We thank you for considering serving alongside the people of Albania, we are certain that if you choose to do so, it is likely to be one of the most important and transformative decisions in your life. You would be joining a legacy of service that is devoted to world peace and friendship.
Serving in Albania is a very special opportunity. Albania is a very traditional country with a deep and complex culture, filled with contradictions and incredibly warm and welcoming people.
As messaged through the Peace Corps oath of service, you would be asked to approach your Peace Corps experience with:
- An open heart and mind;
- Patience, humility and determination;
- Creativity, cultural sensitivity and respect; and,
- A willingness to embrace the mission of world peace and friendship.
Part of the beauty of Peace Corps is the hard work it will require from you as you adjust to being out of your comfort zone, away from your own culture and network of established friends and family, while being immersed in an Albanian speaking community addressing daily challenges. If you choose to join Peace Corps, you will find that Peace Corps is likely to be the toughest job you will ever love.
If you bring the qualities mentioned above and if you authentically work to build trust, share skills to solve challenges, while integrating into your community—you would set yourself up to be successful. Integration into your community will be that much deeper as you would be living at the standard of those you are serving and endeavoring to speak Albanian. Together, all of these things would position you to be standing on the foundation of a Peace Corps experience that I am certain would be an inflection point in your life.
Albania is a remarkable country. Mountain ranges give over to the Adriatic coastline or to hidden lakes and jaw-dropping gorges. With this natural beauty as a backdrop, there are shells of long-ago closed factories and mills, a crumbling infrastructure, and unfinished buildings that were abandoned due to lack of funding. And there are communities working hard to provide the best for their kids. Construction is everywhere with new schools being built, new town squares in nearly every community, and the evening ‘xhiro’ (nightly strolls) bringing life into the streets of some of the quietest towns. Albanians are warm, welcoming and hospitable. Albanians are also proud people who are not quick to ask for or accept help.
Albania is a country in transition. It is arguably more in transition now, than at any point in history. There is rapid change occurring in every sector while institutional constraints remain barriers to sought-after progress. Albania is a country with untapped potential and a challenge in that many citizens believe life can be better elsewhere; 58% of Albanians have expressed a desire to emigrate from their homeland, ranking Albania the third highest in the world. This is a pivotal time for Albania. Whether community organizing or teaching English or Health Education – you would find many opportunities --through your primary work, additional projects and informal activities—to find meaningful work.
The deepest impact you would have, would be on the individuals with whom you would build genuine relationships and friendships. One of the most innovative and passionate university teachers in Albania is a woman who told me, “I am a tree who grew from Peace Corps”. She talked to me about the impact that a Peace Corps Volunteer had on her two decades ago when the Volunteer was her teacher. This woman is now influencing hundreds of future teachers in Albania each year as a professor in the School of Education. She is carrying forward the impact of a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 90’s. Two years, five years, twenty years after a Volunteer is gone, the impact of their work will continue to be realized.
Achieving this impact as a Peace Corps Volunteer is almost guaranteed, but it does not happen without hard work, heavy lifting and intentionality. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer myself, I will tell you that being a PCV is hard. It is incredibly hard. And it is equally rewarding. Peace Corps is a job with real expectations and it is more than a job, you are “on” 24/7. Your presence in your community goes well beyond any typical work day.
The vision of Peace Corps is to promote world peace and friendship. The goals are about the transfer of skills and sharing the culture of both countries. Transfer of skills is an important notion and the hardest lift of all will not be what you could do for your community, but what you could do side by side with your community. This is where the sustainable and meaningful change will lie and this is where you could create a lasting legacy from your service. The greatest impact you could have wouldn’t come from insisting on doing things on your terms, it wouldn’t come from approaching your community from the viewpoint that the way we do things in the US is the ‘right’ way. The greatest impact would be when you open your heart and open your mind and when you connect deeply with a small number of people in your community and you each look past, but always appreciate the differences you bring and you learn from each other.
I wish you luck as you consider Peace Corps service and Peace Corps service in Albania.
Kate Becker and the Peace Corps Team in Albania and Montenegro