Today I’d like to share some feedback about a school repair project Spirit of America recently funded in Kosovo. This recently independent Balkan country – the nation declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 – was the scene of significant ethnic violence in the late 1990s that ultimately led to a US-led NATO intervention to end the strife.
A US Army team is working out of the Embassy in the capital, Pristina, to help heal these ethnic tensions and strengthen vulnerable communities’ abilities to both ward off extremism and keep from contributing to the illicit trafficking that is so common in the Balkans (with the refugee crisis very much in the news of late, this issue has taken on even more importance).
One of the best ways to counter extremist influence and deter illicit activities is through outreach to the youth population, especially in bolstering their access to education. This is not only important for the obvious impact good education can have for future employment opportunities (thus reducing a need to turn to alternative sources of income like trafficking), but also because improving services like education can create stronger ties between vulnerable communities and their government. This increases confidence in the government’s ability to address basic needs, thereby serving to blunt the advances of extremist groups who prey on underserved communities.
The US team identified an at-risk community and alerted us to a basic need that if filled could have an off-scale impact on local education. The school in this particular village badly needed repair. It hadn’t received any attention in 25+ years, and it was falling apart. However, with a small amount of resources – under $2,000 – locals could undertake the needed repairs and make the facility safe for students at the beginning of the school year.
Accordingly, Spirit of America was able to react to this need and provide the funds to ensure the school year got off to a good start. The US team recently provided feedback on the opening ceremony. The US Ambassador attended and made the following remarks:
“I am proud that we could support the completion of this new classroom, and I hope that it will serve the students of Planjane for many years to come. The United States is very proud to support the educational system within Kosovo to improve educational opportunities for youth of all ethnic backgrounds.”
Check out the Embassy’s Facebook page for more information on the event here.
Small-scale, targeted resources based on needs identified by US men and women serving overseas coupled with local efforts can have an off-scale impact on peace and stability, especially in important places like Kosovo. As always, thank you for your support for these types of projects!
Director of Field Operations