In the heart of the mountains in the north of Albania is a beautiful small town called Puka. Although it is less than 80 miles from Tirana, it takes nearly 3 hours to travel there. The city and those who live in it have relied heavily on the forest and mineral industries. Now that the forest and the minerals have been exploited without regulation, the population is at a high risk of exploitation. Without jobs, a health care system, effective education, and possibilities, the people are worn down in hopelessness. 60% of the population has left the area looking for other places to live, with more opportunities. During this difficult process, many families have lost their children, boys and girl. Crossing borders by foot during the winter to go to Greece, crossing the sea with a rubber boat to go to Italy, and nowadays hiding in trucks with a fake identification. Many girls have lost communication and connection with their families after forced marriages or promises for job opportunities abroad. These people are risking everything because as they say “we don’t have anything to lose”. MWL has been working in Puka for many years, for prevention and awareness against human trafficking, and finding ways and possibilities to develop the community. The last activity organized by MWL, in collaboration with local municipality and four NGO-s who are our partners, was a forum to develop agro-tourism in this area. Tourism is considered the best opportunity for this area to achieve sustainable development. Participants have been very enthusiastic and encouraged by the analysis done by specialists of different disciplines, like Shkelzen Marku of Yunus Foundation, who addressed the topic of businesses hospitality and accommodation, or Jaho Braha who is a specialist of history and ethnography. The president of MWL, Sr. Imelda Poole expressed the support that the foundation is giving to the community and invited the participants to make a more collective effort as key actors in the community, to fight poverty as a source of trafficking and use the opportunities for sustainable development.
Special thanks for the help and support in organising this activity goes to; Alban Doci, Ilirjan Leshi, Edmond Kocli and Manushaqe Çypi.