TIP’s Ten Out of Ten

In the ten years since The Ideas Partnership’s founding, many people’s lives have been changed by its work: schoolchildren, women, newborn babies, mature students, donors, volunteers and many others. In our tenth anniversary year we’re sharing Ten Out Of Ten stories – ten different accounts of what TIP means.

1. Jack volunteers in Kosovo

“Before I went to Kosovë to work with The Ideas Partnership (TIP) I was your typical disenfranchised millennial. I was working in a bar but telling people that I was a sound engineer; I was going out a lot but was always bored; I was living in a place filled with opportunity but was blind to any of it. After some time I was beginning to think that I might be a bit unhappy with my situation.

As luck would have it, Elizabeth Gowing was visiting my family. She told me that she was looking for volunteers to help out in Kosovë, she asked if I would be interested and I was. I thought this seemed like something new and I liked the idea of helping people too. Going to Kosovë then turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

After staying and working all over Kosova, meeting some of the most hospitable people I have ever met and after having couple of culture shocks as well as a couple of rakis, I believe something had changed in me. I returned to the UK with a new drive to be better and to do better. I signed up for an access course, spent a year at college and am now currently undertaking a degree in Paramedic Science, which I will graduate from in 2020.

I truly believe that The Ideas Partnership and Kosova gave me the humility and the understanding that allowed me to become a better version of myself. I would whole-heartedly encourage anyone to spend some time with TIP. I have subsequently returned to Kosovë around a dozen times in the past few years and plan to keep doing so though out the years to come.”

2. Shkurte helps future girls

“It was a surprise for me to be learning and to be having a better life. I was amazed because I didn’t even know what school was.”

Shkurte was one of the children who attended daily classes when TIP started working in her community in 2011. She was the second child of 578 children TIP has now registered in mainstream school. “I thought that people who went to school would have a better future and then I managed to get there myself.”

Now Shkurte is in the 8th grade; her favourite subject is art, and chemistry the one she finds most difficult. She plans to go to high school. “My parents have helped me, because they’ve given me the will to achieve; they’ve talked about the future.”

Approximately one third of girls in the community in Fushe Kosove marry (illegally) before the age of 16 – with a dramatic impact on their education, their economic prospects, and their own children. Shkurte is one of 8 teenagers in TIP’s Little Social Workers programme, funded by the Danish Refugee Council, which inspires able youngsters from the community to become social workers in the future with the skills and knowledge to defend girls at risk of early marriage.

“Arijeta tells us not to get married early. What do you need to get married for? Getting married early is not good for the children you might have. Do it later when you’ll be able to feed them. If you get married early you drop out of school. Early marriages happen because people think it will be a better life, but it’s not. First of all, complete school.”

3. Rexhep gets a hat (not a gun)

“Addition, subtraction; the numbers up to ten. And my teacher called Arta.”

Rexhep has clear memories of his time as one of 311 children who have been educated at TIP’s kindergarten since it opened in Fushe Kosove nearly five years ago. He has now moved on to primary school. Rexhep’s father works as a woodcutter in winter. He left school in fourth grade, while Rexhep’s mum dropped out in the eighth grade. Rexhep’s favourite subject is English, which he first learned through TIP’s online Reading Together programme linking UK volunteers and new Kosovan readers via Skype. He wants to study it at university. “I want to be a policeman because you have good colleagues and when you catch a thief you have to put them in prison; when there’s a case you have to go and investigate. You get to exercise. And you get a gun.”

Rexhep remembers particular TIP volunteers he’s worked with: Britons online, a Kosovar Bosnian at our centre, and four Kosovar Albanians who were part of TIP’s summer camp: “We made food. Our team got second place!” And he remembers his education in TIP’s centre.

“You learn at the centre and then you go to school and when the teacher asks you, you know the answer. Now I know the times tables…. Though not the sevens and eights… I got a school bag and a sketchbook. If someone has a broken bag you [TIP] give them a new one you make them happy. I also remember that Hysni gave me a woolly hat that you had brought back for all the children from England. I want to say thank you to the person who made that hat just for me.”

4. Arlinda tries again

‘I noticed Arlinda right away because of her interest and the constant commitment she displayed’, says her teacher in The Ideas Partnership’s basic skills class for women. ‘I can see that deep within her she has a fighting spirit of ambition, together with being so sweet with her family and other people.’

Arlinda first came to TIP hoping to sell some of her crochet work. There didn’t seem to be a market for it, in the margins of Elizabeth’s talks on bee-keeping and other Kosovo-related themes.

‘She would always say “I’m doing all I can to make sure that the education I’ve not managed to achieve for myself can be achieved for my children”. She gives me hope for the future.’

A week later the mother of five was back with a selection of bee-themed crafts she’d found patterns for online – baby booties in yellow and black honeybee stripes, and little yellow hats with black antennae.

She was a natural for the classes, which give women a second chance at education, and she’s taken her handcrafts to a new level as the proud owner of a business she registered herself. Now she’s secured a business grant to start a new product line drawing inspiration from the rubbish-picking activities which are a major source of income in her community. ‘I saw how many old music CDs were in the rubbish’, she says, ‘and I found some examples online of how these CDs could make beautiful mosaic jewellery. With my grant I’ve been able to make the first necklace pendants from upcycled CDs, giving a second chance to the things that people throw away. Through The Ideas Partnership I’ve even been able to get the necklaces sold in a shop in England.’

Arlinda’s never had any formal education. She’s learned some basic skills through The Ideas Partnership, and brought her own extraordinary determination.

‘What I’m most proud of is that now I don’t just rely on my husband – I can earn for our family. My children are impressed by the work I’ve done. And now I’m dreaming of building a better house for my children – we’re overcrowded where we live now and it’s damp.’