Local volunteers rebuild school in Albania

A feeling of achievement: 'Standing and looking at the beautiful building was one of the happiest moments in my life'

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  • Carly Glasse with the tree painted a classroom wall, with the handprints of everyone who helped as the leaves (Photo provided)

  • Volunteers and workers inside a classroom with students at their desks, ready to begin learning (Photo provided)

  • The 400-year-old school mid-reconstruction (Photo provided)

  • The school in ruins after the fire (Photo provided)

By Geri Corey

— Local volunteers recently traveled to the small Albanian village of Trebisht to rebuild a school.

When it was demolished by a fierce fire three years ago, about 50 children were left without a place to learn.

After months of fundraising, project head Carly Glasse, a manager at Limoncello at the Orange Inn in Goshen, and 10 volunteers boarded a plane at JFK and flew to Albania, a country on the southeastern section of Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, bordering Macedonia. They stayed from Aug. 1 to 10.

Accompanying the group were two guides from Bright Light Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that helped organize the undertaking.

“This was the most beautiful collection of individuals,” said Glasse of the volunteers. “Every person was dedicated and hard working beyond imagination. We accomplished so much.”

The group landed in the capital city of Tirana, where they stayed overnight. The next morning they embarked on a three-and-a half hour bus ride to Trebisht.

“We rode deep into the mountains, the beautiful, beautiful mountains,” said Glasse.

Up and down the hillWhen they arrived at the school site, Glasse said she had a renewed appreciation for the project. The need was greater than she had imagined.

With limited electricity and frequent blackouts, homes pieced together with found materials — “luckily the people there are handy and hard working,” she said — and bathrooms that were basically holes in the floor, the needs of the community were great.

Most people get around by walking, going to town means walking through mud and streams.

“Some people have horses, but not many and the upper class might have cars, but we didn’t see too many cars,” said Glasse.

Fire demolished all but the school’s foundation and one wall, which is 400 years old, so part of the fundraising donations was used to pay contractors to rebuild the remaining cement walls before the group arrived.

“Everything else we did,” said Glasse — priming and painting inside and outside, laying tile on the floors, cleaning up the yard left unattended for three years, digging a sewage trench, building a latrine type bathroom, and fencing in the entire area.

With the school’s location on top of a steep hill, carrying the necessary materials was difficult in itself. Not only did they brings tools to accomplish their jobs, like cans of paint, boxes of tiles, brushes, rakes, axes, shovels, and more, up the hill, but they also toted up desks, chairs and an assortment of odds and ends for teaching and decorating.

Leaves on a treeFilled with emotion, Glasse found it difficult to express exactly how she felt when the project was completed.

“Standing and looking at the beautiful building was one of the happiest moments in my life," she said. "Of course, I was crying more than I ever had!”

Parents, too, were filled with emotion, hugging and kissing her and the other volunteers.

“They had looks of pure gratification on their faces,” said Glasse.

As a lasting reminder, a member of the group painted a tree on one of the two classroom walls, with the brightly colored “leaves” created by handprints of everyone who helped — volunteers, skilled workers, students, and community members.

“The tree symbolizes that we’re all rooted in the same place,” Glasse explained.

“Rebuilding their school gives children the opportunity to learn and opens up the option of making decisions for themselves, such as whether, as they mature, they want to stay in Albania or by acquiring the skills can search out other places," she said.

Glasse and the volunteers found this project to be so rewarding that, she hinted, there just might be more projects on the horizon.

“Stay tuned, folks!” she said.

Related storySee related story at chroniclenewspaper.com:

"Limoncello's plans fundraisers to rebuild Albanian school"

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