Give the gift of aid this Christmas!

Give the gift of aid this Christmas!

Dec 01, 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Albania in March, 2020, the family of Vjollca Hoxhallari had achieved a precarious balance. Vjollca earned some money by cleaning houses, and her husband, paralyzed in 2018, brought in a modest stipend from the government. They were able to keep food on the table for their three children—until COVID-19 hit. The national lockdown shut down Vjollca’s ability to earn money, and then in April 2020, Vjollca’s husband died. The situation of this newly widowed mother quickly became desperate. As her husband had been a regular patient at NG’s Buçimas clinic, in the lockdown she appealed to NG to receive aid parcels of food and cleaning supplies. This is the sole source of assistance available to them.

Sadly, Vjollca’s situation is far from unique. Informal arrangements providing livelihoods for many have been upended. Few people now hire others to clean their homes. To save money and avoid potential exposure to the virus, people do their own cleaning. They cut their own firewood rather than hiring somebody else to do it. As a result, people who survive by taking on incidental tasks are left without any source of income. As in Vjollca’s case, loss of that meager income immediately creates a crisis.

Seasonal agricultural work on the fruit harvest in Greece has long been a vital source of cash income for thousands of Albanian households, especially in the villages. This work pays far better than similar work in Albania and provides cash to get through the winter months. Migrant work in Greece was severely disrupted this year. In the spring, COVID-19 lockdowns closed borders between Albania and Greece. Continued restrictions and new requirements have cut off this option for many—leaving families without a cash reserve going into the winter.

Albanian government unemployment benefits are only available to workers who have paid into social security, and whose employers have registered their work. Migrant workers and people in informal, day-to-day work arrangements are typically outside of this provision. Families and the arrangements they make for self-sufficiency remain the most important safety net. In summertime, many Albanians grow an impressive array of fruits and vegetables—food to sustain them well into winter. This food supply dwindles as the cold winter months set in.

The situation is even more dire among society’s most vulnerable, such as the Roma community. Government social assistance programs offer a minimal subsidy—not enough for a family to live on—andligibility criteria disqualify many people in need. Pensions for the elderly are also limited, leaving many seniors living in poverty.

Sonja, age 7, and Leonis, age 10, are students at NG’s Amaro Tan School. Their parents are divorced, and their mother lives in Tirana. When COVID-19 started, they were supported by their father, a Roma community activist, and their grandmother, who makes a little money selling old clothes on the street. The COVID-19 lockdown ended her work. The children’s father died recently, leaving the children with no means of support. The family was already receiving aid from Amaro Tan. In this new crisis, the school is looking for other ways to love and support the children and provide material aid to the bereft household.

Sabirka and Edlira Sinanllari are Roma sisters in their fifties who live in a defunct military building outside Pogradec, in apartments with no electricity. As children, their parents pulled them out of school before they could learn how to read. Now, the only income available to them comes from begging. Edlira and Sabirka have been coming to the Amaro Tan soup kitchen for three years. During lockdown, Amaro Tan staff brought aid parcels and firewood to their home, and now are happy to see them again at the soup kitchen. The sisters agree that Amaro Tan is the only institution that has really helped and continues to help them.In Gjirokaster, Thomai, age 10, and Aleksandri, age 7, are participants in the Roma school program. They receive material aid, equipping them for school and daily after-school meals, activities, and homework help. Pre-COVID, the family’s only income came from the boys’ mother collecting recyclables on the streets. When the lockdown started, that tiny income stream dried up. Aid deliveries from the NG Gjirokaster team allowed the household to keep some food on the table.

In the present moment, society’s most vulnerable have gone from struggling to drowning. People who had built day to day self-sufficiency are now struggling, and even those who were comfortable are now less secure. People whose lives teetered in a precarious balancing act now find themselves in crisis. Nehemiah Gateway’s mission is to help and empower people to shape and determine their lives in dignity and independence. Today, dignity starts with having enough to eat. In the face of growing demand, our team at NG Albania is doing all it can to help people get through the COVID-19 crisis.

From the very beginning, humanitarian aid has been an important component of NG’s Albanian work. When the Geiger family came to Albania in 1991, it was a time of profound social disruption and disarray.In 2020, the effects of coronavirus, and of trying to limit the spread of this deadly virus, are just as disruptive. Then, as now, helping people started with making sure their most basic needs were met. Our teams in Buçimas, Pogradec, and Gjirokastër engage deeply in the lives of the people we help. Our aid delivery program brings essential supplies to people in need, and it also gives staff an opportunity to offer comfort and to help provide solutions to other challenges a household may be facing.

You can be a part of this and help people like Vjollca, Sonja and Leonis, Sabirka and Edlira, and Thomai and Aleksandri. A Christmas donation to Nehemiah Gateway humanitarian aid work will expand and strengthen the support we provide to the people who need it most.With an expected winter surge in cases, and new restrictions on the horizon, the need has never been greater. You can give here:

https://www.ng-usa.org/donate

or by mailing a gift, using the envelope provided with this mailing.

INSET BOX

What’s in an aid parcel, anyway? NG has always included a mix of staple goods such as cooking oil, pasta, flour, sugar, and coffee. Household cleaning supplies such as soap are also always included. Now, we are including reusable face masks for all family members. Face masks reduce transmission of COVID-19, and as of October, they are legally required in Albania in all public places, otherwise incurring a fine of 3000 Lek (approximately $30.) Families we help survive on incomes of as low as $70/month - such a fine would be ruinous for them.