The Youth Ambassador
Hello! My name is Malaya (rhymes with papaya), and I am 13 years old. I love shooting a bow and arrow, reading books, and using advanced vocabulary in everyday conversation. I love anything vintage (especially my Smith-Corona typewriter), and I also enjoy hanging out with my friends. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention- I am also the Youth Ambassador to the Eastern European Chamber of Commerce as well as the Youth Ambassador for a Diplomatic Mission to Albania.
The reason I first got involved with this project of improving education in Albania, is because my parents bribed me with the knowledge that I would embark on a journey to Europe. At first I thought, “Yay! Vacation!” but then I found out I actually needed to do something productive on the trip, instead of just eating a bunch Gurabija pjeshkë (Albanian butter cookies that look like peaches, yummy!!). I honestly had no idea what exactly I should be doing in Albania, so I decided to Google it. Finally, after several hours of research and a large bag of Doritos, I was shocked to discover that the education system in Albania was in very bad shape. And as I ate my last Cool Ranch chip, I realized…I absolutely had to do something to help out.
The Diplomatic Mission
For some students in the United States, going to school every day feels like a chore, while for others, like many students in Albania, going to school is a privilege. According to The NY Times, the U.S. government spent around $107.6 billion on education in 2012. The Albanian government only spends 3% of its entire budget on education, which is only $3.75 billion. That is the lowest amount a country spends on education in the Southeastern European region. This has a huge impact on what Albanian schools can provide for their students.
Because Albanian schools are so underfunded, they cannot provide basic school supplies like textbooks, paper and pencils for their students. And because a lot of students in rural areas cannot afford to buy these supplies themselves, they simply don’t have the same opportunity to learn as other students.
Are you aware that over 50% of Albanian families live on less than $4.00 USD a day? I wouldn’t even be able to get a Happy Meal with that amount of money, let alone books, pencils, paper or back packs. It is not surprising that many Albanian kids end up dropping out of school so they can work to provide for their families. In 2008, 20% of girls and 30% of boys dropped out of school and went to work, before the legal working age.
The Story of Jonuz
In the small town of Shushica, Albania, a little boy named Jonuz enrolled in school, just like everyone else. Except, that he was unable to afford the same supplies as the other students. He said, “I started to feel unequal and undesirable when I looked at my friends’ school bags…This was causing me to feel like I was not competent enough to be a normal student.”
Jonuz was thinking about dropping out of school, until some charities stepped in to buy him and twenty-two other students in his town the school supplies they couldn’t afford. Now all these students have the supplies they need to get an education, and stay in school.
This is what I want to do. This is how I want to make a difference for my generation. I want to provide school supplies, like: pencils, pens, paper, back packs, art supplies and books to as many Albanian students as I can. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but to these kids, it makes all the difference in the world.
What you can do to help:
I believe that the number one thing you can do to support these kids, is to raise awareness for this serious issue. Talk about this with your friends and family. Share your ideas about this on Facebook and Twitter. Share my blog. Get the word out!!
Of course, we also need donations and could really use your help in that area too. Every little bit counts! If you are in the store shopping for Back to School supplies, consider buying an extra box of pencils, or an extra pack of paper to donate to the kids in Albania. If you are grocery shopping and see a special sale on colored pencils, pens, or notebooks, consider buying a couple to donate.
I will be working with my Girl Scout Troop over the next few months to organize the collection of donated supplies and books. If you have supplies you would like to donate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at my twitter handle (@malaya_medrano), and we can arrange a pick up. If your business would like to establish a collection bin in their office, please let me know. I will immediately dispatch a team of Girl Scouts to set-up a bin in your office.
I want to thank you all for reading this post and for maybe even helping me with my adventure in foreign education. I know you are all important business men and women with busy schedules, so I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to my ideas.