Source: Save The Children website
In April, actress Maria Bello traveled to Albania, bringing healing recreational and educational activities to the refugee children of Kosovo. Back in November of '98, she and a team of educators and artists (Andrea Bendewald of "Suddenly Susan," Leigh Kilton Smith, an acting teacher and director, Chris Bello, actor and artist, and Brad Falchuk, writer) had traveled with Save the Children to Nicaragua to work with the children who were displaced by Hurricane Mitch. The team provided two-hour sessions, involving hundreds of kids at a time, in games, art, and drama activities. The children played duck-duck-goose, painted, laughed, and sang. It was a very important reminder to the children and the whole community that there was still hope. Maria Bello has now brought the joy of play and stirrings of hope to the children of Kosovo.
Creative Play an Hour a Day:
I have been in Albania for three days with Save the Children. With Richard Hoff, the organization's director of development for the West Coast, I come here with the
support of our community in LA to provide some recreational and educational supplies and to help to set up "model creative play programs within the camps." We
are seeing firsthand that it is much needed.
The staff of the International Save the Children Alliance (U.K., U.S., Denmark, Sweden, and Norway) is working here around the clock to provide educational/recreational and psychosocial services to tens of thousands of Kosovar refugee children that have been displaced. While waiting for huge shipments of school supplies to arrive, Save the Children is now distributing emergency education kits to the camps. Richard and I have worked in three camps — one here in Tirana, another a half hour away in Mullet, and one in Kavaje, one hour from Tirana, trucking in notebooks, pencils, pens, and books. All the staff are working hand in hand with Kosovar leaders and parents from the camps and Albanian social workers to efficiently and quickly set up schools.
Just as important as educational programs are the recreational activities that are being established. The children have been through so much that it is vital that they begin to express themselves, both through physical activity and art. I bring some experience to the recreational and creative as I co-founded an Arts in Education program in New York City, so we both have some experience with "creative play."
Soon, over 200 children joined in to paint pictures that they told us "made them happy." There were houses, flowers, and Kosovar slogans. After they were finished, both the children and some of their parents hung the brightly-colored pictures with pride. At the end of our time, we left the remainder of the art supplies in the camp and the teens promised to continue the arts activities.
With the help of Save the Children Alliance, the Kosovar children soon will be enjoying school and play again. No more rusty cans and other makeshift toys, but real soccer balls, paints and paper, and books to help reaffirm their hope and future.