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August 2 2008

From Rome to Tirana, Albania: On vacation with the gypsy children

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For the past four years, Youth for Peace in Rome – mostly comprised of high school students – has been linked with the gypsy children of Tirana. The groups get together in the summer for the School of Peace and during the year for certain occasions, such as Christmas, when they celebrate together.

This year, for the 40th anniversary of the Community, something special was necessary; and thus was born the idea of a real, genuine vacation for a group of 25 children. Many of them had never been outside Tirana: at most a quick trip during the summer to the beach, not far from the city centre. 
Preparation began in April: a group of youth went to Albania to find a vacation spot and to inform children’ families. The Rogationist Fathers of St Nicholas offered hospitality for the month of July. And so, having finished school and exams, the vacation began on 18 July.  

During their vacation, the children had the chance to eat until they were full, wash regularly, and live outside the restrained circuit of camp life.
But the vacation served also, and not secondarily, as an occasion for living in a serene atmosphere with “grown-ups.”

No small number of them comes from difficult family situations, often because their parents were forced to emigrate and find work, leaving their children to grandparents or other relatives.

Some of the adult gypsies – a few young mothers; a pair of former participants of the School of Peace who, although they aren’t children anymore, don’t plan on letting go of the friendship they experienced there; a teacher – offered to help.

Among the most beautiful images from these days - between the many activities, games, short trips and parties – were from the meals, at long tables with typical Albanese and Italian dishes, as well as from the trip to Krujie  to the Castle of Skanderberg , Albanese national hero.

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