By Linda Bardha, YES Alumni Coordinator for Albania
During our summer activities, we had a lot of fun in Albania!
In June, we collaborated with the Peace Corps and did an environmental action. We traveled together to the beach in Zvernec and cleaned polluted areas there. Afterwards we discussed other environmental actions we could do in the future. For this event, the media was involved which helped to publicize our actions.
Another activity that we did in June was a Father’s Day celebration with Alumni who had just returned from America. We had an extraordinary level of participation for this activity not only from the new group, but from the 1st and 2nd generation alumni as well. First, the 2012 alumni introduced themselves to the group and answered questions we asked about their experiences in the U.S. The new alumni said they were very happy with their experiences and had wonderful stories to share about their American families, schools, and friends. Then, we discussed the Father’s Day holiday and I suggested that we write nice notes to congratulate or thank our American host fathers for making our experiences in the U.S. so wonderful and unforgettable. Lastly, we discussed future events and activities.
July was another great month. Even though it was summer, I am happy to report that alumni attended activities and were very eager to help and to share their ideas and opinions. So many activities happened in July, but I can say that the American Independence Day event was the best! We were invited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the 4th of July at Wilson High School in Tirana. Fifteen alumni helped with the event organization and decoration. Olta Myslimi ’12 is very talented and she made a cool poster that was the Albanian eagle combined with the colors of the American flag. Some alumni came early to clean, organize, and set up and others arrived at noon. When everyone was there, we swam in the pool and hung out with each other. Our table had apple pies and brownies and was decorated with Olta’s poster, American flags, balloons and flowers. When invited guests arrived, some alumni greeted them and showed them around while others explained the items at our table. We were able to take many pictures with the U.S. Ambassador to Albania, Alexander Arvizu. It was a great activity and we really enjoyed it.
I am also excited to tell you about the August events we had. First, Gledisa Perleka ’11 and I welcomed Elaine Homstad, who was the flight leader for the new group of YES students travelling to America. We served as her guides in Tirana, and Olta and other alumni were her guides in Durres. It was a pleasure for me and we had a lot of fun together.
We also celebrated “Women’s Equality Day” in August and invited Albanian Parliament member Eglantina Gjermeni to speak with us about gender issues and the goal of gender equality in Albania. We also spoke about women earning the right to vote in the United States in 1920 and how this day is celebrated in America. We were able to ask Ms. Gjermeni questions related to this topic and about what we can do in the future—we all learned a lot from her!
Lastly, in August, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana brought together young alumni from Embassy-sponsored programs to meet with the Charge d’Affaires Henry Jandine, Public Affairs Officer Betsy Lewis, and other U.S. Embassy employees. Many alumni attended this activity, including one who is currently living outside of Albania (Enxhi Lami ’10) and two who live outside of Tirana (Xhesika Ruci ’11 and Marsid Nuho ’11). It was a pleasure for us to meet these Foreign Service officers and embassy employees because they have supported the activities we have worked on. I made a PowerPoint presentation of alumni and their experiences in the U.S. to show at this event and we all discussed the projects alumni have been working on.
This is the first in a series of seven articles describing what A-SMYLE and YES alumni in Southeast Europe were up to over the summer! Up next: YES Alumni Bosnia and Herzegovina!