Earlier this year, more than 10 NGOs and international organizations in Durres, Albania collaborated with local government agencies to host a major anti-discrimination rally in the center of the city attended by several hundred people. The event was organized with the assistance of Peace Corps Volunteers Sara Babb and Kimberly Townsend with support from the city municipality, police department, public schools, and the Department of Education. The discriminated groups represented at-risk populations, including Roma, LGBT, Balkan Egyptians, people with special needs, abused women, internal migrants, economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and orphans.
Students in grades 8 - 9 were dismissed early from school so that they could march from their schools to the main square carrying messages about the need for people to respect each other and live in harmony. In the city center, the students congregated with other members of the community, including many volunteers. The mayor and several other civic leaders addressed the crowd, a group of youth preformed a choreographed dance routine, and the audience was invited to view an exposition of artwork created by marginalized groups.
Following the event, the director of social service and Volunteer Sara Babb were interviewed by local media about the need to address discrimination in Albania. Sara spoke about how to spread awareness and focused on the importance of collaboration between civil society and local government as well as the need for increased integration of marginalized groups.
A few weeks ago Sara and I had the privilege to work with Jillian at her special needs camp. It was a week long camp with activities from arts and crafts to water games and even teaching children to brush their teeth after eating. Although it was a challenging camp, it was so rewarding to see the children’s smiling faces.