So you want to know what the best thing is about our classes? Well, that was the first item on our teaching team meeting agenda today.
We have to have things like teaching team meetings these days because there are so many of us volunteering on this project. Not all come every day – some have committed to once or twice a week – but sitting round the table this morning we had:
- Laura (a British student on her gap year)
- Rob (British volunteer, come to Kosovo for a few months just to teach English on our project)
- Avdyl, a Kosovan teacher of 20 years experience whose salary is being paid by our friend, Gail Warrander
- Vlora, a Kosovar whose salary is being paid by the Agape Service Foundation
- Hope, who comes to help with classes most weeks and works for the Agape Service Foundation
- Marcos, a Brazilian volunteer who comes once a week to give one-to-one support to kids needing (extra) extra help
- Elena, an Uzbeki-Russian volunteer who also comes once a week to give one-to-one support
- Lena, a Kosovar with a background in special needs, who’s come for the first time today to see whether she might be interested in volunteering once a week with us.
- and me.
So first item on our agenda is what we think is working best in everything we’re doing. Responses from members of the team were:
- the physical environment – our white boards, desks, carpets, hoover – resources that we couldn’t have dreamt of a week ago
- the joy of the kids’ company
- the kids getting used to school and the idea of school, asking for details about September
- the children’s commitment to their work
- the routine
- a stabilising population (far fewer new children turning up, and a solid core of kids coming every day)
- donations meaning that we are beginning to believe that we’ll have enough money to complete the project, and that we might at some point be able to stop taking up our energy in fundraising, and dedicate more of it to Getting Gjelane To School
You can see the stabilising phase that we’re in. So does this mean it’s just a job now? You might think so – today was day 17, so we should be getting used to it, but as I watched the kids streaming in this morning, I still couldn’t help thinking that this is a minor miracle. Each of these kids has got themselves up out of a crowded bed, fished out their little homework exercise book and pen, made their way past the rubbish dump, past brothers and sisters not going to school, and walked into our classroom to take their place for the ‘miremengjesi’ morning song. No-one’s making them do it – no parents as far as I can tell, no Education Welfare Officer, unfortunately no government. They’ve made a choice, started taking their future into their hands.
Gjelane’s story is now told in a book published as The Rubbish-Picker’s Wife; an unlikely friendship in Kosovo (Elbow Publishing, 2015) and available on Amazon