Amaro Tan ("Our Place" in the Romani language) has been a safe place to learn and grow for Roma, Balkan Egyptian, and at-risk Albanian children in Pogradec, Albania for over 20 years. It is run by Nehemiah Gateway, a humanitarian and educational organization that has been based in Pogradec since 1991. Amaro Tan has 132 students enrolled this year, in grades pre-kindergarten through 9th grade. In addition to learning the same basic curriculum as their peers in local public schools, pupils receive an array of humanitarian supports they would not otherwise be able to access, including a daily hot lunch (in Albania, the biggest meal of the day), breakfast, vocational training, counseling and support, supplemental food aid for their families (which incentivizes parents who are skeptical about the value of education to keep their children in school) health and dental care, summer camps (supported by Rotary), and after-school tutoring. This school is entirely supported by donors.
Pupils at Amaro Tan come from Albanian society's most vulnerable populations. Among Albanian Roma, only about 3% graduate from high school, and less than half of adults know how to read and write. From an early age, children from these groups face pressure to help their impoverished families by begging or trash picking. Girls experience strong cultural pressure to marry and have children in early puberty, and are at risk of being trafficked. For many of them, Amaro Tan is their only and best shot at a childhood that includes not only education and the support of caring adults, but some play and fun as well.
This grant request is for a playground at the Amaro Tan school, primarily to benefit the younger students. Currently, the school has a small, fenced-in soccer/basketball court that is enjoyed every day by the older students. The outdoor play area for the smaller children (generally about 25 children per year) currently consists of some old tires and a sandbox with no sand in it (pictures attached.) We would like to equip it with 2 seesaws, a play structure, and a swing, and rebuild and refill the sandbox. Everything will be sized for small children. In selecting and building the equipment, safety and durability will be top priorities.
A new playground will be safer and more fun for the children, reducing the risk of injuries and expanding the scope of their imaginative play. It will also reflect that they are as worthy as other children of a safe, modern playground to play on.
Rotary participation will be recognized via a Rotary plaque at the playground. Members of the Rotary Club of Estes Park will be welcome to visit and see the playground being used, and members of the Pogradec Rotary Club, who have become increasingly engaged with Nehemiah Gateway's work in Albania, will be invited to attend the opening of the new playground.
The Rotary Club of Estes Park will provide $2,000 and we are requesting $2,000 in District grant matching funds.