The Soap of Hope II- Fushe Kosove, Pristina, Kosovo (Nov 2012)

by tkos on November 14, 2012

Post image for The Soap of Hope II- Fushe Kosove, Pristina, Kosovo (Nov 2012)

The Kindness of Strangers are proud to follow up with Elizabeth Gowing from The Ideas Partnership. Constantly busy and forever battling to improve the quality of life of the Fushe Kosove community, Elizabeth explains the effort and the detail behind the projects to promote self sustainability.

 

We had no hesitation to donate an additional £1000 for this truly worthy and promising cause.

 

Elizabeth writes:

“All is well with us in Kosovo. I know you’ve kept in touch via FB and Twitter (and thank you so much for all your enthusiastic ‘liking’! It does help to feel good vibes from people even outside of Kosovo) with some of our exciting projects. We’re still busy in Fushe Kosove, with battles (slightly fewer, but still a depressing number even a year on) with the school for children to be admitted, and have also started working in another Roma community, Janjevo, supporting kids into school. That meant that this September we got 161 children ready for school, making sure all of them set off with a rucksack and a pair of shoes that fitted – quite a logistical exercise! (There was originally 61 this time last year!)

Progress report

We’re also making progress with income-generating projects in Fushe Kosove – as well as

  • the cloth bag selling in Srbobran (we’ve sold 1000 in the last month, including the contract for the women’s conference organised by the President here, with Madeline Albright, and have at last managed to get agreement for some proper training from a qualified trainer for the women to use their sewing machines, with support from the Ministry)
  • we’ve distributed 13 bicycles and trailers to guys in Fushe Kosove who were going out with wheelbarrows to sort through the garbage looking for recyclables, enabling them to extend their reach to Pristina, where we’ve matched them up with organisations interested in separating their plastic bottles and cans for recycling.
  • We’ve given shoeshine equipment to 3 other men, and are starting a new women’s microfinance project this month, ‘Lighting up’ where mothers of kids who we’ve got to school will paint designs onto recycled glass jars that can then have a nightlight put in them and sold as Christmas gifts.
  • And of course there’s the soap - the Sa-Pune enterprise is now registered as a business, so the women have all opened bank accounts and pay tax, and it feels like we are just emerging into a really sustainable phase of the business. We’ve had a guy in Pristina take an interest in the business and he has offered to pay for the shipping costs for any samples we want to sell abroad to potential new customers, which is a great resource, so we are poised to take over the world ;-)

Funding

Funding to support the microfinance projects (bags, soaps, recyclers and shoeshiners) has come for the past 6 months from the Soros Foundation, and their grant has two months left to run. We have used their money for start-up costs (buying bikes, shoeshine equipment etc) and ongoing marketing and support (for bags and soaps), and know that the businesses all need at least that time to be able to be self-sustaining.

To support with the co-ordination of the projects, and finding new markets, we are paying a small salary/ honorarium (between 100 euro and 286 euro per month) to various people working part time: Fikret and Jeton from the community in Fushe Kosove, and Jeta, a Kosovar Albanian whom you may have met when you came – she’s been a volunteer with us for over two years.

More challenges

Last week Jeta received some great news, offering a new challenge for The Ideas Partnership… She has been appointed as director of a new NGO starting in Kosovo (working to liberate bears held in captivity here, and set up a sanctuary for them). It’s a wonderful opportunity for her (and the bears!) and we’re really proud that the skills and experience she’s developed with TIP have been recognised by others but… it leaves us in a difficult situation. Her position leading the marketing for the bags and soaps is funded by Soros only for two more months. We don’t feel that the job can be ended at this point, especially as the next two months, building up to Christmas, are likely to be our busiest period, and we already have some fairs and promotions lined up. We won’t be able to recruit someone for just two months, so in order to replace Jeta at all, we need to be able to post an advert offering a job of 6 months. This will also have the advantage to the projects – and the women and their families who benefit from them – of ensuring that they are stable until April, at which point we hope that they will be able to continue on their own (the women in Srbobran will have finished their training by then too).

The marketing manager would work to ensure the successful completion of the training of the women in Srbobran on using their sewing machines and would look for new markets for the bags, would develop new ranges and look for new markets for the soaps, and would support the beginning of the ‘Lighting up’ project as well as sales over the Christmas period, and beyond.

(There are) 30 families who are beneficiaries of the soaps/ bags/ recycling/ ‘Lighting up’/ shoeshining projects, and particularly by the children who’ll be able to continue at school if we can just offer their families a means of income that doesn’t depend on the kids being sent out begging or shinnying into skips to dig out rubbish.

Thanks so much for everything you’ve helped us with so far, and wishing you lots of love from everyone at The Ideas Partnership,”

 

Elizabeth

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Of all the countries we have been through, and of all the NGO’s and charities we have visited, VERY few have the determination and spirit of Elizabeth and The Ideas Partnership. They would have to be the most pro-active, selfless and spirited organisation we have had the pleasure of meeting.

Find them on Facebook, or on their website. Volunteer with them, ‘friend’ them, support them.

Or at the very least, buy some soap!

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