Albania - Giving something back

Giving something back

The charitable sector in Albania is very weak compared with northern Europe or (especially) North America. Most Tirana-based not-for-profit organisations conduct research or lobbying rather than hands-on humanitarian assistance. The main organisations which actually feed hungry people and treat sick babies are the churches and mosques.

One area where there are some organisations actively trying to make a difference is that of the environment and sustainable tourism; they tend to call themselves ‘Associations’ (Shoqata) to differentiate them from the lobbying and research NGOs. The longest standing is the Outdoor Albania Association (OAA), founded in 2005 by people who were also involved in the specialist tour operator Outdoor Albania. OAA works with local communities to improve access to remote attractions, bring visitors to these places, and train local people to create businesses that are sensitive to the environmental impact and the sustainability of their enterprises. For example, it is thanks to OAA that the Pëllumbasi Cave, near Tirana, is so easy to visit. Every summer, it brings foreign and Albanian volunteers together in a village in southern Albania to work on projects such as rubbish collection, path clearing and signposting. OAA can always use donations of money as well as of time and labour; its website gives details of its bank account.

Pëllumbasi Cave, Albania by Albinfo, Wikimedia CommonsTrek to the ancient Pëllumbasi Cave where cave bears used to live © Albinfo, Wikimedia Commons

The Balkans Peace Park Project (B3P) has activities throughout the area proposed for this cross-border park; specifically in Albania, it has run a summer programme in the village of Thethi from 2008 to 2016 and, more recently, also in Kelmendi and Valbona. Albanian tutors train the local adults in environmental studies and in agricultural improvement techniques, while foreign volunteers teach English to both children and adults, as well as other skills – music, sports, photography, etc. B3P is registered as a charity in England but has a partner organisation, B3P-Albania, registered in Shkodra. Again, they welcome donations as well as volunteers.

Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) focuses on research and policy advocacy. Two of the major international projects PPNEA is involved in are the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme and Save the Blue Heart of Europe, a campaign to protect the wild rivers of the Balkans from unbridled hydro-electric developments. PPNEA also has a number of smaller-scale but no less important projects, including monitoring pelicans and other waterbirds and campaigning against the keeping of bears in captivity. Donations can be made through its website.

Valbona, Albania by Tobias Klenze, ShutterstockThis beautiful area in the Albanian Alps is protected by TOKA © Tobias Klenze, Shutterstock

The Organisation to Conserve the Albanian Alps (TOKA) is a new non-profit organisation, building on the achievements of an informal group which has run successful projects in the Valbona Valley National Park for several years. TOKA (meaning ‘earth’) is particularly active in protecting and managing the natural resources of the Alps, especially in legally protected areas; creating and promoting sustainable growth; and representing local stakeholders.

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