Caritas Albania was established in 1993 by the Conference of Bishops of the Catholic Church in conjunction with a visit by Pope John Paul II as the country emerged from one of the most isolationist communist dictatorships of the Cold War era. Since its inception, Caritas Albania has encountered some of the most difficult periods in Albania’s short history as a nation: an unemployment rate of nearly 27 percent after the collapse of the communist regime in 1992, poverty levels around 25 percent and over 300,000 Kosovo refugees crossing the border into Albania as a result of the conflict in Kosovo. Caritas Albania responded to those challenges by providing material assistance and restoring hope in the communities where it worked. Today, the vast majority of Caritas Albania initiatives continue to be at the grassroots level and their belief that respect for human rights will ensure sustainable development underpins their 95 missions: providing access to social and health services, advocacy for anti-trafficking measures, emergency relief and social development.
Caritas Albania emergency relief efforts immediately following civil emergencies and natural catastrophes in Albania has been the cornerstone of their work for the last 20 years. They provide essential services, such as food, water, and shelter, and care for those most in need. Elemental to their humanitarian work is collaboration with Caritas members, such as Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas England & Wales (CAFOD), to facilitate the relief and recovery of areas devastated by floods, landslides, snow emergencies for people living in rural communities and man-made disasters, such as the munitions depot explosion at Gerdec in March 2008.
Through training and development of individuals in the public and voluntary sectors, Caritas Albania provides continuity and longevity in improving the living conditions of Albanians. In conjunction with the Catholic Church, they develop and build schools, health centres, hospitals, roads, bridges, water supply systems, housing social centres for children, young people and people in need, like women trafficked and families with children with serious illnesses. Recently, they organised and managed the construction of 49 health centers in 6 Dioceses (Shkodra, SAPE, Rrëshen, Lezha and South) to improve the health care and services to people with disabilities.
Caritas Albania plays an instrumental role combating human trafficking; both at the grassroots level with at risk communities and at the advocacy level supporting the work of Caritas Europe and Caritas Internationalis.
Caritas Albania’s main office is in Tirana and has a staff of approximately 20 people and over 100 volunteers. All activities conducted by Caritas Albania are conducted in close cooperation with missionaries, clergy, volunteers and donors. Caritas Albania local offices operate in 6 dioceses: Caritas Tirana / Durres, Shkodra Caritas, Caritas Dashboard, Sapa Caritas, Caritas Lezha, Caritas Caritas Rrëshen and South.
As a member of the Caritas Internationalis conferderation much of the support Caritas Albania receives to carry out work with the poorest communities is from the worldwide network of more than 160 Caritas members, such as US, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, England & Wales, and Spain. Caritas Italy has played an especially significant role in capacity building.
Arch. Angelo Massafra, O.F.M.
Fr. Antonio Leuci, R.C. J.
Rruga Don Bosko 4