Arlinda lives in Neighbourhood 29 of Fushe Kosove. I met her at The Ideas Partnership’s centre in the community when Arlinda came to offer some of her crochet work for me to sell in the UK. I told her honestly that I didn’t think these designs would find a market and that the best chances I had to sell things were at the talks I gave about my books.
‘For example,’ I said, ‘later this month I’ll be going to England to give a talk about my book on beekeeping. It will be hard to make a link to your crocheted goods to sell to the people who attend that talk.’ I was sorry not to be able to help her more, and she quietly went away.
A week later she was back, giving it a second go, with a selection of fantastic bee-themed crafts she’d found patterns for online - baby booties in the yellow and black stripes of a honeybee, and little yellow hats with black antennae!
That attitude, of creativity and innovation, would mark Arlinda out in any community. But it’s not the result of any formal education – she’s never been to school. Instead, the basic skills she has are the result of ‘second chance’ classes that this mother of five children decided to take at The Ideas Partnership’s centre along with 40 other women from her community.
Their teacher, Mirlinda Gerguri, says, ‘I noticed Arlinda right away because of her interest and the constant commitment she displayed. I can see that deep within her she has a fighting spirit of ambition, together with being so sweet with her family and other people. She would always say “I’m doing all I can to make sure that the education I’ve not managed to achieve for myself can be achieved for my children”. She gives me hope for the future.’
With all that Arlinda has learned at these classes, she has taken her handcrafts to a new level as the proud owner of a business she registered herself. Recently she also applied for a business grant which has enabled her to start a new product line drawing inspiration from the rubbish-picking activities which are a major source of income in her community. She says
‘I saw how many old music CDs were in the rubbish and I found some examples online of how these CDs could make beautiful mosaic jewellery. With my grant I’ve been able to make the first necklace pendants from upcycled CDs, giving a second chance to the things that people throw away. Through The Ideas Partnership I’ve even been able to get the necklaces sold in a shop in England.’
‘What I’m most proud of is that now I don’t just rely on my husband – I can earn for our family. My children are impressed by the work I’ve done. And now I’m dreaming of building a better house for my children – we’re overcrowded where we live now and it’s damp.’
The jewellery that Arlinda makes is a beautiful image of The Ideas Partnership’s philosophy of second chances.
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