Today we had to close the school. A combination of holiday (1 person), pre-agreed other commitments (1 person), a training course (1 person), the vaccination programme for which we had an ICO minibus loaned to us for the day and needed an Ideas Partnership person to go with it, and sickness (two people) meant that yesterday evening I suddenly discovered we didn’t have enough people, and in particular enough Albanian speakers (total: 1), to manage and teach 50+ kids. The realisation was a sad moment, but also a really important one: this project is fragile and dependent entirely on good will and good health among our dedicated group of volunteers who all have other claims on their time.
I muttered under my breath, ‘We just do what we can do’. And it isn’t a bad motto (or mutter). But it’s always good to recognise the limits of ‘what we can do’ and today was a reminder.
Having said that, and having had a rather low-key start to the day, turning children away at the school door (there’s an image to beat yourself up with), it was also a day of inspiration. A busload of children got vaccinated. Perhaps more importantly, for some of them it was their first time at the Health House and they are now on the register there. One woman who had brought three of her grandchildren for vaccinations and to register, but hadn’t brought the other two, said she’d be back with the others – it felt like today opened a communication channel for her with this state-funded medical system, that up till now she’s not trusted or not known about, or not had confidence to access.
And two of the non-Albanian-speaking volunteers who were able to come this morning used the time and the space without children in the building to work for more than four hours sorting some more donations we’ve had of clothes (thank you Saskia and everyone in Maastricht!) and packaging them into bags for specific families in need we visited earlier in the week. Meanwhile, today the wonderful Mary (a British gynaecologist) and Kadrie (a Kosovan midwife) from Livelink Kosovo did some of their regular home visits to women in the mahalla with particular gynaecological questions or needs, and then in the afternoon used our space for their very first ante-natal class in Fushe Kosove.
By the end of the day I was feeling more upbeat. But that awareness of our fragility remains. If you or someone you know (particularly, but not restricted to, Albanian speakers) is interested in teaching (with training and material provided) for a couple of hours in a morning or afternoon then please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org/ 044 661797).
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