Virginia Mennonite Missions responded to the strongest earthquake to hit Albania in more than 40 years with funding for temporary shelters, trauma counseling and repairs for a Mennonite school.
Northwestern Albania was struck by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Nov. 26 that killed 52 people and injured about 3,000. It was the deadliest earthquake to hit the nation in 99 years.
The earthquake’s epicenter was about 20 miles south of Lezhë, home of a VMMissions long-term mission team and Lezha Academic Center, a member of Mennonite Schools Council.
In response to the earthquake, VMMissions established an Albania Earthquake Relief Fund to support its mission team’s relief efforts.
Through the end of December, VMMissions received nearly $30,000 to provide temporary shelter and food to 15 Roma families who lost their homes. The families were expected to be resettled by the government in early January.
The VMMissions team’s relief efforts have focused on the Roma community, a minority group that faces discrimination. Families are being housed in a public school gymnasium until the government can find more permanent housing. In partnership with other churches and agencies, each family has been provided daily meals, care packages with food, hygiene items, towels and cleaning supplies, diapers and clothes, check-ups by a local doctor and medication. The team has also organized children’s activities.
“The more time we spent with these people, the more we appreciated their culture and learned to know their soft, deep heart. Most important, we saw their need to know God and his love,” wrote Dini and Klementina Shahini of the VMMissions team. “The food and all the packages were presented to the Roma group with respect and love, and they appreciated it. Although Jan. 4 was the last day of our service and commitment to this group, we can meet and help them again.
“We have made some new friends and now we are asking God for direction in the next steps.”
VMMissions continues to collect contributions to help Lezha Academic Center with needs related to the earthquake, including building repair and safety upgrades.