Tropojë is a municipality in northern Albania, close to the border with Kosovo. It might forever be remembered as the region that opened its doors to thousands of refugees during the 1998 Kosovo War – compassionate but ill-equipped to handle the influx. Today, one of the previously poorest districts in Europe is slowly on the up, aided by its natural surroundings. But it needs support. Lack of employment opportunities exacerbated by environmental degradation regularly prevent families from making ends meet.
2019 saw Dorcas roll-out an initiative to directly respond to these issues – and capitalise on the rich potential of both the region and its inhabitants.
The project combines entrepreneurial training, social protection and youth empowerment activities for enhanced effect. Our integrated approach sees individuals from all levels of society come together to forge sustainable livelihoods and protect the poorest and most marginalised groups within their locality.
Strengthening the capacity of civil society is key to this. We join forces with community-based organisations to increase communities’ participation in decision-making on environmental issues that affect their daily lives. We also work in collaboration with local municipalities and micro-loan organisations to facilitate the start-up of small-scale business endeavours, drawing upon the skillsets of the youth population as well as practiced farmers. The first year as a whole saw these groups become mini-entrepreneurs and grow their farm or agro-tourism business – with everything from tour guide to guest-house owner on the list.
To bring about lasting change, long after our formal involvement ends, we also establish community-owned structures and provide training for youth so that they can gradually begin to deliver support themselves. This process sees community safety nets across the region expanded to include psychosocial support and intergenerational activities for elderly and Roma groups. These activities give younger and older generations the chance to interact and connect with each other in ways that serve to improve the emotional, social and intellectual wellbeing of all. Our programmes also seek to break down cultural barriers and help participants reject stereotypes, resulting in benefits such as improved health, stimulated learning and a fresh sense of purpose. With this newfound confidence, youth and elderly alike are empowered to become leaders in their community – taking their future into their own hands.
27 July 2020