Many people living in rural and sometimes very remote villages in Albania see no other way for themselves than to migrate and start anew in another place where the prospects for the future are better. The United Methodist Church (UMC) in Albania has open doors for these people in several cities of the country. But the Church also tries to reach out to those who want to stay in the places they call their home.
The village of Buzahishtë, located in the Velçan district, has undergone a similar development in recent years as so many other villages in the Mokra mountains: due to a lack of investment in infrastructure and the resulting social and financial problems, many people have migrated - either to the country's larger cities or directly abroad, where they hope to find better opportunities to earn money and have a bright future. The people who stay behind work hard but do not succeed in overcoming poverty. The effects of the Covid 19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have exacerbated this situation.
Last year, the idea arose among the leaders in Albania to improve the economic and social situation with an agricultural project and to strengthen the families involved in this project – this in parallel with the spiritual work that takes place in the very lively UMC church that has existed since 2020. Nine families grew medicinal herbs and beans. Another ten families, thanks to the support of Connexio develop, the organization for development and cooperation of the UMC in Switzerland, each received 300 kg of high-quality seed potatoes to cultivate an area of 1,000 m2 each. The project participants undertook to give away around 300 kg of the first harvest to other families so that they can also start growing potatoes the following year. However, it will be necessary to purchase another 300 kg of high-quality seed for each of the project participants in addition to the potatoes put aside. In the first year, this project has improved the living conditions of about 100 people. The goal is for this number to be even greater in 2023.
The project management was of impressive quality, and there was a very good and fair distribution of seed potatoes. The work done with much diligence and joy resulted in a gratifyingly good harvest, the picking up of which, as well as its sale, took place in a collectively organized manner. And then something special happened: on the one hand, as planned, part of the harvest was set aside to be given away to other families. But on the other hand, those involved in the project decided to give 80 kg of potatoes to the Miss Stone center in Strumica, so that they could be processed into a meal for needy people as part of the "Meals on Wheels" program. In the recent past, relations between this diaconal institution of the UMC in North Macedonia and the UMC in Albania had deepened, and there had been mutual visits.
Of course, one can say: and now? What are 80 kg of potatoes? But that would be a disregard for what George Lockwood translated from a Spanish song (© 1980 The United Methodist Publishing House): "When the poor ones who have nothing share with strangers, when the thirsty water give unto us all (…) then we know that God still goes that road with us." They themselves barely have enough to live on, and yet those involved in the project in the Albanian Mokra mountains were thinking at that moment of old and in many cases very lonely people in the neighboring country. They shared from the little they have, setting a strong sign of cross-border solidarity, love and hope.
Source: Wilfried + Jean Nausner, Albania / Urs Schweizer, Zurich