The SOS Children's Village Programme Tirana opened its doors in July 1995. Our organisation is based in Sauk, a village with approximately 6,000 inhabitants about four kilometres south-east of the capital city of Tirana.
SOS Children's Village Tirana
Our organisation carries out numerous activities to support local children and families. There are 13 families where children can be looked after by SOS mothers. In 1999, the SOS Emergency Relief Programme provided 700 refugees from war in neighbouring Kosovo with temporary accommodation in the village.
In 2003, we launched a family strengthening programme, which reaches children who are at risk of losing parental care. Together with local agencies, we support families in the community so that they can take good care of their children. We help them gain access to essential services such as education, nutrition and health. In addition, our organisation offers counselling and psychological advice, as well as courses on parental education. Local families are also given information regarding their legal rights and how to best find employment.
The SOS Kindergarten can look after up to 125 children. Most of these are from the community, and are well cared for while their parents receive training or go to work. The children provide a point of contact with the local community; as the kindergarten teachers get to spend time with them, the co-workers learn about the families and are therefore in a better situation to identify their needs.
Since September 2001, young people have been able to live semi-independently in flats in central Tirana while they attend vocational training or higher education. The youths are given educational support by trained SOS staff so that they can complete their courses successfully.
Many families have recently moved to the area in search of work
Due to the lack of employment in rural areas, many families have been forced to move to Tirana, and its surroundings, to find work. Many of the children who live in the Sauk area have moved here recently, and have lost their friends and extended family. Households often face social and economic problems as they adapt to their new surroundings.
Our organisation also works with Roma children and their families who live in the area. The lives of the Albanian Roma have been badly affected by the political and economic changes of the past decades. They face social discrimination and suffer high levels of unemployment. Many Roma children do not receive an education because their families cannot afford to send them to school.
Providing a loving home and a safe environment
When SOS Children's Villages workers arrived in Tirana in 1992, they visited several children's homes. After seeing the terrible conditions in these homes, SOS Children's Villages realised how urgent it was to provide children with loving and caring support which would best meet their needs.
Although the Albanian government has become increasingly engaged in protecting children, the lack of economic resources means that many children cannot be supported through government initiatives. Our organisation is able to provide this support to families and children in the area. Priority is given to those most in need; these include: single parent households, families with many children and those with a Roma background.
In a country where violence is widespread and there is a real threat of children becoming victims of human trafficking rings or criminal gangs, it is important to keep children safe. SOS Children's Villages set up the Hermann Gmeiner library which aims to keep children off the streets by providing reading material as well as by offering leisure activities such as pottery, painting, computing and learning foreign languages.