Bringing an American-style Thanksgiving food drive to Albania

By Christine Torres
Nov. 21, 2017

While Albania celebrates many of the same holidays as the rest of the world, one American celebration is still unknown. 

Thanksgiving 2016 celebration and food drive in Vlore, Albania.
Thanksgiving 2016 celebration and food drive in Vlore, Albania.

The Peace Corps introduced Thanksgiving to the city of Vlore in 2016 to benefit the Daily Center for the Elderly with a food drive and entertainment.

Many of our older community members find it hard to make ends meet. They often go hungry, and some don’t have family members to care for them. Social services often do not reach this part of the community.

In collaboration with the American Corner at the city library, a food drive was organized. We requested the most basic staples common to the Albanian diet – flour, sugar, rice, beans, oil, pasta and other non-perishables. The response was overwhelming: we were hoping for about 25 bags of food and received enough for over 90 bags of food.

Various “friends of the library” organized performances from the local high schools and university. Albania has vibrant traditional dances and music that are taught to every student. They entertained the members of the center with poetry reading, instrumental solos and folk dancing.

Thanksgiving food drive for the elderly in Vlore, Albania
The 2016 food drive received enough donations for more than 90 bags of food.

We were glad to see support from a wide sector of the community, including a representative from the municipality, the University of Vlore and other civic groups, as well as elementary and high school students. 

The members of the center, largely retired men, meet regularly to read the newspaper, play chess or dominoes and socialize. Women, especially of the older generation, generally stay in the home. Because of the limited pensions that are available, food insecurities are not unusual. Coffee and honey are considered luxuries and often unaffordable, but they add so much to the quality of life in this Central European region. Many seniors have to make decisions to eliminate some basics from their households in order to afford water and electricity.

Thanksgiving celebration at the Elderly Center in Vlore.
Thanksgiving celebration at the Elderly Center in Vlore.

This food drive was a success not only for the amount of food brought in but for raising awareness in the community. Some officials didn’t know where the center was and some didn’t even know that a center for the elderly even existed.

In the month that followed our drive, the mayor was present as a youth organization organized a drive to provide simple electronics for the center members – small space heaters, cooking units and other equipment. This was a sign that hopefully other groups will continue to support members of the Daily Center for the Elderly in the future. Some of the excess bags of food were distributed to others in need in the area surrounding the center.

The Peace Corps and the American Corner will collaborate again this year on Thanksgiving Day to sponsor another food drive, to be presented the following day to the elderly residents of Vlore. 

We have seen other organizations sponsor food drives with success and we hope to bring Food Bank Albania, a national organization, to Vlore for the first time this December for the benefit of the greater community.

Christine Torres

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