The Power of Education
Weekly @LATISM Twitter Chat with @Classmates4ever
Classmates Forever envisions a world where every child is granted the opportunity to seek and achieve their highest potential through guidance and a solid education. Classmates Forever is setting the foundation to create endless positive influences throughout the Balkan educational systems. Classmates Forever Inc. offers support to the underprivileged students of the Balkan region. Specifically, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, by personally delivering school supplies to those living in extreme poverty.
The Balkan region is arguably the poorest region in all of Europe. In Albania alone 25 percent of families are currently living at the absolute poverty line of 1.42 euros per day, and victims of extreme poverty are living off 0.94 euros per day.
An alarming statistic is that half of the individuals suffering from poverty are under the age of 21. Further, according to a UNICEF media release nearly half of Kosovo’s children aged 0 to 19 live in poverty, and 1 in 5 of these children live in extreme poverty.
The Classmates Forever Team believes the only way to fight the devastating social and economic disparity of this region is by fostering education. Education is the tool that will fuel the future leaders and subsequent success of The Balkans.This includes, but is not limited to, texts, backpacks, pens, pencils, notebooks and calculators.
Each child deserves a fresh start to a new school year, the Classmates Forever Team trusts that in providing school essentials to impoverished students we are encouraging these students to not only attend school, but to also exert enthusiasm and the courage to seek further educational opportunities.
Why is this project important?
As a result of the extreme poverty rates in Albania and its neighboring countries, the Balkans have experienced dramatic setbacks. Classmates Forever Inc. asserts that every child deserves the opportunity to be afforded an equal education and that includes Balkan students as well.
Building a foundation to help bridge the gap that links educational opportunity to poverty. On one hand, American students will connect to the children of the Balkans by extension, and help instill enthusiasm, courage, motivation, and broaden their view in many ways by introducing aspects of western education. On the other side, this project will shed light on our American students who might not fully cherish education or apprize the opportunities that they are granted.
Thus, the Hope Exchange program’s focus is bringing opportunity to victims of poverty in the Balkan region while shining light on urban American students by creating a connection and sense of belonging.
Why is this project Important to me, Lendita Hoxha
A letter from the Co-Founder:
Born in Kosovo, I’ve encountered firsthand the difficulties imposed by poverty and the impact of the Soviet block leading to the 1998-9 War on Kosovo. I witnessed families flee their homes for a safe haven and return to their homes burned down, schools destroyed, and a loss of their identity. Ethnic cleansing, turmoil, war and government restrains have ravaged the Balkan region and have, furthermore, contributed to an undeniable loss of optimism, energy and enthusiasm amongst students living in Eastern Europe.
Growing up in the Yonkers I had the privilege of being inspired by community leaders. Consequently, I was inspired not only to graduate from a respected university, but to also give back to my community. With this initiative, Classmates Forever, Inc., I believe we are opening doors to children who might not see the metaphorical “light at the end of the tunnel.”
At sixteen, I remember watching a famous Radio 21 TV show, “Edhe Une Jam ne Kosove” which provided a voice to some of the families stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty. Factors such as neighboring conflicts, wars, and ethnic cleansing have created a huge gap for these counties. Students my own age were forced to drop-out of school to help provide for their families. It was then that I realized just how fortunate I was. Consequently, I feel compelled and committed to helping students who are less fortunate.
While attending Fordham University as an undergraduate student, I met my future co-founder, Zamane Bodini. With my humanitarian heart and philanthropic mindset, and Zamane and I sharing a passion for the promotion of education, we set goals to help the most disadvantaged students. We elected to launch the organization’s efforts in our shared homeland of Albania and pursue efforts in neighboring provinces within the Balkan region.
Ms. Bodini and I had the privilege of acquiring a prestigious education. Hence, we want to share the opportunity of empowering these young minds while aiding the literacy and education of these victims of extreme poverty. Thus far we have chosen five schools in the Balkan region to act as a starting project for a long-term partnership.