The month of June, very unusually, began with torrential rain and thunderstorms for about a week. The skies were grey and the days were cold. It was a miserable beginning to the month. The work and the enjoyment with our visitors continued nevertheless, despite the daily soakings! It was a month of official meetings at the British Embassy, the Ministry of the Interior and one related to the consul of Malta. We celebrated the Queen’s birthday at the British Embassy in mid-June and later there was an invitation from the wife of the Ambassador, Alice Cannon, to attend a delicious dinner at the residence of the ambassador. Alice Cannon is originally from Hong Kong and is a brilliant cook in chinese food. There were twenty dishes all more delicious than the other. The pictures below illustrate a little of this time together. The conversation ranged around so many topics of interest, it was an excellent time together.
The invitation to attend a celebration of the Queen’s birthday at the British Embassy was also in June, and was a very different affair. Hundreds of people attended this evening celebration representing the international embassies in Albania, the government, companies, NGOs, the police, justice, health and almost every aspect of society. It was really interesting to meet so many new people and to be able to develop networks for the forwarding of the work of Mary Ward Loreto. The food was also delicious and was constantly being offered by the waiters who wove their way so dexterously amongst the crowds of people.
Towards the end of the month I had the honour of going to the Home office in Albania and meeting the deputy minister who also has the portfolio as head of the anti-trafficking ministry in Albania. The meeting was excellent.The minister, Mrs Elona Gjebrea, was also eager to meet Olivia Conroy who arrived at the end of the month, to help RENATE in our mapping research looking at trafficking across Europe and also RENATE’s involvement in the work of anti-trafficking. Olivia came on June 28th and is focusing on the strategies being used in Albania to fight this modern day slavery. A meeting was fixed for her to meet Mrs Gjebrea on June 3oth. This was another successful meeting after which Olivia spent the day with Mariana Meshi to gather necessary information of the strategies and programmes used to work in the protection of victims and their rehabilitation programme. Mariana is the CEO of the NGO Different and Equal with whom we have a partnership.
During the month of June, 2014, Mary Ward Loreto in Albania opened another of the prevention against trafficking centres, led by the project Mary Ward Women, in Shendelli, in the far south of Albania. This is a village near the famous tourist heritage centre in Butrint. The centre of the Mary Ward Women’s project is being funded in partnership with the Medaille Trust in the UK. The Medaille Trust runs many shelters for trafficked victims in the UK. We are happy to be working together in this venture. We all gathered in the old centre which is run by a community of sisters in Saranda, the nearest town to Shendelli, and which has been used by the women prior to this time. Now the Sisters have so much work that they are handing over to the new worker of this project, Zana Guri, who will be the key worker for this new stage in the project. MWW has been working with the women now for three years but this is a new step in their empowerment towards employment. After a short speech of handing over this work, the sisters were presented with a bouquet of flowers by Ana Stakaj, the manager of the project and then we all proceeded to the new centre which is about a two minute walk down the road. Ana and Zana then welcomed everybody to the new centre and since this time the work has been in full swing with about 40 women attending the programme from the local area. It is a happy time for everybody. We have to congratulate Ana Stakaj on her great management and the creative work she has performed in the development of this project which now has four outreach centres in Albania in the most marginalized rural and informal regions of the country.
The URAT project managed by MWL is now half way through its programme and has achieved its job of raising awareness against trafficking in 24 regions of Albania. This has been a most successful piece of work thanks to Sr Mirjam Beike CGS who has led the project plus her partners form D&E and the Peace Corps. It is amazing how many stories of trafficking in human beings have been told during these trainings. The stories are of the suffering of real people coming from these rural and informal parts of Albania. Many of these people are unknown and have suffered in silence moving back quietly into the villages or not being heard of for many years.
It is great to see the developments in the work with the women of the north at this time and the amazing network which has been achieved by the key worker for MWL with the bringing together of many NGOs for mutual collaboration. Many trainings are being achieved in this network and much sharing of resources is taking place. It is a great achievement for Irena Kraja who works tirelessly as the lead person for MWL in this region.
Finally this month we need to celebrate the coming together of the fourteen members of staff at Mary Ward Loreto for staff training. There is a real bonding taking place with the workers some of whom work from offices in the regions but who keep in close contact throughout their working week. In July we will go away together, for a few days, to a beautiful part of Albania in the Valbona Valley in the far north on the border of Kosova. We all look forward to this.