“Far below the surface of the ocean, a soft bodied creature with a single eye, unruly tentacles and a strong outer shell knows what it takes to embrace change. The chambered nautilus has survived for 400 million years. It continues to thrive to this day by jet propelling itself into the unknown. It has navigated ancient seas and changing currents by building an ever-expanding shell in which it lives. Over time, as it grows, it builds a new, larger chamber and vacates the previous one. It always lives in the newest chamber. The other vacated chambers are individually sealed and injected with varying amounts of gas that allow the nautilus to regulate its buoyancy and movement. Past chambers help the creature stay afloat.” (Information, the Bulletin of the Religious Formation Institute, 21, 4, Winter 2012
In 2014 Mary Ward Loreto, in a fast and challenging way, has cast off its first chamber and has taken the risk to step out into the unknown and to allow new chambers to grow out of the strong foundation created in 2013. From just four staff in its beginning two years ago, there are now 17 staff and many volunteers. The charism and ethic of Mary Ward has been the force and energy penetrating the structure and each member. This has given the body a strong focus and a way forward with the principles of Freedom, Justice, and Sincerity rooting steadily in each person and in each project as it emerges in its implementation.
In January, 2014, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, spoke at the Guild Hall in London of our moving into a new global reality where economic growth can only come from a stance of inclusivity and where the rich need to include the poor and offer openings for a renewed role for women at every level of society and especially in the levels of decision making. Growth does not come from exclusion. She also said that, ‘’Right now, the young countries are seeing a “youth bulge”, with almost three billion people—half the global population—under 25. This could prove a boon or a bane, a demographic dividend or a demographic time bomb. A youthful population is certainly fertile ground for innovation, dynamism, and creativity. Yet everything will depend on generating enough jobs to satisfy the aspirations of the rising generation. This calls for a single-minded focus on improving education—and, in particular, on the potentially massive effects of technological change on employment.’ (Richard Dimbleby lecture, Guild hall, January, 2014.).
The developments in 2014 have been a response to such a statement. The staff are Albanian young people under 35 years of age. They are highly qualified in their field of expertise and have a passion for the work in which they are engaged. They lead 5 new Mary Ward centres, they lead new projects, develop new brandings, new marketing materials for the Foundation, ensure everything is working effectively and efficiently. They form a collective power house with a common mission. Together they work as one.
New initiatives have been begun and new developments in what was happening in 2013 have been realized. This year a new and exciting youth project has been launched in Mary Ward Loreto called Youth Education for Prosperity (YEP). 1,000 youth took part in a research to establish the way forward for this innovative project. In order to confront issues such as the lack of ethic and corruption in nearly every statutory system in Albania, a voluntary group of academics has also been established at Mary Ward Loreto to bring about systemic change and in particular in the education system. This project has named itself Mary Ward Loreto/ Think Tank Education in Albania. The Pilot Research was completed and reported on at a prestigious conference in Tirana, in December 2014, at which many ministers from the government were present including the Minister of Education. Mary Ward’s Women grows from strength to strength having now established five Mary Ward Loreto Centres to service the work in the north, central and south of Albania. Many small businesses have been developed including those related to agriculture, flower growing, jewelry making and hand-made embroidered cards. Issues such as depression, domestic violence, poor health and economic independence are being confronted with up to 900 women from all over Albania.
Mary Ward Loreto has as its main focus to address the ever growing and horrific crime of trafficking in human persons. All the work has this objective at grass roots level, in the most marginalized, isolated and vulnerable parts of Albania where Mary Ward Loreto chooses to operate and where we have been invited to work. A new awareness raising project against trafficking was launched at the beginning of the year and has successfully addressed this topic in 40 regions of Albania and in partnership with Peace Corps and Different and Equal. Direct action has been taken to rescue and support the rehabilitation of victims by responding to calls for help from other parts of Europe where Albanians have been trafficked and which have come to us through our website, www.albaniahope.com and through the RENATE website, www.renate-europe.net. Involvement with the growing Philipino community in Tirana has also led to work in direct action against trafficking and particularly in the field of labour trafficking. Through the new partnership made between Mary Ward Loreto and The Medaille Trust in the UK, cross culture experiences have taken place and trust has been built up amongst the workers across borders. Consequent to this, one of the Mary Ward Women psychologists has been requested to counsel online victims of trafficking in the UK who have no English and who have been rescued and are in trauma. This work has proved to be extremely successful and many victims have found new life though this innovative practice.
Following on from the success of the initial steps taken by Mary Ward Loreto in 2013, as mapped out in the first Annual Report published on www.albaniahope.com website, this year’s success in the field has led to an extension of our cooperation with the ministries in the government and a closer networking with many other statutory systems and NGOs all around Albania. The increase in staff has led to a change in premises for the central offices of Mary Ward Loreto. Now we are based near to many of the embassies who have become our colleagues and supporters. Visitors from the UK government, Swiss, German, Dutch, Italian and French NGOs have come to deliberate on issues working towards a closer cooperation. It is thanks to the indomitable work of the staff that so much has been accomplished in such a short time and with such high professionalism and expertise. They are to be congratulated for their success in every aspect of the work.
We continue to have a close collaboration with the NGO SHKEJ, and in particular with the project Little Angels, which is funded through Mary Ward Loreto and which now support the on-going education of 50 ethnic minority Roma children and their families. We also continue to support the Education Centre for the rehabilitation of trafficked victims managed by Different and Equal and funded through Mary Ward Loreto. In 2014 two of the staff taught the survivors of trafficking, pro gratis, english and music and in particular the guitar. This is a gesture of collaboration between Mary Ward Loreto and Different and Equal. Through the partnership between The Medaille Trust in the UK and Mary Ward Loreto, Different and Equal have partnered with Mary Ward Loreto to realize a cross border exchange in Slovenia between the three NGOs. This proved to be a very successful enterprise. Finally we rejoice at the continuing development of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE). As President of this NGO and because the Finance officer is also based in Albania and is an employee of Mary Ward Loreto, this work impacts the day to day life of the Foundation and is a source of great hope as more and more countries in Europe become involved in the network. The cross border collaboration has become stronger and more effective as new ways are learnt. Mary Ward Loreto and RENATE, during this reporting period have been invited to collaborate with a wider network of NGOs and organizations such as TRUST Women, TRUST LAW, The European Civil Society Platform, PAYOKE, the Global Women’s Network, ANDANTE, The Vatican Academy for Social Sciences and many others who tirelessly work together to combat the trafficking and exploitation of so many modern day slaves.
Results of the work
- 1,000+ women are being trained in human development, health and business
- Youth Education for Prosperity (YEP) has been established in 2014 and has conducted a research with 1,000 youth and has led focus groups and worked with Youth leaders to understand the needs of youth in Albania. This will lead to the plan of action and the implementation of the project in 2015
- An awareness raising project (URAT) works against trafficking in 40 regions of Albania.
- An education centre continues to work with the victims of human trafficking in Tirana.
- The Roma Project, ‘Little Angels’ educates and pastorally cares for 50 children and their families.
- RENATE works across border in 19 European countries in anti-trafficking.renate-europe.net
- Think Tank Education in Albania (TTEA), has conducted a pilot research in Tirana, to highlight corruption and lack of ethic in the schools.
- Mary Ward Loreto supports the pastoral work of the Prison Chaplain to 9 prisons in Tirana.
- The Friends of Mary Ward meet regularly to deepen their spiritual lives and to act as advisors and participators in the development of the new NGO.
400 years ago Mary Ward Said: “This is verity, to do what we do well. Many think it is nothing to do ordinary things. But for us it is: to do ordinary things well.. all things that are ordinary in every office and employment whatsoever it be, to do it well, this is for us…” (1617 to the community in St Omer).
Maybe we are heeding these words with a response that is bearing much fruit.
Imelda Poole IBVM (President Mary Ward Loreto)