Category Archives: News

Food for Thought

When I first moved to Albania, I imagined that shortages of food might be a problem for communities living with little income.  But I was wrong about that.  There is no food shortage in Albania, and the opposite is true.  Food in abundance is grown everywhere and sells at the lowest prices in Europe.  There are lovely vegetables and fruit of every imaginable variety, plus herds of sheep, goats and cows everywhere you go.  In fact the farmed animals make quite liberal use of the main roads, so we must all drive carefully and watch for the slippery doo-dahs!

Food production in the fertile south of Albania is one of the greatest opportunities for the country.   There is a surplus of food, yet many farms and pastures are fallow because the producers can not sell their crops.

The fertile triangle

Through export of food in future, Albania can be an asset to other Balkan and European countries.   But due to the distances from source to market, the cost of distributing fresh food and keeping it refrigerated while in transit is too expensive for Albania.

A canning factory in the south of Albania is needed, to take farm produce from the “fertile triangle” and produce high quality meals such as soups and stews and casseroles, and can them.  The foods can then be distributed throughout the Balkans and Europe, earning Albania foreign currency and the ability to pay for equipment and technology to improve the infrastructure of this lovely country.  At the same time, a canning factory will employ up to 300 people, and will enable farmers in the south to cultivate and crop the many fields that at the moment are left fallow.

I am very excited and honoured that Mr Genci Mita who is the owner and General Manager of Sejega foods near Tirane is willing to help start a canning factory in the south of Albania.

Sejega

In two weeks time I will be travelling to Tiranë to meet him and see his existing factory and talk about this proposal in more detail.  I am also very privileged to have met the Mayor of Delvinë on Monday of this week.  He has offered land for a factory free of charge.

Investment capital will be needed for the building, for equipment and for training people to run the factory.  There will be an opportunity for European investors to contribute to this venture, and receive a share of the success.

Although this initiative is not part of the core mission of the Lidia Foundation, I want to express my thanks to friends Ibrahim Bajrami and Esmeralda Isufi from the Foundation, plus Cimi Muhammedi. Through friendships like these, this proposal is moving forward.

If you are able to assist this venture in any way, please log in to the site using e.g. Facebook login, and leave a comment at the bottom of this thread.

 

 

Under My Umbrella

With apologies to Rihanna for the title of this article, I wanted to tell a story about umbrellas.  It’s a happy umbrella story because it involves people who were in despair and who are now happy.  Because of umbrellas.

The story begins with a Romani community who settled near Delvinë about eight years ago.  The town council allocated land to them.  There was insufficient funding in the town council to provide housing or education.  A team from Lidia Foundation installed temporary mobile housing and brought in teachers for the children and an expert on “thatching” who taught the men and teenagers how to thatch roofs.

Ibrahim took me to visit the community on Monday this week, and I asked the village elders for permission to take some pictures of the families and their activity.

Umbrellas 5

After some successful contracts building and repairing thatched roofed homes, the community decided to start making thatched umbrellas. Two of the men have become expert welders and construct the iron framework for the umbrellas.  Ibrahim (yellow shirt) is chatting with one of them.

Umbrellas 1

Abundant natural reed beds in the Delvinë valley provide the raw materials for the thatch.  You can see some of the reeds drying here.  A team young people weave and strap together the reeds to form umbrella shades.

Umbrellas 2

Here are some of the finished umbrellas waiting for the customer to collect them …

Umbrellas 3

There was an amazing co-incidence the next day, when I saw the team installing these same umbrellas right outside my apartment in Sarandë …

Umbrellas 4

Sometimes I think that co-incidences like these come from heaven!  In my opinion this has been an example of a real success story for the way  money donated to the Lidia Foundation saves and transforms lives of entire communities.  Turning tears of sadness and despair into tears of joy and hope.

I spoke to my friend and landlord “Jimmi” about it because Jimmi lived in Delvinë for many years.  He knows the people in this community, speaks highly of them, and they are his friends.  Jimmi’s warmth towards people of different backgrounds and cultures is typical of all the Albanian people I have met.  Whether a person is Christian, Moslem, Atheist or from another country, it makes no difference.  The friendships and concern shown for one another are genuine and lasting.

If this story moves your heart, and you want other families like this one to have hope and happiness in their lives, then please give something to the Lidia Foundation today.

Anna’s story

Ibrahim Bajrami took me this morning to visit two of the “mobile homes” that Lidia Foundation has provided in the Delvinë area.  These mobile homes are used for emergency accommodation for families with no home and who have a child with disabilities.

I was completely unprepared for what I saw and was moved to tears.

A Romani family had been living in a rat-infested barn and had a daughter (now aged 16) suffering from cerebral palsy.  The Lidia Foundation provided a mobile home next to the barn and the family had moved in.

When I arrived, the mother and father greeted both Ibrahim and me and their three boys ran up to us to greet us.  Their mobile home was clean and tidy.  A physiotherapist employed by Lidia Foundation arrived to treat their daughter, and the family invited me to meet her.  I will call her “Anna” to preserve anonymity.

Anna was lying on her side, and was crying in pain and discomfort.  Her body and arms and legs had wasted away and her arms and legs were no more than 3cm in diameter, almost no flesh on the bones.  She was so badly malnourished that she has only days left to live.

I asked why she was not in intensive care receiving intravenous feeding.  The family and Ibrahim told me that she had been in the Sarandë hospital several times, but the hospitals only receive enough funding to keep people in beds for a few days, and each time after two days, they had sent her home again.

There is no “hospice” in the south of Albania to provide medium term acute care for Anna.  Her mother and father cannot deliver food intravenously, and when they try to feed their daughter with soup, she cannot swallow it.

In England and the USA, Anna’s life would be saved through the intervention of a hospice that would return her to health after a few weeks of intravenous feeding.  In the south of Albania, I expect to attend Anna’s funeral in a few days’ time.

Ibrahim told me that if the Lidia Foundation had sufficient funds, they would start a hospice to care for the many girls and boys in similar situations to Anna.  A British charity had started a hospice in Sarandë about ten years ago, but this had closed through lack of ongoing finance.  It is now used by the Sarandë government as part of the university, and ironically, the chapel built by the British charity is used by the Baptist and Evangelical Churches in Sarandë, and I join those services most weekends.

I mourn for Anna and for her father and mother who broke down in tears when we left them.  I felt like I had just condemned their daughter to death.

Although it will not save Anna’s life I want to help raise funds for the new hospice.  Will you help also, by making a donation to the Lidia Foundation today?