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SOS Malta’s Activities in ALBANIA

Over the last decade, SOS Malta’s activities can be classified as follows:

  1. Fundraising and Partnership;
  2. Humanitarian and emergency aid including the financing of its transportation to and across Albania;
  3. Education;
  4. Assistance for disabled children;
  5. Health care;
  6. Social and community projects directed at children and youth;

1. Fundraising and Partnership

SOS Malta emerged as a result of the strong reaction of the Maltese people to the plight of Albanian refugees at their shores. Fundraising for basic needs such as food, clothing and blankets and basic construction materials such as tiles, wood, paint, and glass was met with an overwhelming response. This led to the fundraising of educational materials as well as all items necessary for babies and children.

Funding was sought for transportation and distribution for all items donated or purchased.  Eventually, as Albania developed, it was fundamental for the organisation to assist the local economy and thus purchasing as much as was available from the country itself. In this way, SOS Malta sought to form partnerships with local entrepreneurs who were just starting out and thus support the local economy as well as provide assistance. Eventually, such partnerships also became international, with SOS Malta’s partnerships being awarded funding from international organisations as well as national and regional NGOs i.e.  World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR, Open Society Institute (OSI) and ICRC in Albania.  Funding was also provided under the PHARE program with contract number 95-0327.00 in 1995.

2. Humanitarian and Emergency Aid

Humanitarian aid was the main reason for which the organisation started working in Albania at the onset of the dire humanitarian crisis that existed at the turn of the 1990s. Food supplies, clothes, children's effects as well as basic hygiene requirements and health materials and medicines were transported to and distributed across the country.   Initially, this was done in an indiscriminate manner but it was soon realised that the best way to achieve results was to concentrate on one or two areas of the country.  We therefore decided to focus on the two towns of Elbasan and Korce. providing humanitarian aid to development projects on a community level especially in the area of health care and education.

Operazione Pellicano (Italian Military Mission) was instrumental in collaborating with the organisation transporting the Aid to the South East region

3. Education

Education has always been at the forefront of SOS Malta's activities. The realisation that investment in education for the youth of Albania was the country's best chance of emerging from a state of under development was immediate. SOS Malta, together with a local educational group set up 'Preca College' in the heart of Korce, an English Speaking college run by a Maltese lay organisation together with Albanian teachers. The college achieved Baccalaureate standard within three years. Many of its graduates win scholarships at overseas universities and have definitely contributed to Albanian society.  SOS Malta continues to assist with the financing of the school which has also entered into partnership agreements of its own in order to become a self-sustainable project.

Fifteen students from the Faculty of Tourism of the University of Korce attended a six-week training course at the Malta Institute of Tourism Studies. SOS Malta organised the training programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism. SOS Malta's latest project is the development of a management institute in Korce with the collaboration of the Malta Institute of Management and the Edward Debono Institute of Lateral Thinking. It is envisaged that this centre will service the South of Albania equipping the Albanians with modern management techniques and updated methods including also an element of life-long education.  

4. Assistance for Disabled Children

On visiting Elbasan with humanitarian supplies, SOS Malta recognised the dire need of the disabled in the town where they were left to live without basic needs. The organisation, with its funds, set up a fully functional home for disabled children who were, till this time, considered as outcasts of Albanian society. Hope for these children came in the form of a better quality of life and a dignified home in which to live.  

5. Health Care

Albania was a country with relatively very little or non-existant health care. The need for basic health care in Elbasan and Korce was obvious and thus was immediately addressed. A fully functional clinic was set up in Elbasan and a family clinic in Korce. Thanks to the partnership created with the Little Company of Mary, a UK based organisation, a clinic was set up in the heart of the town, fully financed by SOS Malta and free for all those who needed it. Funding from the EU under the PHARE programme was received for the employment and training of local personnel as well as for the furnishing of the clinic was received from the EU under the PHARE program.

An ambulance and a landrover were provided for the sisters Home Care programme in Korce.

Hospital equipment was donated to the main hospital in Korce.

A nutrition programme was initiated in Korce to which SOS Malta shipped a container of milk powder for infant feeding.

A group of dentists and students led by the Dean of the Faculty have, since 1994, yearly treated the children of Preca College, their families and other students from state schools.

In January 2000, the Mary Potter Centre for Palliative Care was established in Korce. A twinning agreement was signed with the Malta Hospice Movement, aimed at developing a centre that could service the whole of South Albania, including a comprehensive Home Care Programme for Korce and its surroundings. For the first time in Albania, this centre introduced the concept of care for the terminally ill and their families. As part of the twinning agreement a week's public seminar for the Palliative Care Team in Korce was held. SOS Malta financed and organised Psycho social sessions relating to  (spirituality, bereavement, self awareness and breaking bad news) as well as team building, role identification and management.

In parallel, SOS Malta initiated and committed itself to funding a three year educational programme between the Nursing school of Korce and the Institute of Health Care in Malta.  In October 2000, 2 nurses from the Palliative Care team in Korce travelled to Malta to undergo training in Palliative Care with the Malta Hospice Movement and financed by SOS Malta. Further educational development was made possible with a week's visit to Korce of Dr.Victor Pace, a Maltese specialist in palliative care. During his visit, a public seminar was held in Korce for doctors and nurses and in-service training for the team was organised for pain and symptom control.

Plans for the further development and expansion of the clinic are in hand, ensuring that it becomes a centre of excellence in the region, contributing to the development of high quality health care for the terminally ill. Besides its financing, SOS Malta is also committed to partnering with other similar organisations in the region. Its commitment was seen with the organisation of the first National Conference on Palliative Care held in Tirana from June 26-28 2002. This conference led to an association with the Sue Ryder and Sob organisations as well as the setting up of the National Association for Palliative Care with the Mary Potter Centre being recognised as the National Centre for the next three years. The first steps towards this aim have already been taken with the funding of the Palliative Care Team in Pogradec in May 2003.  

6. Social and Community Projects directed at Children and Youth

The more time passed, the more SOS Malta realised the importance of social and community projects particularly those directed at the Children and Youth of Albania. Especially after the 1991 crisis it was fundamental to keeping children and youth out of trouble. Social spaces were non-existent and thus, SOS Malta sought to create secure havens which would bring children and youth together in a spirit of companionship.

In 1993, SOS Malta set up a fully equipped Youth Centre in Korce, totally refurbished with a library of books and equipment.

In July 2000, SOS Malta initiated a playground project financing and setting up playgrounds in the centre of Korce and others at the Korce Orphanage, The Missionaries of Charity, the Franciscan Sisters in Billisht, the Catholic Centre in Libonik and the Catholic Parish Church in Korce.

In June 2002 SOS Malta financed and made possible a corneal transplant and the fitting of a prosthesis for an Albanian boy the victim of an unexploded ordinance. Also in 2002 a young father was fitted with two prosthesis for his missing arms lost in a factory accident.

In January 2003, SOS Malta inaugarated a five-a-side flood lit football pitch in the school grounds, which was completely financed by the organisation .  The pitch will be used for the students of the college and the general public.