As one of Europe's poorest countries, Albania offers many opportunities for volunteering. Despite recent economic growth, almost 1 in 4 Albanians live below the poverty level, $2/day (US). Over half of the population lives in rural areas, where many are underemployed. The combination of opportunities for contributions by volunteers and stunning landscapes of this small Balkan country make it a great option for anyone considering volunteering in Europe.
Work with Children and Youth
Nearly 50% of Albania's poor are under the age of 21. Volunteers who participate in programs related to childcare, teaching and mentorship programs therefore have a significant opportunity to make a positive social impact. Opportunities definitely exist in urban areas, but the need is even greater in rural areas, particularly in the northern mountainous areas.
Women in Albania are particularly affected by poverty. They experienced a disproportionate effect of the transition from communism, under which women were guaranteed employment. Many turned to subsistence farming, and those who head households are unable to match the living standards of households headed by males. In addition to discrimination and more limited economic and social opportunities, women in Albania are also at great risk of becoming the targets of violence.
Volunteering with People with Disabilities
As in many countries with a significant degree of poverty, Albanians with disabilities are at particular risk of poverty and even neglect. In the case of disabled children who require extensive treatment, families, especially large ones (half of the families with 7 or more members live below the poverty line) are unable to provide the necessary care. Volunteers, especially those who have experience working with the disabled, are particularly needed.
Volunteering Tips: Albania
Visas: Although a passport is required, citizens of the following countries can enter Albania without the need for a visa (for a 90-day maximum within a given 180-day period from the first date of entry): Andorra, Argentina, European Union / EFTA, Australia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Israel, Japan, Macau, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Macedonia, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Montenegro, South Korea, Singapore, Serbia, Taiwain, Turkey, Ukraine, United States. Citizens not from any of these countries must obtain a visa before embarking on a trip to Albania.(Wikipedia)
Disruption of Services: Throughout Albania, there are regular disruptions of public utilities, including not infrequent power outages and disruptions to water service. Note that this interferes with, for example, public transportation, as the normal operation of traffic lights is of course affected by the power outages.
Crime: As in other parts of the world with high unemployment, pick-pocketing and other types of petty street crimes are not uncommon. Travelers should take standard precautions to decrease the risk of this type of theft, particularly in large public places and in areas such as near ATM machines.Organized crime has a presence in Albania, though the violence it typically not directed at foreign nationals uninvolved in criminal organizations. However, violent crime has shown a steady increase throughout the country since 2009. (U.S. Department of State).
Public Demonstrations: According to the U.S. Department of State, "Public demonstrations occur throughout Albania, often with little or no notice... Although most demonstrations are peaceful, a demonstration in January 2011 turned violent and resulted in four deaths and injuries to many others, including to Albania State Police Officers. Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place." For information about demonstrations in Albania, one resource is the U.S. Embassy Tirana website.