meet her family. We were greeted by parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbours, friends, and siblings, and were presented with a delicious traditional Kosovan dish. This friendly attitude is typical of everyone we met here.
We spent a lot of time helping in the community kindergarten, as reading to the children in English from a young age will encourage them to absorb the language. Alongside the incredible Jashar, we created posters to teach the children about the names and order of the planets, as well as the Albanian alphabet. Knowing that our creations will be displayed at the school for many years to come, to be used to teach generations of Ashkali children, is very special.