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Monday, May 3, 2010

Dita e Tokёs [Earth Day 2010]

After returning from Spain we jumped right into spring projects, including several activities to promote Earth Day.

Edlira (the nurse I work with from the Directory of Public Health), Aida (leader of Gjirokastёr’s Red Cross, who also opened the Qender Sociale), and I gave environmental lessons in all the elementary schools, a feat that is more difficult than it sounds. In order to give lessons in schools we must first get a permission letter from the Director of Health, followed by a meeting with the Director of Education. From there, each school must be visited sometime in the morning between 8:30-10 am in order to catch the school’s director and ask for permission. Sometimes directors are hard to catch, as they are usually out drinking coffee. Once we get the go-ahead from them, we talk with the teachers to see which classes we can meet with and when to come. And then of course we have to come back to actually do the lessons, which sometimes get bumped or cancelled anyway. It’s something of a long process…

So anyway, our trio managed to get in to each school and do an activity with younger children. We played a game called the “Web of Life”, which teaches children about how elements of nature are connected and why we need to protect them in order to live. The kids form a circle, each representing an element of nature (river, animals, flowers, etc.), then pass a ball of yearn to other elements they are connected to (air to trees to birds to insects, etc.), eventually forming a web. I’m really proud of the women I work with because I can see them getting better, more confident and more professional each time.

Edlira with kids from Cajupi Elementary school

Throwing yarn balls for the Web of Life lesson at Urani Rrumbo

For older students, we presented my plastic bag power point and held discussion groups. Plastic bags are the bane of my existence, and, like in many newly developing countries, they are everywhere! During communism bags were not produced or imported to Albania, everyone used cloth bags. Once the gates opened up Albanians embraced qese plastike wholeheartedly, viewing them as very modern and efficient.

Aida and Edlira talking about plastic at Kota Hoxhi school

Unfortunately, waste management is scanty, and thus bags clog the rivers, roadsides, float across fields, and generally pollute every space imaginable. I’ve spent many hours here researching the effects of plastic on the environment and the efforts governments are making to combat this destruction. I can’t be sure, but it sounds like people are starting to wake up to the problem, and that it has become somewhat mainstream for Americans to bring their own bags to the grocery store. (I hope!!)

Aida presenting to a crowd of students at Urani Rrumbo

Chris did another set of Earth Day activities with Eva’s class, planting flowers in a nearby pocket park that has been long ignored. They also planted some of the flowers around the school. We went the day beforehand to talk to the kids about protecting the environment and made drawings of examples of simple ways they can help (planting flowers and trees, riding bikes instead of cars, and throwing trash into the can came up a lot).

Chris with kids from Eva's class, planting a flower garden

Planting a flower bed outside of Kota Hoxhi school

Other projects for the month include the Red Cross blood drive at the University. We went room to room to talk with students about the importance of donating blood and the possibility to save lives. Especially in central Albania, where there are extremely high numbers of people with Thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder requiring the infected person to get regular blood transfusions (very common in the Mediterranean). We got 36 students to donate, record numbers!

Giving blood is fun!

So yeah. Kemi pune. :)

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