On 9 March, Elizabeth Gowing met a little girl named Gjelane in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje. At nine years old, Gjelane had never been to school, but she held out hope that one day she would attend. It was her dream.
After meeting Gjelane, Elizabeth pledged that she would make her dream come true. She would get her into school.
It would not be easy. Gjelane could not read or write. Without literacy skills Gjelane would not be able to enter Kosovo’s education system because she would not be able to pass the mandatory entrance exam, as she was too old to start from first grade.
Gjelane was not the only child in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje to be in this situation.
“Of the 20 houses we visited, 18 children wanted to attend school but were too old,” said Elizabeth.
“For me, it was a bit like a doctor at a car crash. I said to myself I have the skills, I have an obligation to help these children.”
And Elizabeth set out to do so.
Through her NGO “The Ideas Partnership,” Elizabeth raised money to rent a space in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje where she could start preparatory classes for Gjelane and the other children.
“The first day I had visions that I would be teaching five children sitting in front of me, but on the first day there were 22 children, and by the end of the first week there were 50!” said Elizabeth.
With so many children, ranging in age from 9 to 16, Elizabeth was overwhelmed. She could not teach them all herself.
With the funds she collected, Elizabeth was able to hire a full time teacher and buy supplies but it was not enough. Volunteers were needed.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV) stepped in. UNV donated materials and beginning this month UNV volunteers serving with UNHCR, UNDP and UNMIK will be teaching at the Gjelane school. Their classes will include geography, English, nutrition and hygiene.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV) is an agency of the United Nations that harnessing the power of volunteerism to contribute to peace and development. UNVs serve in UN agencies and departments around the world, helping to move the United Nations closer to achieving its goals, and helping to improve the lives of people in the communities they serve.
June Kashio, a UNV Program Officer in Kosovo, says the collaboration with “The Ideas Partnership” allows UNV Kosovo to match “supply and demand together.”
“It’s also a great way to kick off our activities for the 10th anniversary for the International Year of Volunteers (IYV),” she adds.
Together with the support of The Ideas Partnership and UNV the children are learning to read and write and in September be entering school.