Youth in Albania are a prominent influencing force in society today. Despite this, they still lack recognition from local governments and are therefore unable to reach their full potential in building effective and resilient communities. With this challenge in mind, the PLGP has set about the critical process of establishing municipally-recognized Youth Boards (YBs) in our six WPS-partnered municipalities. These YBs give young people opportunities to develop their potential and ensure participation and a voice in governmental processes that impact their futures and communities. Since 2018, the PLGP has facilitated the establishment and formalization of five Youth Boards in the municipalities of Belsh (by invitation), Bulqiza, Cerrik, Librazhd, and Peshkopi.
The Cerrik Youth Board was one of the first YBs created: a group of vibrant girls and boys that want to make a change in their lives and their community. Since its creation, the Cerrik YB members have been actively involved in various capacity building and community development activities, ranging from environmental days to advocacy and leadership trainings.
In May, through a planning and visioning exercise, they developed their concept of an ideal city. This concept included architectural and environmental design, services, safe places and citizen participation in local government. They presented their projects to then-Mayor Altin Toska and Mr. Brock Bierman, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, both of whom appreciated their sincere passion and ideas. Mr. Bierman stated, “Bringing youth into the fold of the community and providing meaningful opportunities to affect change helps prevent violent extremist ideologies from taking root, which is good for your community, Albania, and the entire region.”
Further reflecting their care for public spaces, the Cerrik YB and students from the World Academy Tirana (WAT) met on May 29th, to take part in a collaborative environmental activity. The 40 youths met with the Mayor to discuss the role of the municipality in protecting the environment, planted over 30 trees and other plants in the city center and surrounding areas, and traveled to Banja Lake where they collected bags of trash before enjoying an afternoon picnic and team-building games.
The Cerrik YB has grown both in numbers and strength as they approach the one-year anniversary of its creation. In addition to meeting with the municipality to organize and participate in various community activities, they also organize activities independently. Even such simple acts as meeting for picnics together, builds the bond they share as YB members from diverse backgrounds, and creates opportunities to socialize.
Cultural opportunities to gather as a community were limited in Cerrik. As part of a broader communal effort, USAID/PLGP supported the furnishing of the cinema of Cerrik. This new multicultural center (which houses the cinema) was established with Italian Albanian Development Cooperation Program (IADSA) funds and represents the positive impact of collaborative donor efforts on vulnerable communities. The municipality inaugurated the new cinema with a celebration attended by 300 citizens, at which the Mayor expressed his and the citizens’ thanks for the support of USAID in this endeavor. The new multicultural center offers a safe and inclusive space for the whole of society to engage in social activities and community meetings. The new cinema will revitalize and invigorate the artistic, cultural, and social lives of citizens and will have a sustainable social impact on the community for generations to come.
In addition to developing a social space in Cerrik, USAID/PLGP furnished a newly-renovated library within the Palace of Culture in Bulqiza, transforming it into a functional Youth Center which can now serve as a multipurpose space for youth and the community as a whole. The new Youth Center in Bulqiza offers YB members and other youth from the municipality a public space to convene, organize activities and trainings, access library resources, and utilize internet-connected computers. Through various social and educational activities, the Youth Center will strengthen capacities of local young people and support their development as future leaders. The Youth Center serves a crucial purpose for the youth in Bulqiza, as it is the only cultural and artistic institution for them in the entire municipality. Its operation brings added value not only for youth, but for the entire municipality as well, and provides further credibility to youth’s role in building resiliency within their communities.