Guest Blogger: Laura Sparkes
I have been lucky enough to work for The Ideas Partnership during three of its most energetic and active months.
The story starts at the end of last year when TIP befriended Agron and Hateme’s family. They have three sons and will soon have three daughters. Their eldest daughter Gjelane was not going to school because she had missed her chance to register at school, two of the little boys weren’t going to school because they didn’t have shoes and four of the children had not received all of their basic vaccines.
My memory starts in January when I was squashed into a car with Hateme and her children on the way to their local medical centre to get the children vaccinated. A few weeks later TIP made the same journey in a minibus filled with sixteen children and their families.
Whilst assessing the need for vaccinations, we had come across those who did not have the right clothes to brave the cold and get these life-saving immunisations. So on March 1st, we held a fundraiser in the living room of TIP’s Zsofia. Its purpose had been to gather any clothes that people may have had crammed amongst countless others stored, unworn, for years. We felt sure that, given what we had seen, we could find old gloves some grateful hands and old shoes some grateful feet.
We had given the two boys pairs of shoes and they immediately started going to Balkan Sunflowers’ lessons in preparation for ‘big school’ later this year. In this case, it really was that simple.
At the fundraiser, we hung one of TIP’s “Say NO to Plastic Bags” cloth bags off the back of Zsofia’s daughter’s high chair on the off chance that some of the guests would prefer to give a little cash towards the projects they would read about on the display boards we had gone to great lengths to procure and decorate.
The Ideas Partnership has never worked with large sums of money. None of its volunteers are paid. We don’t have an office. We don’t have a car. We don’t have a printer. Money goes straight into the small but significant projects it prioritises.
9pm March 1st – all the guests had already left. Hmmm. Turnout had been fairly good and we had gathered a room full of clothes which was exciting.
Then we looked into the cloth bag.
I had the privilege of counting its contents. As I did, I felt the excitement of our little TIP team around me build and felt a smile spread across my face. It was hardly riches but we knew what we could do with it.
We had enough money to rent a flat in Fushe Kosove for 6 months so we decided to make the dream we’d had of providing lessons to children like Gjelane, who had missed her chance to register at school, a reality. Fourteen days later, catch-up class started.
Exactly a month later, I will leave Kosovo and I will leave (in body but not in spirit) the little TIP team. I also leave a catch-up class filled with ambition, opportunity and more kids than I ever could have dreamed possible.
Almost every child can now write their name unassisted, recite the alphabet and complete basic sums. They take homework back to finish under the watchful eyes of their parents. Small group work has started in the afternoons with 50 children coming in the first 2 days. Friendships have been made. Extra-curricular rap and dance classes will soon be taking place. The kids have an insatiable appetite for learning and every day they strive to earn a good-work ‘star’ that is nothing more than a scribble with a gold pen on a large piece of card.
Even more than that, we have started a project that has had the pleasure and the privilege of being supported by individuals and organisations from all walks of life. It has demonstrated to me the power of a collective will. I personally and on behalf of my colleagues, if I may be so bold, would like to thank everyone for their unfailing support. It could not have happened without you. When we have faced the inevitable challenges, we have known the safety and the reassurance of each and every one of you.
I fly the nest of the TIP family after one month of classes. There are five more months until we hope the children will fly the nest of catch-up class and go to school.