Almost two years after a powerful earthquake, the Focolare community thanks all those who donated money to support their country in a moment of enormous difficulty. And the communion of goods continues: surplus funds have been sent to others who have had to face their own emergency.
At 3.54 a.m. on 26 November 2019, a powerful earthquake struck the central northern part of the Republic of Albania. Fifty-two people lost their lives and over 2,000 were injured; numerous buildings collapsed creating substantial damage. More than 4,000 people had to leave their homes. The Focolare Movement’s Emergency Coordination Team responded immediately to meet the country’s needs.
During the preliminary operations, six families were identified as being most in need. Their homes had suffered substantial damage and were therefore included in the reconstruction project. Because of the pandemic, the work had to slow down considerably but all the families were able to get through the winter season in suitable housing. So far five houses have been rebuilt. The only family whose house still needs to be repaired is waiting for the necessary permits from the local council.
Upon receiving news of the earthquake, many members of the Focolare worldwide took action to respond to the needs of the Albanian community. A large communion of goods was organised through AMU (Action for a United World) and AFN (Action for New Families) with donations being received from many countries including Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Australia. Francesco Tortorella of AMU stressed how “the effects multiply when we move together, not as individual organisations or individual expressions of the Focolare Movement but as a single reality.”
A total of €53,000 was collected, €14,000 of which has been or will be used for reconstruction projects in Albania including work on the last house which will begin once the permits have been obtained. The remaining funds were donated to the indigenous peoples of Honduras whose farmland and stilt houses were destroyed by two typhoons in 2020. “The experience of reciprocity has involved everyone on the project,” explains Francesco Tortorella, “everyone agreed that the money left over should be donated for this new emergency”.
Another part of the funds was used to set up a course on emotional wellbeing for young people. After the earthquake and the pandemic, there was a great need, especially among young people, for support in managing stress and anxiety. Twenty-five young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are currently taking part on the course.
Elsa Cara, a member of the Focolare and an accountant in Tirana, the capital of Albania, said: “I lost seven cousins in the earthquake. It was really hard but I wanted to do something. Thanks to donations received from the Focolare, I was able to go to Thumane, one of the places most affected by the quakes. Being an area that is predominantly Muslim, the Catholic community is very small. I decided to go there every week, to be close to the children, and offered them a catechism course. Initially everyone was suffering from shock. Now they are a united group which is happy to be on this journey. Many of them have now been baptised. All this was the result of a collaboration between the Focolare, the local Church and Caritas.”
Alfred Matoshi, a lawyer in Tirana and someone who has been heavily involved in the reconstruction project, thanked all those who donated, on behalf of the whole Focolare community in Albania: “Thank you. Because of them we have been able to help families in difficulty, children on the streets without a home, people who were crying from fright. Thank you, don’t stop giving, wherever there is a need.”