Love Volunteers has united with a local, established NGO in Albania to offer volunteer placements in this fascinating country. Volunteering in Albania means stepping into the breach to make a small contribution to the fight against under-privilege in one of Europe's poorest countries. Volunteers in Albania work with children from the disadvantaged minority Romani community.
Bordered by Montenegro, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia and Greece, Albania is a mountainous country with an extensive stretch of Adriatic coastline. Its people, having emerged from Communist control in the 1990s, have had difficult economic conditions to endure. Members of Albania's 'Romani' community are particularly hard hit by poverty, by low literacy levels as well as suffering considerable discrimination.
Albania has a long history of isolation, due not just to its geographical location and inhospitably rugged terrain, but also due to its political situation over the decades, notably the forty-seven years spent under Communist rule from 1946 until 1992. Governed democratically since that period, economic progress has been extremely slow.
A predominantly Muslim country, Albania's frontiers also contain a wealth of other ethnic and religious groups. Travelers enjoy visiting the country predominantly to experience its very distinctive culture. The Shkumbin River, which virtually bisects the country, separates speakers of the northern dialect (Gheg) from those of the southern dialect (Tosk; the official dialect).
Albania's Ionian coastline in the west is known for its untouched beaches. The country is home to some ancient classical sites, among them Berat, 70 kms from Tirana, an Ancient Greek polis and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Albania's north is the area that has endowed the country with its image as a wild and bleak land of inhospitable jagged mountains and villages trapped in a time warp. Here there is wildlife a-plenty, including deer, wild boar and wolves. Thethi - named after the river on which it lies - is one of the four major national parks in Albania. The Grunas Waterfall in the park is a dramatic sight.
Tirana is a fast-developing city, shaking off its Communist past and acquiring a western feel. It is small and manageable for traversing on foot. There are cinemas, concert halls and theaters with programs of a high standard and many bars, some providing live music. Several shopping malls have sprung up. Italian shoes at bargain prices are one attraction.